Newsflash: It’s miserable out. This time of year, most days weeks months are a never-ending grey blur of damp and cold, with one drizzly day after another, after another. And on the rare occasions that the sun does make an appearance, it’s gone by, like, 4:30. Yuck.
Normally we’d make our escape to Mexico or Palm Springs for some much-needed vitamin D, but it’s 2021, and—shocker—international travel isn’t really happening right now.
So, embrace the darkness, I say!
There’s lots of different ways to do that—from ritual sacrifice to a holding Ouija séance in the graveyard in the rain—but why not drink a beer that’s as dark as the weather (and your Seasonal Affective Disorder-addled mood)?
Here’s the thing, though: any time of year is a good time for dark beers, because dark beers can taste like any other beer. “Dark” is not a flavour!
That being said, rich, malt-forward flavours often associated with some dark beers do pair exceptionally well with bone-chillingly wet weather. Maybe it’s the comforting roastiness of the malt, or the stick-to-your-ribs body, or the warming alcohol notes, but a nice dark beer in godawful weather is like slipping on your favourite worn-out sweater that you can’t bear to throw out even though you’d never be caught dead wearing it outside of your living room (except for the occasional camping trip). Yeah, you know the one.
So here are some of our favourite dark beers, new and old, to hopefully bring a bit of sunshine to your day.
Dark Magic by Neighbourhood Brewing
At 4.5% ABV, this horchata milk stout is kinda like Twin Sails Con Leche for people who have to work in the morning. Notes of chocolate, espresso, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and cola. It’s sweet without being cloying, with a creamy body and a surprisingly dry, almost tannic finish.
Precious Porter by LoveShack Libations
This is everything a porter should be, and nothing it shouldn’t. There’s no weird ingredients or funky reimagining of this tried-and-true style: just flawless execution. Very smooth, very flavourful, with the requisite notes of chocolate, roasted barley, burnt sugar, and toast, with a velvety body and an off-sweet finish.
Tmavý Pivo 13 by Slow Hand Brewing
Call me crazy, but lagers shouldn’t be sweet. And too many dark lagers fall into this category, sadly. Slow Hand’s unpronounceable Czech-style dark lager isn’t one of them: it’s crisp and dry like any self-respecting lager should be, but with the added character of bready, nutty, toasty malt and an earthy dose of hops.
6º by Dageraad Brewing
Guess what? Dark, malt-forward beers can beer sour, too. And this one is a treat. Similar to the Flemish oud bruin’s of yore, this tart brown ale is all dark fruit and burnt sugar, not dissimilar to a cherry cola. For reals.
Naramata Nut Brown Ale by Cannery Brewing
This beer has been around forever, and I don’t know if it’s ever been cool, but it’s always been very, very good. Earthy, nutty, toasty, fruity, creamy deliciousness. And that’s the only thing that matters, really. So, you can take your sexy hazy IPAs and your hippity hops and your denim trousers and your new-fangled internal combustion engines. I like my beers brown, dammit! Unless you’re buying, then I’m having what you’re having.
Imperial Nanaimo Bar Porter by Vancouver Island Brewing
I generally can’t stand weirdo dessert stouts/porters (they’re the same bloody thing, come at me), but when they’re done well (which is sadly all too rare), they are admittedly pretty fantastic. Unlike the absurdly sweet dessert this beer takes its inspiration from, VIB’s take thankfully stops short of diabetic-coma-inducing sweetness. Notes of graham cracker, coconut, chocolate, caramel, and vanilla.
Steam Punk by Longwood Brewing
Dark wheat beer? Is that a thing? Glad you asked, because yes, it is most definitely a thing, and Nanaimo’s Longwood has been brewing this traditional German dunkleweizen since you were hanging outside the BCL begging for a boot. Fluffy and fruity, with notes of banana, caramel, biscuit and clove.
Finnegans Irish Stout by Hoyne Brewing
Anyone who says Guinness is a meal in a pint probably eats at McDonald’s three times a week. It’s thin, watery burnt-tasting garbage—basically the Starbucks of stout. There are soooo many better examples of dry Irish stout out there—ones with depth, flavour, body, and complexity. This ode to the incomprehensibly complex writings of James Joyce is right up there, with a similarly complex character of chocolate, coffee, roasted barley, caramel, toast, with earthy, nutty notes and a dry finish that begs for another pint. Infinitely more approachable than Joyce’s work.
Barrel-Aged Raspberry Stout by Wildeye Brewing
Speaking of complex, there’s a lot going on in this big barrel-aged beauty from North Vancouver’s Wildeye Brewing. We’re talking dark fruit, coffee, roasted barley, vanilla, raspberry, red wine, caramel, chocolate, and oak, all in perfect harmony with a highly tannic finish that dries out this beer nicely. There’s a lot of variables here, but they’re all complementary.
Toasted Coconut Black Lager by Field House Brewing
Once again, a dark, flavourful lager that is dry and crisp despite its malt-forward character. Roasted coconut, chocolate, espresso, roasted barley, all wrapped up in a crisp, dry, refreshing package.