13 of the best dark beers to drink during winter

Winter has arrived and it's already been a cold one for many of us. This may not mean there's snow falling outside, but it's certainly enough to warrant the northern hemisphere culinary traditions of roast dinners, stews and pudding.

On the drinks front, red wine usurps white. Short cocktails and brown spirits come to the fore. Aussie brewers meanwhile are eager to exploit the short window they have to properly showcase the comforts of dark, roasty, creamy beers, which are even more delightful if your local serves them on nitro.

A frosty reception

For even though temperatures scarcely drop below 10 degrees in many parts of the country, we Australians are ill-equipped to cope with winter of any kind, says Neal Cameron, director of beer education provider, the Institute of Beer (IOB).

"I was chatting to a guy from Sweden a few weeks ago and he said that he'd never been colder than when he spent a winter in Sydney," Cameron says.

"I know we think that we live in this warm climate but we have pitiful heating and pitiful insulation, so we feel the effects of winter significantly more than pretty much anybody in any country."

The dark half of the year

The go-to winter beers in Australia are porter and stout, which are broad and in some cases overlapping style categorisations.

Stout is a family of deeper, darker and roastier beers than its predecessor porter, which denotes a range of beers coloured brown to black, with some roasty characters and a creamy mouthfeel.

"My personal take is that porter should have a sort of soft mocha or milk chocolate roasting rather than the full-on espresso of a stout, and I think history bears that out," comments American beer expert Randy Mosher in his book Tasting Beer.

The addition of oatmeal is common, in pursuit of a richer, more rounded mouthfeel. Modern, creative interpretations employ other ingredients such as chocolate, coffee, coconut and vanilla, or the influence of ageing in barrels that have previously held whisky or wine.


Rounded intensity

All variants are comforting, warming beer styles that seem especially appropriate to winter, even moreso the stronger versions such as Foreign Extra Stout and Imperial Stout.

"It's the intensity of the flavour and that rounded full-bodied sweetness, you want something nourishing and wholesome in winter," says IOB's Cameron.

"It's all about staving off the winter chills. Have a bottle of imperial stout and the world will look like a better place!"

Scroll through the gallery above for some of the finest porters and stouts you'll find in Australia this winter.