Here is an overview of the range of different dark beer styles from Graham Cundall, Yorkshire CAMRA’s rare beer styles co-ordinator.

Dark is not fashionable in these times. Everything is pale or blonde. Maybe it’s because we crave transparency and clarity in everything we receive today.

In the world of beer you’ll be missing something if you shun the dark and apparently mysterious.

These increasingly hard to find beers range across the spectrum of beer styles.

Best known, probably, are stouts, and not just the one with the harp trademark. Seek the alternatives out; they vary from dry Irish types to fuller, maltier ones and even the sweeter resurrected milk stouts.

There are also porters from which stouts evolved. These are similar, but always robustly bitter and quite often with a smoky or burnt character.

Mild, sadly so unfashionable these days in the main, is a tasty session beer style, full of flavour. Mild means fewer hops, not less taste.

Stronger cousins are old ales. That one from Masham in North Yorkshire called Old Peculier is a classic example of the style.

Old meant a mature beer vatted up for several months before sale, not that this is generally viable nowadays.

At the high end of the spectrum are the strong ales, barley wines and imperial stouts. They are rich and high in alcohol, as much as 12 per cent.


Elegant beers with complex aged flavours for sipping and savouring.

All these beers are part of our nation’s heritage so next time you visit a pub, bar or club, even a restaurant, ask for a dark beer and maintain the wonderful diversity of beer.

To obtain more detailed information about scarce beer styles, read Graham’s article on the local branch website, where you will also find a list of where you can try scarce beers locally: and follow @ScarceBeer on Twitter.

Dark and Winter Ales will be showcased in pubs around Lancaster from February 3 to 9 (



lJanuary 30 to February 1 – Pendle Beer Festival at the Municipal Hall, Albert Road, Colne, organised by the East Lancashire branch of CAMRA
l  February 20-22 – Bradford Beer Festival at Victoria Hall, Saltaire, organised by Bradford branch of CAMRA