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Best dark ales

14 Best Dark Ales Money Can Buy


If you’re anything like us, this summer you enjoyed a lot of thirst-quenching beer. You’ve probably had your fill of lagers, pale ales, and light beers and you might be ready for something a little darker. That’s where the aptly named dark ale comes in. If you don’t know what the drink is, that’s okay. It’s definitely a less well-known beer designation than the classic IPA, lager, or even stout (although some people add stouts and porters into the dark ale realm as well). The style is known for its dark brown appearance and mix of select yeasts, dark malts, and aromatic hops, creating a malty and fruity beer that finishes with just a hint of floral hops.

Best Dark Ales at a Glance

White Rabbit Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy's
White Rabbit Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

1. White Rabbit Dark Ale

Brand: White Rabbit
Release:
Dark Ale
Size:
330mL
Alcohol Volume: 4.9%
Region: VIC
Price: $26.99 – 6-Pack

Brewed with Pale malt, wheat malt, German Munich malt, and Dark Crystal malt as well as dry-hopped using a Hopnick dry-hopping device with Pacifica, Rakau, and Sticklebract hops. This results in a dark brown, very rich, borderline indulgent dark ale with fruity flavours overlapping with aromatic hops, and caramel and chocolate malts. It’s sweet, warming, and ends with just the right amount of pleasant bitterness.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (BWS)

Could this Tassie Distillery be the Worldwide Whiskey Producer of the Year? 

Coopers Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy's
Coopers Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

2. Coopers Dark Ale

Brand: Coopers
Release:
Dark Ale
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 4.5%
Region: SA
Price: $20.95 – 6-Pack

Coopers Dark Ale is exactly as the name seems. It’s a dark, malty, very rich beer brewed with roasted malts as well as chocolate malt. This gives the beer a ton of roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and coffee, flavour. The finish is dry, sweet, and leaves you craving more. It’s the kind of beer you might want to pair with an indulgent dessert. Best of all, it comes from of the most respected names in the Australian game. For decades, Coopers has dished out ground-breaking releases, with the Dark Ale serving as one of the stalwarts. In the next few years, the South Australian icon will be opening its $50 million beer and whisky experience centre, so you can expect a lot more dark ale to flow from that point on.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Coopers) Buy it here (The Wine Collective)

Lord Nelson Old Admiral Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy's
Lord Nelson Old Admiral Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

3. Lord Nelson Old Admiral Dark Ale

Brand: Lord Nelson Brewery
Release: 
Old Admiral Dark Ale
Size:
330mL
Alcohol Volume: 6.1%
Region: FRE
Price: $84.99 – 14-Pack

Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is Sydney’s oldest continuously operating hotel with its start in 1841. It’s home to a hotel, bar, restaurant, and renowned brewery. The latter makes Lord Nelson Old Admiral Dark Ale, a 6.1% per cent ABV strong ale brewed with German and British malts. The result is a reddish, brown ale filled with toasted malt, dried fruit, and caramel flavours. You could cop a carton at Dan Murphy’s or the bottle shop, but for the full experience, we recommend hitting up the Lord Nelson Brewpub, one of our favourite pubs in Sydney.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Lord Nelson) Buy it here (BWS)

Old Ale | Image: Philter Brewing
Old Ale | Image: Philter Brewing

4. Philter Old Ale

Brand: Philter Brewing
Release:
Old Ale
Size:
330mL
Alcohol Volume: 4.5%
Region: NSW
Price: $22.99 – 4-Pack

This is a throwback beer if we ever saw one. Philter Old Ale was crafted to taste like a traditional Aussie old. Brewed with roasted malts, it’s well-known for its flavours of freshly brewed coffee, vanilla beans, toasted malts, and chocolate. The finish is dry and lightly bitter, completing this trip to the past in a pint of beer. At 4.5 per cent ABV, it’s also surprisingly sessionable. Another cornerstone brewery in Sydney, Philter has become iconic in the Inner West, so if you’re in town, we definitely recommend hitting the Philter factory.

Buy it here (Red Bottle) Buy it here (Philter) Buy it here (Beer Cartel)

Moo Brew Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy's
Moo Brew Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

5. Moo Brew Dark Ale

Brand: Moo Brew
Release:
 Dark Ale
Size:
330mL
Alcohol Volume: 5.0%
Region: TAS
Price: $21.49 – 6-Pack

This 5 per cent ABV American-style brown ale is brewed with select malts as well as popular American hops: Cascade, Centennial, and Simcoe. It’s known for its brown colour, light piney, floral hop backbone, and rich, roasted malt, caramel, and vanilla flavours. As dark ales go, this is one of the more well-balanced between malts and hops. If you are not aware, Moo Brew is the brainchild of esteemed local hero David Walsh, founder of the world-famous, convention-adverse Mona (The Museum of Old and New Art). The enigmatic gambler turned art collector and philanthropist saw a need to champion the unique ingredients found in Tasmania and this delicious Dark Ale is the result. When it comes time for Dark Mofo later this year, you can bet, we’ll be sucking down one of these.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Moo Brew)

Tooheys Old Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy's
Tooheys Old Dark Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

6. Tooheys Old Dark Ale

Brand: Tooheys
Release: 
Old Dark Ale
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 4.4%
Region: NSW
Price: $20.99 – 6-Pack

While some of the beers on this list were first released in more contemporary times, Tooheys Old Dark Ale has been brewed the same way since its inception in 1869. This surprisingly light, easy-drinking dark ale sits at a sessionable 4.4 per cent ABV. It might be light in alcohol but definitely isn’t light in flavour with freshly brewed coffee, chocolate, dried fruits, roasted malts, and caramel, taking centre stage.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Tooheys) Buy it here (Liquorland)

Brown Ale | Image: Mornington Peninsula Brewery
Brown Ale | Image: Mornington Peninsula Brewery

7. Mornington Peninsula Brown Ale

Brand: Mornington Peninsula Brewery
Release: 
Brown Ale
Size:
330mL
Alcohol Volume: 5.4%
Region: VIC
Style: English-Style Dark Ale

This dark ale is Mornington Peninsula’s take on the classic English-style brown ale. Brewed with important English ale malts, it’s known for its toasted malts, sticky toffee, and dried fruit flavours. It’s indulgent, sweet, and highly memorable. It’s the type of beer you’ll want to sip as you finish off a heavy, meat-filled meal.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Morning Breweries) Buy it here (First Choice)

Donnie Dark Ale | Image: Your Mates Brewing
Donnie Dark Ale | Image: Your Mates Brewing

8. Your Mates Donnie Dark Ale

Brand: Your Mates Brewing 
Release:
Donnie Dark Ale
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 5.0%
Region: QLD
Style: Porter
Price: $64.99 – 16-Pack

Your Mates Donnie Dark Ale’s can is adorned with a drawing of who we can only assume is Donnie himself. He looks like a cool guy. He has a beard, his collar is popped, he’s smoking a pipe, holding a beer, and presumably wearing a winter hat indoors. The beer named for him is equally noteworthy. This 5 per cent ABV dark ale is lightly smoky with notable chocolate, coffee, and caramel flavours.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Your Mates Brewing) Buy it here (Beer Cartel)

Belgian Dark Ale | Image: Pirate Life Brewing
Belgian Dark Ale | Image: Pirate Life Brewing

9. Pirate Life Belgian Dark Ale

Brand: Pirate Life Brewing
Release:
Belgian Dark Ale
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 3.5%
Region: NSW
Style: Dark Mild
Price: $25.99 – 4-Pack

To say that this 11 per cent ABV Belgian-style dark ale is complex is a major understatement. This limited-edition beer is brewed with Pale malt, Pilsner malt, Biscuit malt, Simpsons DRC, and Rye. It’s hopped with Perle and Fuggles hops. It gets a bit of yeast and tang from the addition of wild yeast strain during secondary fermentation. On top of that, it’s aged for thirteen months on Adelaide Hills Cherries.

Buy it here (Grape and Grain) Buy it here (Pirate Life) Buy it here (Beer Cartel)

Otter's Promise Dark Ale | Image: Mismatch Brewing Co.
Otter’s Promise Dark Ale | Image: Mismatch Brewing Co.

10. Otter’s Promise Mismatch Dark Ale

Brand: Mismatch Brewing
Release:
Otter’s Promise Dark Ale
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 5.5%
Region: SA
Style: Dark Ale
Bitterness: 25 IBU

This 5.5 per cent dark ale gets its flavour from the use of select dark malts (Munich and Maris Otter malts) as well as Centennial hops. This results in a beer that’s loaded with a biscuit-like, toffee, dark chocolate, dried fruit, and fresh coffee body and a finish of floral, herbal, lightly piney, bitter hops. It’s a very well-balanced, flavourful beer.

Buy it here (Otter’s Promise) Buy it here (Mismatch Brewing)

To Put It Mildly Dark Mild | Image: Slow Lane Brewing Co.
To Put It Mildly Dark Mild | Image: Slow Lane Brewing

11. Slow Lane To Put It Mildly Dark Mild

Brand: Slow Lane Brewing
Release:
To Put it Mildly Dark Mild 
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 3.5%
Region: NSW
Style: Dark Mild
Price: $25.99 – 4-Pack

At one point (the 1960s), milds were an extremely popular beer style in the United Kingdom. Although their popularity has waned significantly, there are still some brewers (even some in Australia) making them today. Slow Lane To Put It Mildly is a 3.5 per cent ABV dark mild brewed with Pale Chocolate, Maris Otter, and Dark Crystal malts as well as East Kent Golding hops and English Ale yeast. It’s known for its flavours of chocolate, dried fruits, toffee, fruit esters, and just a hint of bitterness at the finish.

 Buy it here (Slow Lane Brewing) Buy it here (Beer Cartel)

Ellie's Brown Ale | Image: Avery Brewing
Ellie’s Brown Ale | Image: Avery Brewing

12. Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale

Brand: Avery Brewing
Release:
Ellie’s Brown Ale
Size:
355mL
Alcohol Volume: 5.5%
Region: USA
Style: American Brown Ale

An American addition to this list, Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale is a 5.5 per cent dark ale brewed with Munich, C-120, Honey Malt, Carapils, Chocolate, and 2-row malt as well as a proprietary yeast strain, as well as Sterling, Bullion, and Cascade hops. Known for its nutty, caramel, vanilla, and lightly hoppy flavour profile, it’s the kind of beer you’ll want on hand for a chilly evening.

Buy it here (Outback Liquors) Buy it here (Avery Brewing Co.)

Devils Hollow Brewery Black Horn Dark Ale | Image: Devils Hollow Brewery
Devils Hollow Brewery Black Horn Dark Ale | Image: Devils Hollow Brewery

13. Devils Hollow Brewery Black Horn Dark Ale

Brand: Devils Hollow Brewery 
Release:
Black Horn Dark Ale
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 4.8%
Region: Australia
Grains: Caramel Aromatic, Crystal, Light Chocolate, Light Munich, Pale, Shepherds Delight

Devils Hollow Black Horn is a rhino-adorned, 4.8 per cent ABV dark ale brewed with Caramel Aromatic, Crystal, Light Chocolate, Pale, Shepherds Delight, and Light Munich malts as well as Cascade, Cashmere, Mittlefrau, and Tettnang hops. Named for the Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s black rhino breeding program, it’s known for its dark chocolate, caramel, and vanilla flavours.

Buy it here (Leura Cellars) Buy it here (Devil’s Hollow Brewery) Buy it here (Craft Cartel)

Longstocking Brewery Dark Ale | Image: Longstocking Brewery
Longstocking Brewery Dark Ale | Image: Longstocking Brewery

14. Longstocking Brewery Dark Ale

Brand: Longstocking Brewery 
Release:
Dark Ale
Size:
375mL
Alcohol Volume: 4.8%
Region: Australia
Price: $33 – 6-Pack

This 4.8 per cent ABV dark ale gets its unique, roasted malt, coffee, chocolate, smoky, and lightly floral, herbal hop flavour from the addition of roasted barley, smoked cherrywood malts, and Fuggle hops. As dark ales go, this is like an old-school meets new beer. It’s rich, memorable, and pairs well with grilled meats and good times with friends and family.

Buy it here (Liquor Legends) Buy it here (Longstocking Brewery)

What is a Dark Ale?

While it’s definitely more of a broad term, there are specific historical dark ales. In particular, there is the Belgian strong dark ale category. These abbey-style ales are typically in the 8-10 percent ABV range and are known for their dark appearance and malty, sweet flavour profile.

In the United Kingdom and Australia, brown ales, strong ales, old ales, and milds fit the criterion of the dark ale. This is because they are maltier, sweeter, and carry caramel, vanilla, and often fruity flavour profiles. On top of that, we don’t want to leave out beers that are actually labeled as “dark ales”.

There are a few of those as well. They’re known for their malt-forward flavour profile highlighted by aromatic hops, toffee, and light fruitiness. All in all, every beer that fits into this genre is great for warming up on chilly evenings and pairs well with heartier, heavier meals.

Things to Consider for Dark Ales

While there are specific rules regarding IPAs, lagers, and other more well-known beer styles, the dark ale isn’t as cut and dry. Brewers have free reign (more or less) to label a brown ale, mild, Belgian-style dark ale, strong ale, and some other malty beers as dark ales. Just know that most dark ales have a fruity, caramel malty, lightly hoppy flavour profile.

How Does Dark Ale Taste?

As we’ve mentioned above, while dark ales can differ a lot based on ingredients, when you crack one open, you’re likely to find flavours like caramel, vanilla, dried fruits, roasted malts, and maybe even a bit of funky yeast.

How Should You Drink Dark Ale?

You should drink a dark ale the same way you’d drink any beer. It’s just that a dark ale might not be the best choice for a hot, sunny day. Keep the lagers stocked for those occasions. A dark ale is more at home on a cooler night, especially when paired with grilled meats and other heavy food items.

Alternatives to Dark Ales

If you’re not quite aboard the Dark Ales beer train, or you’re just looking to find out which international brew tickles your fancy, why not check out some of our other beer articles?

Dark Ale FAQS

What’s the difference between a dark ale and a stout?

Stouts tend to have a fairly high roasted malt flavour. And while some dark ales are made with roasted malts, they tend to be much lighter than their stout counterparts.

What’s the difference between a dark ale and a porter?

Porters are similar to stouts but are much less dry and even less heavy-handed when it comes to roasted malt flavour. They’re also much sweeter in general. Dark ales, while on the sweeter side are much maltier and full flavoured than the much lighter porter.