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They can be dry and mild, silky and sweet, or complex and potent. But one thing almost all stouts have in common is their deep, dark color. With Halloween upon us and the toasty Holiday ale season just getting underway, it’s the perfect time to show some appreciation for the dark side of craft beers.

For any history buffs out there, you may be interested in reading up on the early days of the stout ale. What started a few hundred years ago as a descriptor for especially strong porters has more than come into its own right as a cherished beer style.

It’s hard to think of the word “stout" without Guinness immediately coming to mind. And indeed, the famous brewery at St. James Gate has a lot to do with the style’s worldwide popularity. Alas the Irish stout — or dry stout — is but one of several varieties that have emerged over the years. From hefty imperials to velvety oatmeals to hard-to-believe-they're-good-but-they-are oyster stouts*, the style definitely offers a little something for everyone. So, to help you pick your poison, take a look at Imbibe Magazine’s breakdown of the different varieties and flavors.

There’s no question that stouts are vastly enjoyable on their own, whether you’re spending the afternoon drinking sessionable stouts with friends or lounging by the fire sipping a chalice of barrel-aged. But don’t let that keep you from enjoying them alongside a meal. Or better yet, a dessert. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

With all these possibilities, there’s only one thing left to do. Grab your uKeg and head to your favorite brewery or pub for a fill up!

*Skeptical about oyster stouts? Read up on how they came to be, then give one a try. They won’t disappoint!

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