The Difference Between a Dark Lager and Stouts / Porters

dark lager

When it comes to dark beers, they mostly look the same. Stouts/Porters have a lot of similarities from how they are brewed, how they look, and how they taste. They are also types of ales. Now Dark Lagers might have a similar look to them for being a dark beer. But beyond that, they are quite different.

The main difference that Dark Lagers have compared to porters and stouts is dark lagers are not ales. A way to categorize beers is between lagers and ales and they differ in what yeast is used to brew them. Ale  uses top-fermented yeast. This is when the yeast is applied to the top of the wort, and at a higher temperature. Lagers on the other hand, use bottom – fermented yeast. So visa versa, this is when the yeast is applied to the bottom of the wort at a lower temperature

The result of the different brewing is Porters and Stouts (ales) have a more bold, complex, and robust flavor with stronger fruitier, coffee taste. And a Dark Lager (Lager) has a more crisp, simpler, and lighter taste. So although they may look the same, the way they are brewed and how they taste are going to be completely different.

And while this isn’t always true, stouts and porters tend to have a higher ABV than a dark lager would.

A lot of people who are fans of porters and stouts can be surprised if to order a dark lager and find it taste nothing like what they would normally would order. Dark lagers are not that common, as most lagers will have tend to be medium or light that are clear enough to see through.

What Makes A Dark Lager, Dark?

Lagers can be light, amber, or dark. Dark is not very common, but they do come up in craft breweries. What makes them dark is they use dark malts or roast malt extract in the brewing process. So the ingredients used is what causes it. But since lagers are brewed with bottom fermented yeast and at lower temperature. That is what makes them still a lager even though they are dark

What Are Some Popular Dark Lagers To Try?

Like we mentioned earlier, dark lagers are not too common. But craft breweries do make them. Here are some dark lagers you can try if you want to taste one for yourself

Owl Theory by Fieldwork Brewing Co

This dark lager can be a good one for fans of stouts and porters. It is slightly more complex in flavor compared to its lager counterparts, making it a little closer to the porters and stouts. But the more simple and crisp taste is still noticeable. The ABV is slightly higher to at 6% when a lot of lagers will be more at the 5%. So while you will taste some chocolate and nutty flavor, it will have the easy drinking feel you would expect from a lager.

The pros would be that this would be a good segue beer for porter and stout lovers and it is a great tasting beer. The cons though is that it can be hard to get. You would have to follow Fieldwork Brewing Co on social media to see when they brew up a new batch. This is because sadly, it isn’t always available. And when it is, getting it is usually limited to people that live near their brewery in Berkley, CA.

Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock by Paulaner Brewery

This is a more wildly distributed beer compared to our previous one. It also has a more higher ABV compared to a typical lager, at 7.9% (normal for a Doppelbock). The better news about this one is that it will be easier to find. Most ABC liquor and Total Wine stores will have it available in store. And if not, they will have the option to have it fedexed to you.

This beer is brewed overseas in Munich, Germany and is quite popular. The taste is has the crisp flavor while being more slightly complex to the typical lager

Smoke & Dagger Black Lager by Jack’s Abby Brewing

This is a typical lager with a simple and easy to drink that won’t fill you up. But their will be hints of chocolate and smokey flavors that most beer drinkers would appreciate. The ABV on this dark lager is 5.6%, so a little more close to what you would expect from a lager.

This is a well balanced beer that has both sweet and bitter together. It can be hard to find in stores, however. But I don’t have too much trouble finding in on most of the time. I have seen it in 4 packs and 6 packs. And another bonus? they come in 16 oz cans instead of 12 oz cans. Can’t go wrong with a little extra beer.

Baba Black Lager by Uinta Brewing

This award winning black lager is a popular choice. This beer has a noticeable malt aroma with a caramel flavor to it. It also has a light smokey flavor that will come in at the back end of the taste at the end. This will have a typical lager taste and feel, but it is a good “gateway” to introduce yourself into the world of dark lagers.

This beer is hit or miss to find it, but most of the year it is available at

Final Thoughts

A dark lager may look like a stout or porter, but how it is brewed and how it taste is a huge difference. To brew a dark lager, you would just need to follow the lager brewing process of using bottom fermented yeast at lower temperatures. Then just use dark malts or roast malt extract as your ingredients to give the lager that dark color.

For taste, be prepared for a lighter, less complex beer that won’t be as heavy as a porter and stout. It isn’t as common as other types of beer, but it is a wonderful beer style to explore and open your beer pallet to new tastes.

Although porter and stout lovers might find the taste of a dark lager underwhelming, knowing what to expect and appreciating the more refreshing flavor is worth it.




Dan Specht

Dan has been homebrewing beer for 8 years and holds a level 2 certifiication as a Cicerone.

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