First and foremost, I’m a stout beer lover. Perfect as dessert and just right for a liquid meal, these creamy lactose-sugared brews are some of the tastiest suds marketed. Softer thirsts claim stouts are too heavy for summer afternoon consumption or session feasting, but I digress. Stouts not only make perfect nightcaps but also morning alternatives. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout brings bourbon-barreled espresso souring to Kahlua-Amaretto lure.
There are generally two stout types, dry and milk. Dry stouts have roasted bitterness, mocha-nut influence and nitrogen charge (counteracting acidic CO2 bite), while milk stouts are usually less alcoholic with creamy chocolate center and noticeable lactic sugaring. Subclasses include robustly sweet Russian-styled Imperial Stout, mocha-sugared English-styled Sweet Stout (Chocolate Stout), and oats-toasted nutty-bottomed Oatmeal Stout. Fulsome, bold and full-bodied, stouts are often the most expensive, distinct brews marketed. Preferred on cold autumn or winter nights or as a complement to meat, fish and pork, or as a hearty dessert.
I chose to rank only national and regional American stouts that get bottled for distribution since there’d be endless local brewpub fare worthy of inclusion.
1. ROGUE SHAKESPEARE STOUT (Oregon) – Outstanding award-winner with creamy coffee-stained signature, doughy yeast permeation and lactic sugared oats. Black chocolate flutters inside black cherry sweetness, increasing resilience. Crustacean earthiness underscores burnt molasses sinew. Praise John Maier, one of America’s greatest brewers.
2. SOUTHERN TIER IMPERIAL CRÈME BRULEE STOUT (New York) – Unrivalled lactose stout (brewed with vanilla beans) retains intimate creme brulee warmth, replicating Sugar Daddy candy bar at opulent butterscotch finish. Syrupy caramel malting bulks up Sambuca, Kahlua, and Bailey’s Irish Cream sweetness. Tertiary cappuccino, rum raisin, Black Forest cake, French vanilla ice cream, chocolate pecan, white chocolate and cocoa notes reinforced.
3. MOYLAN’S IMPERIAL STOUT (California) – Impeccable chocolate-sweet stout with sour espresso overtones, judicious mocha creaminess and nutty bottom. Tertiary prune, golden raisin, and black licorice notes complement.
4. ALESMITH SPEEDWAY STOUT (California) – Sensational 12 percent alcohol elixir flaunts roasted coffee bean theme as punctual as Red Hook’s defunct Double Black Stout (with Starbuck’s coffee). Molasses, black chocolate, creme de cacao, cappuccino, burnt cedar, wet bark, and bourbon accentuate.
5. IPSWICH OATMEAL STOUT (Massachusetts) – Black as molasses and nearly as thick, creamy ebony stout links blackened hops to barley-roasted mocha affluence, fudge-y resilience, oatmeal cookie likeness and unrefined maple extract. Grainy walnut buffing, black cherry souring and ripe raisin flirtation reach coffee bean finish.
6. SNAKE RIVER ZONKER STOUT (Wyoming) – Marvelous chocolate creaminess and chewy cookie dough thickness counter burnt coffee sourness for perfect dry stout. Black cherry, cocoa butter, and red currant add robustness.
7. (NECTAR ALES) BLACK XANTUS IMPERIAL STOUT (California) – Illustrious bourbon-barreled cedar-smoked hickory-charred full body with well-hidden 11 percent alcohol whir. Creamy black chocolate froth coats coffee bean bittering. Anise, espresso, and vanilla underscore caramel burn. Sweet Scotch warmth mellows earthen peat.
8. NORTH COAST OLD RASPUTIN IMPERIAL STOUT (California) – Aromatic mocha malting, bitter java punch and dried prune swoon get exquisitely detailed. Toffee, molasses, cinnamon and allspice reach roasted coffee climax.
9. SOUTHERN TIER MOKAH IMPERIAL STOUT (New York) – Stunning lactic stout mashes Southern Tier’s ‘heavyweight’ Jah-va and Choklat stouts for awesome chocolate lover’s hybrid. Jamaican roasted coffee receives Belgian chocolate, Nestlé dark chocolate, chocolate mousse, Black Forest cake and fudge brownie illusions. Vanilla-frosted crème brulee richness boosts chewy chocolate chip cookie, chocolate pudding, and Sugar Daddy subsidy.
10. ALASKAN OATMEAL STOUT (Alaska) – From the Great White North comes sturdy hop-toasted oats-roasted stout. Mocha-malted honeyed oats enliven silken ash tongue. Second only to heralded Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.
11. BAR HARBOR CADILLAC MOUNTAIN STOUT (Maine) – Resplendent dry stout with roasted chocolate, syrupy Scotch and chewy molasses density. Caramel, vanilla, marshmallow, cocoa, and espresso dot cookie dough midst.
12. DOMINION OAK BARREL STOUT (Virginia) – Dry vanilla bean heavyweight soars to dramatic lactic heights. Resinous oak chips, soured chocolate, stewed prune, molasses, espresso, nutmeg and hazelnut reach wood-soaked bourbon finish.
13. TWISTED PINE BIG SHOT ESPRESSO STOUT (Colorado) – Cocksure espresso theme. Lusty cappuccino milking, French vanilla arousal, earth-charred nuttiness and toffee-candied tease sooth nitro-fueled mocha creaminess to flaked oat bottom, bettering Starbuck’s finest.
14. GRAND TETON MOOSE JUICE STOUT (Wyoming) – Assertive grain roast enriches roasted chocolate and mild hazelnut to acetous port finish. A virtual buffet in a bottle formerly brewed by Otto Brothers.
15. AVERY CZAR IMPERIAL STOUT (Colorado) – Challenging Russian Czar brings whiskey malts to chocolate-raisin confluence. Sherry, bourbon and port drape black cherry, currant and grape gush. Raspberry-pureed rum cake illusions reinforce brown sugar glaze.
16. BEAR REPUBLIC BLACK BEAR IMPERIAL STOUT (California) – Agile blend of Imperial and Cream Stout complexities captured for frothy milk-creamed humdinger. Burnt caramel, black molasses, powdered cocoa and toffee support toasted oat spine. Nutty espresso enlivens floral hops.
17. BELL’S EXPEDITION STOUT (Michigan) – Luxurious dry-bodied Imperial Stout retains chewy chocolate center and burnt coffee souring. Roasted barley-oats persuasion deepens hazelnut-toffee creaminess and black licorice slip.
18. ROGUE CHOCOLATE STOUT (Oregon) – Perpetual black chocolate theme, dusky powdered cocoa concision and flaked oats toasting consume decisive lactose-frothed milk stout. Toffee, anise, cherry, cookie dough and creme de cocoa emerge.
19. LEFT HAND FADE TO BLACK EXPORT STOUT (Colorado) – Terrific non-traditional mocha-spiced nicety with nebulous foreign/export stout labeling offers illusionary plentitude. Molasses-soaked anise, pureed cherry and black cardamom lead. Cappuccino-frothed espresso-dried bittering enhances wood-charred macadamia coarsening.
20. MARIN SAN QUENTIN BREAKOUT STOUT (California) – Versatile lactose stout. Whipped cream-topped chocolate malting, wood burnt maple creaminess, roasted nut insurgence and vanilla-fig-cherry dalliance soften.
21. OMMEGANG CHOCOLATE INDULGENCE (New York) – Impressive Belgian styling slurs tan spume across mahogany hue. Lactic malt-smoked cocoa-powdered souring boosts chocolate froth, cappuccino luster, burnt coffee skulk and cherry cordial wisp.
22. GOOSE ISLAND BOURBON COUNTY STOUT (Illinois) – Mint-y anise stickiness pierces warming oak-charred bourbon theme. Brown chocolate sweetness contrast espresso bitterness and cherry puree tartness. Fudge, vanilla bean and vinous burgundy surge.
23. SOUTHERN TIER CHOKLAT STOUT (New York) – Astonishing milk chocolate creaminess dominates Imperial stout. Vanilla, hazelnut and cherry cordial illusions heighten chocolate caking.
24. NORTH COAST OLD PLOWSHARE STOUT (California) – Forceful Starbuck’s-like roasted coffee strength fortifies Irish dry stout. Brown chocolate, milky cappuccino, creamy vanilla and chicory underscore.
25. PIKE 5X STOUT (Washington) – Velvety Imperial Stout retains ester-y grape souring and black cherry margin. Burnt toast aspect dominates embittered espresso frothing and powdered sugaring.
26. ANDERSON VALLEY BARNEY FLATS OATMEAL STOUT (California) – Ashen mocha entry/ flaked oats finish bookend maple-sapped malt-smoked treasure. Freeze-dried coffee bittering contrasts chocolate sweetness.
27. TROEGS OATMEAL STOUT (Pennsylvania) – Ascending black coffee roast and caramelized maple nuttiness linger to driest lactose finish.
28. LAGUNITAS CAPPUCCINO STOUT (California) – Creamy brown chocolate richness juxtaposes soured cappuccino salience. Lactic sugaring deepens vanilla-toffee midst and dark fruited remnant to roasted coffee finish.
29. BELL’S JAVA STOUT (Michigan) – Frothy coffee bean roast, creamy espresso-cappuccino punctuation, and burnt caramel richness usurp dry cocoa souring. Peat, black tar and charcoal furnish black licorice finish. Alongside Southern Tier, Kalamazoo-based Bell’s brews America’s highest quality stouts.
30. SOUTHERN TIER JAH-VA IMPERIAL COFFEE STOUT (New York) – Fulsomely bitter dry-roasted coffee bounty. Burnt caramel, black chocolate, vanilla and bourbon sweeten peat-y espresso sequel.
31. 3 FLOYDS BLACK SUN STOUT (Indiana) – Complex ‘inky black’ stout boasts black coffee bitterness intensifying flaked oats, maple sap, and anise-spiced grapefruit splash to resinous molasses bottom. Charcoal, tar and cinder coarsen rich milky creaminess. 3 Floyds equally fine Moloko Milk Stout has fudge-caked Bailey’s Irish Cream likeness.
32. DUCK-RABBIT MILK STOUT (North Carolina) – Repping the South spoofing Bugs Bunny’s ‘duck season/ rabbit season’ cartoon segment, lactic stout takes burnt coffee insurgence to pine-tarred walnut graining.
33. SKAGIT RIVER TRUMPETER IMPERIAL STOUT (Virginia) – Luxuriant nut-roasted molasses-smoked mocha malting gives lactic brown body an inviting opening. Brown chocolate, vanilla, cocoa and dark rum subdue bourbon-sherry-port whir to cappuccino finish.
34. NEW HOLLAND NIGHT TRIPPER IMPERIAL STOUT (Michigan) – Enthusiastic lactic stout brings hop-charred grain-smoked brown chocolate creaminess to brown-sugared vanilla fudging. Cedar-burnt maple-sugared fruit-dried backdrop fortifies blackstrap molasses sapping, bourbon-dried rum spicing and Sambuca perk.
35. DOGFISH HEAD WORLDWIDE STOUT (Delaware) – Intriguingly bold, boasting “ridiculous amount of barley” to complement port-sherry perk. Frighteningly honey-sapped 18 percent alcohol warmth anchors cherry jubilee luster and cognac creaminess of fireplace sipper.
36. FOUNDERS IMPERIAL STOUT (Michigan) – Creamy lactose fortifies weighty chocolate sourness, opulent coffee bitterness and hazelnut hint. Tar goo deepens resinous bottom.
37. VICTORY STORM KING IMPERIAL STOUT (Pennsylvania) – Syrupy Kahlua or chocolate liqueur essence. Rich coffee nut bitterness taglines floral hops.
38. HOPPIN’ FROG B.O.R.I.S. THE CRUSHER OATMEAL-IMPERIAL STOUT (Ohio) – Viscous oats-charred lactic stout lands sticky molasses-soaked anise punch, overwhelming cedar-burnt chocolate, vanilla, espresso and chocolate liqueur creaminess.
39. STONE IMPERIAL RUSSIAN STOUT (California) – Velvety black chocolate creaminess absorbs dried espresso roast. Molasses, anise, currant, raisin and sherry subsume cherry-grape finish.
40. SPRECHER IMPERIAL STOUT (Wisconsin) – Phenomenal jet black dry stout layers roasted coffee over black cherry, dried raisin and peat. Muddy chocolate bitterness undercoats port finish.
41. LEFT HAND IMPERIAL STOUT (Colorado) – Cocksure oak-aged wine-barreled black ale rightfully claimed ‘the fuel of revolution.’ Brown-sugared milk chocolate creaminess invades powdered cocoa, vanilla and black strap molasses sweetening. Cedar-smoked pecan-macadamia nuttiness engages brownie-like finish.
42. WEYERBACHER HERESY IMPERIAL STOUT (Pennsylvania) – Immense oak-barreled dry stout scatters bittersweet chocolate across charred hops. Tannic grape-soured cherry tartness infiltrates Black Forest caking.
43. BOAKS MONSTER MASH IMPERIAL STOUT (New Jersey) – Excellent rep contract brewed by Jersey’s High Point (Rammstein). Brown-sugared chocolate roast gains anise, maple, chocolate liqueur, chicory coffee and clove illusions.
44. BUFFALO BILL’S BLUEBERRY OATMEAL STOUT (California) – Eccentric fruit stout holds up well. Ripe blueberry contrasts charred hops to black coffee finish. Tar, nicotine and cinder bittering gums up black chocolate richness.
45. THIRSTY DOG SIBERIAN NIGHT IMPERIAL STOUT (Maryland) -
Rich black chocolate roast reaches coffee-burnt cappuccino nexus, leaving tar-like maple-molasses gunk along the way.
46. OSKAR BLUES TEN FIDY IMPERIAL STOUT (Colorado) – A true first! A metal-canned Imperial Stout with all the expectant viscous tar-like thickness reminiscent of molasses-sapped espresso milkshake.
47. KING’S MOCHA JAVA STOUT (Michigan) – Lofty full body boasts rich ground coffee theme supplemented by bittersweet maple oats sequel and tart raisin puree remnant.
48. ROGUE IMPERIAL STOUT (Oregon) – Complex. Pours like 10W40 motor oil. Molasses, chocolate, and coffee ascend luxuriant facade. Sherry, fig and vanilla juxtapose vinous oaken cherry slip to hickory-smoked finish.
49. GREAT DIVIDE YETI IMPERIAL STOUT (Colorado) – Roasted coffee bean, mochaccino, and espresso notes widen appeal of hop-charred dry body. Black oak, pine resin and cedar fortify bitter end. Vanilla-fudged Oak Age Yeti’s even better.
50. MENDOCINO OATMEAL STOUT (New York) – Robust lactose-aided winter seasonal. Creamy molasses-sapped black chocolate roast/ wood-charred hop-oiled black coffee bittering saturate hazelnut-walnut toasting.
John Fortunato’s website beermelodies.com is the number one source for beer geeks and rock freaks (according to its designer).