It’s that time of year when people want something warming to drink, and in beer terms, that means a dark beer of some sort. That may be a Stout or a Porter, but that begs the question; what’s the difference? In a similar vein to the differences between a Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale (IPA), they’re subtle, varied and open to interpretation. We have many different types on the shelves here at YCB, but we will discuss the general differences below…
Out of the two styles, it is generally regarded that Porter came first. It was also the first style of beer to be commercially brewed across the globe, after first finding popularity in London amongst a working class audience (the beer was named after the people who generally drank the beer, river porters).
London was home to many maltsters and it was soon discovered that dark malts balanced out London’s harsher water profile perfectly. This is where the London Porter came to prominence.
As an off-shoot of brown beers, Porters are regarded as being lighter in body, usually slightly lighter in colour and lower alcohol percentage than its other dark counterpart, the Stout. It wouldn't be an exaggeration though to say without the Porter finding popularity, it’s unlikely that the stout would’ve found a similar audience.
As technology advanced, maltsters could regulate the production of malt more closely, and produce dark malts to a higher standard and specification. Whereas brown malts used to produce Porters weren’t roasted for as long, new darker malts now used to produce Stouts offered a different flavour and aroma entirely.
Strong Porters were originally called ‘Stout Porters’ to indicate they were also stronger, until they were just labelled as ‘Stouts’, with it being a given they were stronger and heavier than Porters.
There are derivatives of stout such as sweet Stout, oatmeal Stout and, most famously, Irish Stout, which was popularised by Arthur Guinness in 1759. The rest, as they say, is history and Stouts had taken over the world spreading to America (Pastry/Breakfast Stout), Europe (Export Stout) and Russia (Russian Imperial Stout) in various strengths and flavours.