What Is The Difference Between A Porter And A Stout?
Something that has confused me quite a bit is whether or not there is a difference between a porter and a stout.
I set out to find out and will showcase my findings in this blog post.
What Is The Difference Between a Porter and a Stout? The most notable thing that makes a stout different from a porter, is simply the grains used. Porters generally use malted barley, and stouts use roasted barley. Some stouts also use nitrogen, whereas porters do not. The two dark beers are often confused, due to their similar look and taste.
Continue reading this blog post if you are still confused, or want more in-depth info about the difference between a porter and a stout.
So, What Is The Difference Between a Porter and a Stout?
There is generally a lot of confusion regarding porters and stouts. The 2 beer styles often look and taste similar making it hard to depict which is which without looking at the label.
The way they are brewed is very much the same, but there are some key things making them different.
The History of Porter and Stout
The beer styles we today know as porter and stout originated in the 1700s England. The name “porter” came to exist because the hard-working porters of London would head down to the pub after a hard day's work. They’d then order a mix of dark and lighter beers from various casks. This allowed them to cut heavier beers with lighter more drinkable beers.
The barmen realized that the porters wanted high ABV ales, so they simply started brewing strong dark ales. Now the porters could order from a single cask and get a nice ale with high alcohol content, and thereby the Porter was born.
The stout type beer was actually an “evolution” of the porter. People's taste in the 1800s started to change, and they wanted even stronger porters than previously. This meant that the breweries had to adapt and make even higher abv beers.
The people's term for these types of strong porters came to be a “stout porter” because stout simply means “big and strong” referring to the high alcohol content.
So you might think that a stout is just a strong porter, but I'm afraid that isn’t entirely true these days. After the introduction of a stout porter, they actually started to become different in the way they are made, making Stout and Porters 2 similar beers, yet different in some ways.
What Is a Stout?
A stout is a dark beer that comes in a number of variations. Some variants include milk stouts, imperial stouts, and dry stouts. As mentioned above the name of a stout actually sprung out from the porter, where a stout was simply a term for a stronger porter.
The stout adapted different products to make unique tastes and new types of stouts, below you’ll find some variants of stouts.
Also called a cream stout or a sweet stout, containing a mix of lactose which is a sugar derived from milk. Lactose cannot be consumed by beer yeast like other sugar types, which means the lactose is only used for adding sweetness and consistency to the stout.
Originally this type of stout claimed to be healthy, granted its “milk” content.
Oatmeal stout is, as the name indicated, a stout which incorporates a substantial amount of oats, up to about 30%.
This type of stout originated in the medieval period in Europe, where oats were a common ingredient in many types of ales. The method somewhat died out as the brewers started preferring other grain types.
At the end of the 19th century, oatmeal stouts became somewhat popular once again.
Oatmeal stouts were later on labeled as healthy due to their high oat content, which some people believed combined food and drink into 1 bottle.
However as it would turn out, it, later on, adapted to becoming a marketing stunt rather than a reality. Some of the so-called “oatmeal stouts” had no more than 1% oats content.
Today, oatmeal stouts are generally a bit rare, but there are some variants. They contain a high amount of proteins, which makes them well suited for fitness jockeys or anyone who likes drinking their daily dose of proteins.
The milk/lactose variants of stouts quickly became the most popular choice in the 20th century the UK. However, the Irish stuck to the standard roots of stout-making and didn’t adapt milk products in their brewing.
To differentiate from the sweeter stouts, the name of the standard stout came to be called Dry stouts, or Irish stouts.
They were also simply called “stouts” as their brewing process was the original one used for standard stouts.
The Imperial stout is a variant of stout with high alcohol content. The Imperial style of stout making was brewed in the 18th century in England.
The beer usually contains very high alcohol levels in terms of beer, often with a minimum of 9% but can be much higher. It is considered the darkest of all beer variants.
When stouts became popular, oysters were a very common food served in most households and taverns.
Most fish and some shellfish are fermentable, making also oyster an ingredient suitable to add to the mixture of beer during fermentation, to give it some extra kick and potentially amplified flavors.
Even in modern times, oysters may be added to the process of making stouts, essentially creating a beer containing traces of meat.
Chocolate stout is the name for stouts where brewers adopt different types of methods to make it look like chocolate or actually adding chocolate(mostly dark chocolate) to give the beer a nice aroma and taste.
The general way they incorporate chocolate tastes is through the process of making a chocolate malt. Chocolate malt is a malt that has been roasted until it acquires a chocolate looking color, aroma and flavor.
Some chocolate stouts also contain actual chocolate flavoring or real chocolate.
What Is a Porter?
A Porter type of beer is a dark beer originating from London as previously mentioned. Since the adaption of stouts, porters became far less popular, and that is part of the reason why they don’t have as many variants as stouts.
Compared to stouts a porter has a more malted flavor, where a stout usually has a more bitter or roasted flavor.
Both porters as well as stouts can be aged for increased taste. Porters are more often aged for longer periods of times however, which can give them a quite unique taste.
The traditional category of porters made in the original English way, often with an aroma and/or taste of nuts, toffee or chocolate. These types of porters are generally on the lower side in terms of alcohol content and is very drinkable among most people.
The taste of malt is usually more powerful than the hops in this type of porter.
As the name indicates, this beer is made in the Baltic Sea region. This type of porter started as an English type porter but was later adapted to be more similar to a Russian Imperial stout.
This porter ended up being similar to the imperial stouts, and now contains rather high alcohol percentages and has more advanced flavors.
The Baltic versions of the porters usually has a more copper-like brown color compared to the very dark colors among other porters. Baltic porters use amber or brown malt, contrary to the black malt found in other porters, so the taste of malt is less burnt or rich as you find in other porters.
The robust porter is considered a more “American” type of porter in terms of its characteristics. Robust porters will often have a very dark coloring, almost black with a hint of red shining through.
The foam is usually very stiff yet creamy with a more tan-like brown color. The taste is very dark-malt heavy. As the brown porter, the taste from nuts toffee or chocolate is often used in combination to give a smooth taste.
The Difference Between Porter and Stout
In current times, stouts and porters are different beer styles, but look and taste similar, creating the confusion.
A major difference in modern times is that in the process of making stouts, the brewers often add nitro(N2) during the pour. This makes their mouthfeel and general smoothness amplified.
Porters are a bit more traditional and haven’t adapted this process as of yet. If however you taste a stout that hasn't been infused with N2 and compare it with a porter, their difference in feel and taste can be very hard to spot.
Another difference is the alcohol content of the 2 types. Today stouts have a generally lower ABV compared to porters. A porter generally has 5-7% ABV where a stout is more along the lines of 3-5%.
This can change depending on breweries, again making it confusing to set the differences in stone.
Phew, It is quite frustrating trying to state the facts when there are exceptions to most of them. Depending on the brewery making whatever stout or porter, the alcohol content may be completely swapped compared to the general guidelines stated above.
Most notably, the recipes of the 2 styles are different.
Stouts are usually made with roasted malts, roasted barley, and yeast. Porters are made with roasted malted barley, yeast and hops.
Okay, looking at that, even the recipes might be somewhat similar, but the variants of grain used are what really makes them different in the taste.
But what is the difference between malted and roasted barley?
Malted barley is a process where you soak the grain until germination starts, which makes the starches in the grain more accessible. Those grains are then dried to stop the seed from becoming a plant.
Roasted Barley doesn’t include the soaking, but simply heats the grains directly, which also gives access to the starch but without malting.
These processes give similar results, but the taste can be quite different.
So in conclusion, porters and stouts are almost the same but are different in terms of the grain used.
Originally the two types of beers were actually the same, where a stout was just an offspring of the porter, but in modern times there is no way around it, the 2 types are different.
If you blindfolded yourself and had a taste test where your goal was to identify which beer is a porter and which is a stout, you’d probably have a hard time, because the 2 are often almost identical in terms of look and taste.
Either way, whether you are drinking a porter or a stout you’ll probably have a nice experience, and the two beers are so similar in taste that nobody really should care which they are drinking.
Simple Porter Recipe
If you are looking to make your own easy and tasty porter, here is a recipe that will probably suit you.
If you don’t have a brewing set already, you can either buy a brewing kit or combine your own.
If you want to know in detail what you need to start brewing, check out this post to get some inspiration.
- Fermentation bucket or carboy
- Any multiple gallon pot(4+)
- Small Nylon bag(for adding hops)
- Racking cane
- Bottle caps
- Bottle Capper
- Siphon hose/beverage line
- Hydrometer(optional) for tracking gravity and ABV
- Sanitizer(food grade)
- Plastic bucket with a spigot for bottling
Smoky Porter Recipe
- 4 oz. Black Patent Malt
- 4 oz. Roasted Wheat
- 6 oz. Roasted Barley
- 4 oz. Chocolate Malt
- 1 oz. Glacier Hops at 5% AA for (60 min)
- 0.5 oz. Challenger Hops at 8% AA for (60 min)
- 0.5 oz. Cascade Hops at 6% AA (60 min)
- 3.5 lbs. Smoked Malt
- 6 lbs base malt
- Dry yeast
- Mash your grains at about 152F for approx. an hour.
- Mash out at around 170F and sparge with water at 180F to make 6 gallons.
- Boil the mixture and add all your hops.
- Boil for about an hour and then turn off the heat.
- Cooldown wort quickly to 70F, then rack to the fermenter and pitch your yeast.
- (Optional) after about 7-10 days rack to your secondary fermenter.
- After 2 weeks, bottle your beer
- Let your beer condition(Minimum 2 weeks)
Simple Stout Recipe
This recipe is an Irish all-grain stout with added coffee for a nice flavor.
- 4 oz. Coffee of choice
- 12 oz. Roasted Barley
- 6 lbs. Maris Otter
- 2 lbs. Flaked Barley
- Irish Ale Yeast
- 1.5 oz. Cluster Hops (60 min)
- Mash your grains(and coffee) at about 153F for approx. an hour.
- Mash out at 170F and sparge your wort with water at 170F.
- Bring the wort to almost boiling while covered. Uncover your pot and bring it to a boil.
- Add hops to the boil.
- Boil for about an hour then turn off the heat.
- Chill your wort to 60-70F.
- Rack to the fermenter.
- Pitch your yeast
- Ferment for 2 weeks then bottle.
- Bottle condition as you see fit(generally a minimum of 2 weeks)