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Stout vs porter – same same but different?

On Thursday January 16 Wishbeer will be hosting the first beer tasting of the year at Sway. This tasting is focused on dark beers from breweries in the US, Scotland, England and even Sri Lanka. Of the five beers that will be tasted, four of them are ever popular stouts and porters. To most beer drinkers, the stout is one of the most well-known types of beer largely in part due to Guinness. There does seem to be confusion as to what the difference is between a stout and a porter, or if there is one at all.

This week, in honor of our first tasting of the year, we will look at stouts and porters and whether there is a difference or not.

What exactly is a stout?

These days, stout is arguably the most popular of the two types of beer. Ask any beer drinkers to name a stout and they will likely be able to name a few, most will point to Guinness. In general, stouts are beers that have been brewed using roasted barley along with hops, water and yeast. The roasting of the barley until it is near black gives a dark color and strong taste to the beer, which makes most stouts appear dark brown to pitch black and taste stronger than most other types of beer.

Many modern stouts have a lower percentage of alcohol than other Ales or Lagers even, but are generally malty, almost creamy in taste and texture. Of course, there are many different types of stout currently available; we will cover the most popular later in this article.

What exactly is a porter?

Both stout and porter originated in London, with porter being the first type of the two created and sold in the early 18th century. It was created by pubs whose brewers blended younger, weaker ales and older, stronger ales to create a beer that was pleasing to clientele. In the later half of the 18th century, big brewers started to create a beer that mimicked the blend created in pubs – calling this porter.

Like modern brewers today, these brewers created beers of varying strengths. The heaviest and strongest porters created were called stout porters. Eventually, the word porter was dropped from stout, so as to create a separate category of beer.

Stouts like Guinness, with heavy marketing, eventually became more popular and porters more or less disappeared in the first half of the 1900s. With the beer renaissance in the US and the UK, porters were brought back and a new, more modern style was adopted. Many porters actually use the same ingredients as stouts and as a rule of thumb will be somewhat lighter in texture and color and are usually more bitter due to a higher amount of hops used.

So, is there really a difference?

Since the revival of porters, brewers have set about experimenting with both types of beer, often creating a porter that is as dark as a stout, or even stronger. Or there are even stouts that are lighter, relatively speaking, closer to older styles of porter.

What this has led to is a melding of the two styles. In other words, the answer to the question “What’s the difference between a stout and a porter?” is: It’s whatever you want it to be, they are both more or less the same. If you really must have a set difference: Stouts are darker and stronger. Porters are dark – darker than other ales, but lighter than stouts – and slightly sweeter smelling.

What are the most common types of stout?

Take a look at any beer website, ours included, and you will find numerous different kinds of stouts available. Here are six of the more common types:

  1. Porter – As we noted above, this is an ale that is typically lighter in color than other stouts. The taste can range, but they are generally not as thick as other stouts and are often more bitter due to more hops being used.
  2. Irish stout – Typically a dry stout with a rich, almost coffee like taste. This is the most popular type of stout in the world, largely due to Guinness.
  3. Imperial stout – A very strong, and very dark stout that was originally brewed for the Russian court. It is often called Russian Imperial stout because of this. Most of these stouts are high in alcohol content, often above 9% ABV. If you don’t like strong beer, this is definitely one you should stay away from.
  4. Oatmeal stout – These stouts are brewed with roasted oats, with usually no more than 30% added during the brewing process. The addition of oats will create a stout that is smooth in texture while also making it thicker, much like oatmeal. Many stouts will not actually taste strongly of oats, but some will have a slight oatiness to it.
  5. Chocolate stout – Stout with a strong or noticeable dark chocolate flavor. This is often due to the use of a dark malt – called a chocolate malt. This malt has been dried in a kiln until it is the color of chocolate and will often result in a slightly chocolate flavor. That being said, these stouts are also called chocolate stouts because some brewers use chocolate in the process which enhances the flavor.
  6. Coffee stout – These stouts are brewed with dark roasted malts which give off a somewhat bitter and astringent flavor similar to coffee. Like chocolate stouts, many modern brewers will actually add coffee to the brew to further enhance the flavor of the beer. Some take this even further and add cream and sugar, or other common ingredients used in coffee drinks like mint.

If you are looking to try some interesting stouts, take a look at the selection on our site.

Wish of the week

The next beer tasting!
While this isn’t a beer, it is about beer. Join us at our next tasting on January 16 at Sway in Tong Lo. We will be sampling not one but five dark beers including the intriguing Lion Stout and the always delectable Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Check out our Event page on Facebook for more info, or contact Gabriel (gabriel@wishbeer.com) to sign up. The event costs THB300 if you sign up in advance, or THB400 at the door. See you there!

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