Over the last decade, we’ve seen extreme creativity in craft beer. If you take a look at the top ten beers we drank in October, you’ll find a beer that looks like an orange wine. A Belgian-style ale with apricot, cinnamon, and black carrot. A blueberry peach gose. And a lemongrass blonde ale with Sabro hops. And I haven’t even mentioned a stout yet! But the humble stout has come a long way, too. And, in celebration of International Stout Day on Thursday, Nov. 4th, 2021, we’re breaking down the 21 best stouts we drank recently.
In this piece, we’ll do our best to bring you a wide swath of stouts, from a few stalwarts to a couple of newbies. Having said that, please keep in mind this is not a definitive list of the best stouts in the country. This is the Hop Culture team’s hot take on the stouts we want to drink to celebrate the holiday. Sure, there will be some big names here, but you might also find something new.
If we wanted to catalog all the amazing stouts we’ve tried, it would probably take a couple of years. But this lineup will give you a reason to celebrate.
Happy International Stout Day!
A Quick History of the Stout
For a decadent style, the stout has surprisingly modest roots. Originating from porters in 18th century London, stouts were considered a premium version of its roasty, toasty cousin.
In early English brewing culture, premium beers were equated with a higher ABV. For instance, a brewery would’ve brewed a lower-ABV pale ale alongside a premium pale clocking in at 8% or 9% ABV. Brewers did the same with darker beers, with the higher-ABV version of their porters eventually becoming known as a “stout porter.”
Eventually, the beer style grew beyond England to the Baltic countries and Russia. These exported versions earned the name “extra stout” porter. As the story goes, Czarina Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796 (and the country’s longest-ruling female leader!), thoroughly enjoyed the style and helped it gain popularity.
More recently, in America, Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall elevated the style when he had the brilliant idea to age Goose Island’s one-thousandth batch of beer in a bourbon barrel. This happened in 1992. As the country’s first bourbon barrel-aged beer, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout changed beer forever.
Since then, brewers have continued to innovate.
Hop Culture’s Picks: 21 Stouts to Drink on International Stout Day
Perennial Artisan Ale — St. Louis, MO
Imperial / Double Stout – “Limited” is the name of the game with Barrel-Aged Abraxas, which is one of the rarest beers in the country.
This year, Perennial partnered with Oznr to release the Abraxas Package 2021, which went live on Thursday, Nov. 4th, 2021. The release includes one bottle each of Abraxas, Vanilla Abraxas, Coffee Abraxas, and Salted Chocolate Abraxas.
We’re still fans of the original. So, if you do manage to get your hands on this iconic Imperial BA stout from Perennial in St. Louis, MO, you’re in for a treat.
Pouring deep brown with a thick head, BA Abraxas has a complex body with a delicious lingering roastiness. Perennial describes Abraxas as, “brewed with unique ingredients intended to challenge and excite the palate.” In a Hop Culture blind tasting over thirty stouts, this was one of our favorites.
Perennial aged the 2021 vintage of this Imperial stout in Old Fitzgerald Bourbon and Heaven Hill Rye barrels with ancho chile peppers, cacao nibs, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans.
This stout has always been and will continue to be just an absolute beast.
The Bruery — Placentia, CA
Imperial / Double Stout – Today, craft beer fans know Black Tuesday a barrel-aged behemoth. But did you know that it started out as a disaster? When first brewed in 2008, everything that could go wrong with this beer did: Faulty equipment, burned brewers, and a limited amount of bottles. Understandably, The Bruery stuck this persnickety beer into bourbon barrels for fifteen months.
The beer that came out became a legend. That year, BeerAdvocate gave it a score of 99 out of 100 and beer geeks across the country started trading the limited-edition bottle. Now, The Bruery releases the beer annually to rave fanfare. This year’s launch went live on Oct. 26th, 2021.
Luckily, The Bruery sent us a treasure trove of beers. Along with the aforementioned Black Tuesday, we also received Vanilla Villain bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout with vanilla beans, Aloha Friday bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout with toasted coconut and macadamia nuts, Black Tuesday port barrel-aged Imperial stout with Syrah grapes, and Conner’s Cobbler bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout with raspberries and Madagascar vanilla beans 🤯.
While all those beers were brilliant, we still put our money on the vintage Black Tuesday. It’s this elegant classic born out of disaster that sweeps us off our feet. Crests of Crème Brûlée tumble forward onto dark dried stone fruit. This is a sophisticated, decadent beer worthy of International Stout Day.
Cycle Brewing Company — St. Petersburg, FL
Barrel-Aged Stout – For a while now, we’ve been enamored with Cycle’s exquisite Weekday Series. And while not all of the seven beers (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) are technically stouts, they’re still all worth checking out.
Based on the quality of that series, we took notice when Cycle dropped their eighth-anniversary beer. Released in mid-October 2021, 8 Year is a blend of one-, two-, and three-year-old stout. And get this: The beer spent time in Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection: Chocolate Malted Rye, Heaven Hill, and Maker’s Mark barrels. This is a complex beer from a brewery confident in its stout-making skills.
Horus Aged Ales – Oceanside, CA
Imperial / Double Coffee Stout – Honestly, any stout from Kyle Harrop’s 100% barrel-aged brewery is amazing. In the past, gems such as Staff of Asir, Coconut Crown (one of our 20 best beers of 2020), Fitting Last Name, and so many more have all blown our minds.
In other words, Harrop has built a name for himself with exquisite barrel-aged stouts. Often, he pushes the boundaries by aging his beers in a variety of oak, wine, and spirit barrels while also adding incredible adjuncts: exotic fruits, nuts, chocolate, and more. Plus, he’s collaborated with pretty much all the big dogs in the industry including American Solera, Boss Rambler, Beachwood Blendery, Mumford, The Bruery, Kane, Finback, Forest & Main, Bottle Logic, and so many more.
An incredible 13.9% ABV stout aged with Geisha coffee, Bourbon Madagascar vanilla beans, cacao nibs from Ghana, and large amounts of hazelnuts, Proper Dose is an incredible beer. Call it the Emperor of Espresso, the Royalty of Roasts, or the Queen of Caffeine.
Long Live Beerworks – Providence, RI
Pastry Stout – Pastry stouts are having their time in the spotlight. Brewed to mimic popular desserts, pastry stouts take inspiration from culinary creations. Long Live Beerworks’ Nanaimo Bites imitates a popular treat in Canada. Packed with chocolate, coconut, graham cracker, and pecan, this pastry stout fires on all those Canadian cylinders.
Pretty good, eh?
J. Wakefield Brewing – Miami, FL
Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout – A brewery often synonymous with Florida’s most epic pastry stouts (and, of course, the incredible WakeFest), this beer is J. Wakefield’s newest collab with the brand 17 Percent Drip. The rye and bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout features Kopi Luwak coffee, Vermont maple syrup, toasted coconut, and marshmallow. If we dipped a s’more in our morning coffee, this beer would emerge, dripping and glorious.
The pre-sale for Everything Floats went live on Oznr last Thursday, Oct. 28th, 2021. If there are still some available, nab a bottle now!
Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake Stout
Angry Chair Brewing – Tampa, FL
Imperial / Double Milk Stout – When Hop Culture Founder and Untappd Creative Director Kenny Gould visited Hoof Hearted’s Dragonsaddle Day a few weeks ago, this beer came away as one of his favorites. According to Gould, “Angry Chair’s Barrel-Aged German Imperial Chocolate Cupcake tasted unequivocally decadent, though it still offered some incredible barrel character. With many modern stouts, that character often gets lost behind sweetness or adjuncts. Not so with this 11% ABV stunner, which harmoniously blended its adjuncts with the barrel character to create a beer that tasted better than the sum of its parts.”
Peanut Butter French Press
Weathered Souls Brewing – San Antonio, TX
Imperial Coffee Stout – Yes, Weathered Souls created a straight-up REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup in a glass with an added kick of coffee, making this one of our top candy-inspired beers. I mean, we’re shaking in our boots because this beer just lights up all the addictive pleasure zones in our brain.
Peanut butter? ✅
One of several beers in the crowd-pleasing French Press series, Peanut Butter French Press includes peanut butter, toasted cacao nibs, and “Dragon Juice” coffee from Longroad Coffee. Best of all, Weathered Souls always switches up the featured coffee. In the past, Ethiopian and Yemeni beans have been the star. This year, the San Antonio-based brewery (which just announced the opening of a new taproom in Charlotte) added beans from Longroad Coffee.
Dragon Juice is a twelve-month aged coffee from the Dominican Republic. WSB dropped this limited release in September on Tavour, but it looks like @weatheredsoulsbrewing_sa recently posted on Instagram that stout variety packs featuring this treat are now available. If you live in Texas, make sure to pick one up.
Friends to the End
Great Notion – Portland, OR
Imperial / Double Stout – It’s no surprise that the minds that brought us a beer that tastes like pancakes nails the flavor of this sticky stout. A collab with Chuck’s Hop Shop, Great Notion describes this beer as, “Nothing to snicker at.” Chockful of gooey caramel, peanuts, and cocoa nibs this beer unwraps just like… well, a pretty popular Mars candy bar.
Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
Cigar City Brewing — Tampa, FL
Imperial / Double Stout – This annually-released beer is tied to one of the most hyped festivals of the year: Hunahpu’s Day. The festival celebrates excess in craft beer as well as the eponymous Imperial pastry stout, brewed by festival organizers Cigar City.
Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is rich, decadent, and a genuinely tasty beer. The 2021 vintage featured dark chocolate, mocha, cinnamon, and molasses for a bold, sweet stout with a bit of heat. This beer usually releases in the early parts of the year and last year, our friends at Oznr helped with the release. Keep an eye out on the app for news of next year’s release!
Corporate Ladder Brewing Co. — Palmetto, FL
Imperial / Double Pastry Stout – We named Corporate Ladder one of the top 10 best breweries to watch in 2021 because they’re producing truly fun and exciting beers. And we weren’t the only ones to notice!
Breakroom Evocations takes inspiration from Vermont. What does that mean? Conditioning this beer on maple syrup, of course! But also shredded coconut, granola, oats, and vanilla ice cream. This Corporate Ladder beer encapsulates the company’s whole ethos: playful ideas, serious beers.
Waiting on Forever
The Eighth State Brewing Co. — Greenville, SC x Vitamin Sea Brewing — East Weymouth, MA
Imperial / Double Stout – Small in size but big in flavor. That’s how we’d describe The Eighth State Brewing Company in Greenville, South Carolina. The tiny three-barrel brewery made our list of the best craft breweries in 2020 for its outstanding lineup of stouts, many of which see label designs from friend-of-Hop-Culture @nico.p.nico.
For this Imperial stout, The Eighth State collaborated with another one of our best breweries, Vitamin Sea. Brown sugar, cinnamon Pop Tarts, toasted coconut, vanilla, and cassia bark all went into this disco party of a beer. Turn the lights low, put on some vinyl funk, light a fire, and crack this beer. No need to wait forever for the party to start.
Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing — Framingham, MA
Imperial Coffee Stout – Hop Culture freelancer Andy Krump wrote about Exhibit ‘A’ in a recent piece on the difference between stouts and porters. And according to him Exhibit ‘A’ makes a superb stout.
As he says, “Sunday Paper does what a stout should do: Present a flavor profile comprising dark bitter chocolate and dark roast coffee, punctuated with light sweetness. But there are other, perhaps unexpected notes worth sniffing out in Sunday Paper, like bitter raisin and even red fruit, to accompany the standards. The beer ties together with a slick mouthfeel and a black-as-night body. It’s a stout through and through, and an excellent demonstration of how a style with a formula as written in stone as this carries a breadth of variation.”
Mean Old Tom
Maine Beer Company — Freeport, ME
American Stout – Brewed in honor of an actual Uncle Tom, who had a “spirit for fast cars, tough motorcycles and mean smiles,” Mean Old Tom from Maine Beer Company is a relatively simple stout. It’s aged on vanilla beans — and that’s about it. MOT is a low alcohol, slightly sweet, roasty stout.
Like so many of Maine Beer Company’s excellent products, this beer should be appreciated for its easy-drinking quality and the low ABV.
Nitro Irish Stout
Gentile Brewing — Beverly, MA
Nitro Irish Stout – Another of Hop Culture Freelancer Andy Krump’s favorites, Gentile Brewing apparently makes an incredible but simple Irish stout. This is a no-frills stout on the gentler (er, Gentiler?) side.
Prairie Artisan Ales — Tulsa, OK
Imperial / Double Coffee Stout – This one brings the heat. A classic, Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales is a double coffee stout aged on Nordaggio’s espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers. But Bomb! also has spawned several variants including Barrel-Aged, Birthday, and various collab editions. However, with the original it’s all about the combination of spicy and bittersweet that punch through this explosive stout.
Stone Brewing Co. — Escondido, CA
Imperial / Double Milk Stout – Stone’s Xocoveza is packed with adjuncts (cocoa, coffee, peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk sugar) that are meant to mimic the heat and complexity of a Mexican hot chocolate. And the notes of pepper and roasted coffee definitely come through! It’s a fun stout to drink, especially in the colder winter months.
Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star (BBADS)
Fremont Brewing – Seattle, WA
Imperial Oatmeal Stout – Barrel aging is an art unto itself, as Hop Culture freelancer Pete Dulin showed us in Hop Culture’s Guide to Barrel Aging. And this beer, from Fremont Brewing in Seattle, Washington, is one of his favorites.
As he says, “Fremont starts with seven- to twelve-year-old Kentucky bourbon barrels. Dark Star is aged in separate batches for eight-, twelve-, eighteen-, and twenty-four-months, then blended to produce an Imperial oat stout with lush roasted and chocolate malts atop bourbon barrel-aged warmth. It’s the prime example of what makes barrel aging so extraordinary. The limited edition of 2021 BBADS: Coffee Cacao Vanilla releases around Oct. 1st each year.”
Revolution Brewing – Chicago, IL
Imperial / Double Oatmeal Stout – Part of Revolution Brewing’s Deep Wood series, Deth’s Tar uses English specialty malts and flaked and malted oats to build a silky, chocolaty profile. Additionally, aging in American oak barrels for a year adds layers of vanilla, toasted coconut, and caramel notes. The brewery released this beer in October 2021.
Cinder Block Brewery – Kansas City, MO
Russian Imperial Stout – Another barrel-aged beauty that comes highly recommended from Hop Culture freelancer Dulin.
“Each vintage is aged in a whiskey barrel for nine months,” says Dulin. “The whiskey barrel is sourced from a different distillery each year. Flavors unfurl with notes of creamy vanilla, toasted coconut, oak, whiskey, and dark chocolate.”
This beer is released on Black Friday in November each year.
Guinness — Dublin, Ireland
Irish Dry Stout – You can’t beat the classics! This is the iconic, nitrogenated stout first made in Dublin almost 260 years ago. You won’t find anything crazy in this beer. There aren’t any cookies. No coconut, vanilla, fruits, or nuts. This is just a creamy, roasty, chocolatey beer that gets its flavor from the foundations of beer: Water, malts, hops, and yeast.
For a historic representation of a stout Guinness is a must. For bonus points, drink at the brewery in Ireland!