Henry West

The five best Wisconsin-brewed dark beers to wash down a pre-sunrise breakfast

Garth’s Brew Bar. Photography by Kalli Anderson

Often, we think of beer as an after-dark beverage, uncouth to consume unless the sun has set.

But what if the saying “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” actually meant 5 a.m. — before the sun rises?

Whether you’re on vacation or grabbing a bite before an early game day tailgate, sometimes you want a drink with breakfast. Bloody marys? Sorry, I don’t like boozy ketchup. Mimosas? Champagne gives me a headache. Thankfully, beer is here to save the day.

While some may opt for a lighter beer that’s easier on an early morning palate, there’s an entire world of dark beers that have historically been brewed with classic breakfast flavors. Additionally, some craft brewers have begun creating more avant-garde beers with experimental ingredients. Either option can be the perfect way to start your day.

Here are the top five Wisconsin-brewed dark beers to wash down a pre-sunrise breakfast:


5) Oscar’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout — Sand Creek Brewing Company; Black River Falls

This smooth sippin’ stout from the Coulee Region will make you ooh and ahh when the wait staff sets it down in front of you. Deeply rich in brown color, don’t get it confused with your dining partner’s iced coffee or you’ll both be in for a surprise!

Brewed with milk, oatmeal and dark chocolate, this decadent brew is almost a meal in itself. Pop the top off this 2000 World Beer Cup Gold medal winner after a simple bacon egg cheese on an English muffin to round out your morning meal.

4) Bourbon Barrel-Aged Deep Winter Coffee Stout — Karben4; Madison

This capital city craft brew from Karben4 is an old favorite with a new twist: it’s aged in a bourbon barrel. The Deep Winter Coffee Stout is actually brewed without hops — coffee is used as a substitute to achieve that distinctive bitterness that comes with any beer.

Because of the huge role coffee plays throughout the brewing process, it’s the prevailing flavor, but notes of chocolate and caramel don’t go unnoticed. Pair the Deep Winter Coffee Stout with any cheese-smothered breakfast assortment for a meal that’s perfect for a deep winter morning between Christmas and the new year.

3) French Toast Ale — Pitchfork Brewing Company; Hudson

Cinnamon? Maple Syrup? No, Mom isn’t making french toast — those are some of the ingredients in this western Wisconsin treat. On the lighter end of the color spectrum, the French Toast Ale is barely a dark beer, but it sure packs a punch of breakfast flavor. 

Visit Pitchfork Brewing Company in Hudson, and they’ll serve this beer in a glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar. Pair this delectable beverage with a hearty platter of fried eggs, sausage links and hash browns.

2) Brunchfest Coffee Stout — Badger State Brewing; Green Bay

Brunchfest might have brunch in the name, but early risers won’t be able to wait that long to crack one open! The second of its kind on our list, the Brunchfest Coffee Stout earns its uniqueness by being brewed with coffee from Honduras.

With subtle hints of honey and caramel, this dreamy drink partners perfectly with a bowl of fruit and yogurt. You’ll want to pair this Fox Valley fare with a light breakfast — so you can fill up on more of them at brunch later!

1) Black and Blue Chocolate Chip Pancake Stout — Untitled Art; Waunakee

Topping the list as the best for breakfast is an absolutely absurd and intriguing beer that, upon discovering its existence, must be purchased and consumed with haste. The Black and Blue Chocolate Chip Pancake Stout by Untitled Art is the only beer on the list so perfect for breakfast, you’d get funny looks if you were drinking it after 10 a.m.

Brewed with blueberry puree, cocoa nibs, maple syrup and milk sugar, we wouldn’t kick you from the table if you started dunking your pancakes into a snifter of this Dane County dark beer. Ditch the obvious pairing. Dare to be bold (like this beer) and drink it with my favorite Wisconsin breakfast: a single brat, leftover from last night’s grill session, plucked from the fridge, eaten bunless and without silverware or reheating.

Illustrations by Shannon McManus