Leave the citrus-spiked wheat beers and hard seltzers at home, this is hunkering season and time to explore the hefty textures and roasty manifold malt flavors of brewing’s dark arts. For this month’s Northern Michigan beer rodeo, we’re specifically dealing with stouts and porters, styles developed in 18th-century Britain as a nourishing bulwark against cold rain and coal soot.
Unlike IPAs, which get their defining character from hops, stouts and porters take their flavor cues from roasted malt and its universe of dark, bitter flavors like coffee, chocolate, burnt sugar and dried fruit.
Stouts brewed with oatmeal or lactose sugar take on a supple creaminess, which can be delightfully emphasized with a nitrogen tap. When setting out on a black beer bender be mindful of ABV as modern stouts and porters can easily track north of 8% alcohol. Dense dark brews are perfect for stand-alone sipping in front of a roaring fire but don’t be afraid to pair them with hearty winter stews, umami-rich mushroom dishes, spicy moles or chocolate desserts.
Middle Coast Brewing // O’Porter House Coffee Porter
A dark and silky traditional porter dosed with locally roasted coffee.
Blackrocks Brewery // Potter’s Porter
The Yoop’s hottest brewery gets a well-deserved nod with this burly, almost chewable porter defined by deep dark chocolate flavors.
Right Brain Brewery // CEO Stout
Dangerously nimble, Right Brain’s flagship black brew is infused with espresso from Roaster Jack Coffee Company.
Jolly Pumpkin // Madrugada Obscura Sour Stout
JP’s barrel-aged Belgian-style sour stout has tang and dark layers of dried fruit to balance its brawn.
Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey // Dave Weidner is a freelance photographer based in Traverse City.