During February we celebrate the darker side of beer at our pubs with our ‘Dark Life’ beer festival. It’s the perfect time of year to grab something warming and comforting – it’s been a long winter after all! The joy of darker beers is that they span so many styles – from classic stouts through the slightly more whacky and creative, you’ll be amazed by the variety of flavours – from smoked beers through to ‘pastry’ stouts! 

They’re also great to cook with as well and make great pairings for cheeses, deserts and big hearty meals. So even if you think you don’t like dark beers, I reckon you’ve just not found the right one yet…


This world renowned brewery produce beers in Bamberg, Germany – an area famous for producing a style known as ‘Rauchbier’ – owing to the stunning Beechwood smoked malt that they have always traditionally produced there. Schlenkerla produce a variety of beers all using their own smoked malt. This gives their beers a distinct style and an utterly delicious smoky flavour. I always liken their Marzen to a packet of Bacon Frazzles… Aside from making these beers wonderfully moreish, they’re also great to use in cooking too – especially in stews and casseroles.


schlenkerla marzen


Wiper & True – Barrel Aged Plum Porter
Plum + Porter is a classic combination, the fruity plums just work really well with the chocolatey, coffee notes of a porter. Add to this some time in a Cognac Barrel (6 months in this case) and you end up with a deliciously well rounded beer, all finishing off with a bit of a marzipan thing going on. Grab a slice of fruit cake and enjoy this one!


Five Points - Railway Porter
I’ve been drinking this beer for years now and it’s never failed to disappoint me. It’s just really smooth and very very drinkable. With notes of dark chocolate and roasted coffee it’s a good stand up to a nice blue cheese.


five points railway porter


Ramsgate Brewery – Gadds, Chairman Of The Board
Barley Wines are delicious, especially when, like this one, they’re finished in Calvados barrels. Fruity and well hopped with wonderful complexity. I tend to find this style is a winner with most strong cheeses – particularly a strong, extra mature cheddar in this case.


Arpus - Blueberry & Maple Imperial Stout
Latvian brewery Arpus really know how to make bold and flavoursome beers. This is a desert on it’s own really. Big and thick, this has been aged with blueberries and maple syrup which which the decadent, boozy chocolate notes from the stout itself is a lovely combination. As I say, it’s a desert in it’s own right – but if you fancy something to lift it to the next level may I suggest a chocolate fudge brownie and send your self into a sugar/food coma by the fire.


Cellar Head - Fireside
Rich and fruity, full bodied and one of those that sends you back for more as it’s really quite delicious. Hopped with English grown hops too, it sits nicely between a stronger bitter and a porter – or, try it in a sauce – a beer reduction can make a brilliant addition to any homemade marinade and the fruitiness of the beer will carry through nicely, especially on some sticky ribs!