Stouts have been around for hundreds of years, with the first mention of the name appearing in the late 1600s. The style, perfect for chilly nights and post-meal imbibing, is characterized by the use of roasted malts and an elevated ABV. Over the past decade or so, brewers have played with the humble stout, aging it bourbon barrels, adding coffee to it, and ramping up the alcohol. What that means is, it’s never been a better time to be a stout fan. That said, like with all beer styles, not all stouts are created equal. We dug through all kinds—milk stouts, imperial stouts, dry stouts—and came up with a list of the ones we feel you should try. Put down the IPA, hophead. This is your stout bucket list.

Toppling-Goliath-Kentucky-Brunch-Brand-Stout

Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout

Let’s just get this one out of the way because, more likely than not, it’s going to be the toughest on this list to tick. Toppling Goliath’s Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout (KBBS) was last released in January to 1,000 lucky winners. Those winners dropped $200 to purchase a couple 22 oz. bottles of Assassin (a beer also worthy of this list), glassware, and one 12 oz. bottle of KBBS. Not a 6-pack. Not a couple. One. Bottle. Didn’t win the raffle and want to get your hands on KBBS? Good luck. On the secondary market the beer regularly fetches over $1,000. Made with espresso and maple syrup, Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout has an aroma reminiscent of, well, brunch. Want a sip? Win the next raffle and be prepared to travel to Decorah, Iowa, to pick up your liquid gold. Link

Founders-Breakfast-Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout

On the other side of the rarity spectrum you’ll find Founders Breakfast Stout. While scarcity has become entangled with perceived quality, that’s not the case here. Founders Breakfast Stout is a readily-available gem of a beer. Brewed with two types of coffee, chocolate, and flaked oats that aid in delivering a silky mouthfeel, the flavor and aroma of Founders Breakfast Stout is so beautifully dialed in. Plenty of roast. Some bitter chocolate. A body as velvety as one of Nas’s old tracksuits. On shelves in late fall and early winter, Founders Breakfast Stout is 100% an acquirable brew you should have on your radar. Link

Prairie-Artisan-Ales-Bomb

Prairie Artisan Ales Bomb!

Bomb! is on this list for those who like bold flavors. A standard stout this is not. Layers of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla come through with every sip. But that’s not the highlight here. The highlight is the ancho chili pepper. While those do provide a modicum of heat, what they really lend the beer is a fresh pepper taste. Imagine smelling a freshly cut green pepper and then popping the pieces into your mouth. It’s kind of like that. Only this green pepper is 13% alcohol. Link

Guinness-Foreign-Extra-Stout

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

The best beer Guinness makes is not the Guinness you’re used to drinking. You want Guinness Draught on St. Patty’s Day while you wear your comically large green hat and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt? Have at it. If you want a good beer, drink Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. Everywhere your standard Guinness falls flat, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout succeeds. While not really necessary in this day and age, Guinness Foreign Extra is brewed with extra hops too aid in preservation as it’s shipped overseas—as that’s what hops were originally used for. The aroma is reminiscent of good old Guinness, only now there’s a roasty backbone that will bring to mind a cup of coffee. With a dry finish and chocolate and coffee notes throughout, this is the Guinness you want. Link

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Tree House Double Shot

It’s hard to argue that Tree House has been the hottest brewery in the country over the last few years. Hell, you must be doing something right if you have over $7 mill for an expansion. Most of the success has been due to the brewery’s hazy, juicy IPAs. But don’t sleep on their stouts. Double Shot, the Massachusetts-based brewery’s coffee stout, is a creamy, candy-like delight. We first tried the beer at Extreme Beer Fest in 2014—and we still dream about it. It’s a roasty coffee beer with a vanilla cream component, making it taste a bit like a robust milk stout. Trust us, it doesn’t matter which version is up for grabs (Tree House has made Double Shot with a variety of different coffee beans), you’re going to want to get your hands on a bottle. Link

Goose-Island-Bourbon-County-Brand-Stout

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

There were a lot of ways we could have gone with this one. It was never a question whether or not BCBS would make this list, but we did struggle with which one. Rare? Vanilla? Proprietors? All variants are exceptional. In the end, it felt wrong to not include the original. For this list, we’re going with standard Bourbon County Brand Stout, which, it should be noted, is anything but standard. First brewed in 1992—though that’s somewhat disputed—the beer has taken on near mythical status. Released every Black Friday, the beer draws crowds to stores long before doors open. The reason? It’s one of the most expertly crafted bourbon barrel-aged stouts ever produced. Loaded with chocolate, vanilla, and char notes, the beer explodes with flavor. Still, while so much jumps out at you, it all comes delivered in one silky, smooth package that happens to deliver a 13.8% ABV punch. The OG bourbon barrel-aged stout is still one of the absolute best. Link

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Cigar City Hunahpu's Imperial Stout

Sometimes opening a beer is cause for celebration; sometimes a beer is a celebration. Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is the latter. Released once a year at Hunahpu’s Day, a crazy party in Tampa, Florida, hosted by Cigar City, the beer’s name is derived from Hun Hunahpu, a father from Mayan mythology who, after being slain, morphed into a cacao tree. The beer packs those cacao notes and blends them with vanilla beans, chilies, and cinnamon for a complex and decadent body. It pours like sweet motor oil and opens up with vegetal notes as it warms. Some years are better than others, but the celebration is enough to draw you Florida. Link

Bottle-Logic-Fundamental-Observation

Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation

If you need one brewery dominating the stout space these days, look west. Bottle Logic, which operates out of Anaheim, California, is flat-out crushing it when it comes to dark beers. The beer that really cemented that hype was the first run of Fundamental Observation, the brewery’s imperial stout made with vanilla beans. FO, as it’s known on trading forums, is a masterclass in delivering on promises. You say your beer is brewed with vanilla? Make sure we can taste the vanilla. You tell us your beer was aged in bourbon barrels? We want to pick up those notes. Fundamental Observation delivers vanilla and barrel in spades, tasting like someone made a boozy bourbon vanilla milkshake and tossed it in a bottle. Link

Sierra-Nevada-Stout

Sierra Nevada Stout

We never want to make a bucket list where you can’t even check off one beer. While we put in things like KBBS and the aforementioned Bottle Logic offering, we also wanted shelf beers that are exceptional. Hence, the inclusion of Sierra Nevada Stout. Sierra Nevada is one of the most influential American breweries there is, and while their Pale Ale is the legendary beer most talked about, we want to take you to the dark side. Sierra Nevada Stout is roasty, balanced, and packed with a noticeable hop aroma thanks to the late addition of Cascade and Yakima Golding hops. The beer was first brewed decades ago, when Sierra Nevada needed a big, bold beer to run through their system. That beer is just as good today. Link

Founders-CBS

Founders CBS

And now back to the whales. If you want to procure a bottle of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, good luck. It’s been years since CBS was bottled. That’s the bad news. The good news is Founders sent kegs around two years ago, which means the imperial stout brewed with coffee and imported chocolates and aged in bourbon barrels that held maple syrup is not dead. It’s a 10%+ ABV beer that hides the alcohol extremely well while offering notes of maple syrup, chocolate, and dark coffee. It lives up to the hype. If you can’t track it down—totally understandable—try getting your hands on a bottle of Evil Twin’s Michigan Maple Jesus, which is the next best thing we’ve found. Link

De-Struise-Black-Albert

De Struise Black Albert

Belgians aren’t known for their stouts. Lambics? Yes. Quads? Yes. Saisons? Yes. But stouts? Not so much. De Struise changed that. The brewery brings a time-honored Belgian tradition to the imperial stout—the ability to hide alcohol. At 13%, Black Albert drinks like something far less potent. The crazy thing is, Black Albert isn’t even near their strongest beer, a titled held by Black Damnation 5, which clocks in at a liver-fearing 26%. Now, 26% is fun, but Black Albert gets the most right. You pick up notes of dark fruit, chocolate, and roasted coffee, and the beer finishes a bit sweeter than many big stouts we’ve had. If you go to Belgium, drink all the Cantillon, Saison Dupont, and Westvleterens you can get your hands on, but you’d be wise to track down this stout as well. If you’re not traveling any time soon, no worries, this beer makes it to select bottle shops in the States. Link

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3 Floyds Dark Lord

Another beer with an entire celebration built around it, Dark Lord is released every year by 3 Floyds at—you guessed it—Dark Lord Day. We’ll say this, Dark Lord has its share of detractors, with many saying the beer tastes like someone dumped a bottle of Kikkoman in it. But one man’s drain pour is another man’s treasure—and many treasure Dark Lord. Dark Lord is brewed with a plethora adjuncts: Mexican vanilla, Indian sugar, and coffee. The result is something bold and unique. Expect molasses, burnt sugar, cherry, and other notes, including, to some, soy sauce. Regardless of how you’ll feel after you try it, you should try it. Link

North-Coast-Brewing-Old-Rasputin-Russian-Imperial-Stout

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

There are plenty of Russian Imperial Stouts far, far harder to come by than North Coast’s Old Rasputin. There are not, however, plenty of Russian Imperial Stouts that are better. This beer has been winning awards since the ’90s. Bill Owens, the founder of the American Distilling Institute, once called Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout “the best in the world.” With all that acclaim, you’d assume finding a bottle would be difficult. It isn’t. Old Rasputin is a 9% Russian Imperial Stout with notes of pumpernickel, bitter chocolate, and roasted coffee beans that just so happens to sit on shelves. It should also sit on one of your shelves. Link

Kane-A-Night-to-End-All-Dawns

Kane A Night to End All Dawns

Kane has released a slew of flavorful gems. Sunday Brunch, Mexican Brunch, and the Port Omna variants all exceeded expectations. But if there’s one beer they are known best for, it’s A Night to End All Dawns, the NJ brewery’s imperial stout that’s exceedingly difficult to obtain. Like Toppling Goliath’s Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout, the most recent release of ANTEAD was done via lottery, with 1,000 winners being invited to the brewery to pick up a bottle of the beer and one of each of the variants. It’s hard to single in on one variant for this list, so we’re going with the base. It’s boozy. It’s oaky. Its finish develops like a roll of film, with different elements becoming noticeable as time goes on. This is one of those stouts you really want to let warm, as the wood notes really shine as it approaches room temp. If you don’t win next year’s lottery, just show up at the brewery the following weekend and maybe they’ll release the bottles that weren’t picked up like they did this year. Basically, just find a way to get it. Link

Bells-Expedition-Stout

Bell's Expedition Stout

There are plenty of other incredible stouts out there we could have tossed on this list. We considered including Barrel-Aged Abraxas, Angry Chair’s Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake Stout, Parabola, and many others as this last pick. Then we decided to go in a completely different direction. Bell’s Expedition Stout was one of the first beers we ever fell in love with. Why? Well, for starters, you can actually find it. If you’re in a state that Bell’s distributes to, chances are you’ve seen it on shelves. It packs a chocolate punch and a dark fruit finish. It’s also one of our favorite beers to age, as the flavors really come together nicely after a year or two of sitting. Does it have trade value or whale status? No. But who the hell cares? It’s delicious. Link