The problem is that we have a scene today where there seems to be a difference between the two drinks, but no one agrees on what that difference is. Is there roasted barley in the Stout? Are porters lighter or sweeter? Is there patent malt in the stout, while the Porters have chocolate malt? What is the difference between porter and stout?
Beer is known as Porter, which first appeared in the early 1700s and becomes a common beverage for London workers. In fact, they were more robust brown ale, designed to be ready to drink on delivery. By this time, most beer kegs were delivered young and had to be aged by public officials before they could be served.
The first London Porters were traditionally strong beers by modern standards around 6.5% ABV. Over time, increased tax results caused the ABV to drop to the mid-5% range in the 1900s.
The extreme popularity of the style has prompted brewers to introduce different Porters with different characteristics. The first of these was a strong beer baptized as the Single Stout Porter. This seems to be the first time the word “Stout” was used to describe a beer.
Early 19th-century brown stouts very often had identical recipes to the same brewer’s porter, differing only in the amount of wort drawn off a given quantity of malt: less water was used for mashing stouts so that they would be stronger.
Strong porter was called “brown stout” because it was still possible to find pale stout: “stout,” when applied to beer, originally just meant “strong“. So simply put, a Stout was actually a strong Porter. Porters of Double, Triple, and Imperial Stout soon followed. In the next century, the Porter suffix was gradually removed from these beers, and the Porters and Stouts became independent beers in their own right.
Moving forward, the modern, distinctive styles of Porters and Stouts continued to evolve. The grain shortage in Britain during the First World War in the early 1900s saw the strength of the Porters fall. However, Ireland was less affected by this and continued to produce stronger versions.
These stronger, darker Stouts were also more appealing to those like Arthur Guinness, who discovered a tax concession using unmalted and roasted barley, unlike the brown barley typically used in Porters at the time. This has become the main difference between English Porters and Irish Stouts.
When the craft beer revolution started in Britain and the United States in the 1970s, there were more than 250 years of different styles and strengths of stout and porter to choose from, and different brewers picked different sorts to recreate. The result is that, in some cases, some brewers now brew “porters” that are stronger than their stouts.
Today there are many different styles of Porters and Stouts, each with its own unique characteristics. But simply put, Porters are generally lighter in color and alcohol than Stouts, and have a variety of chocolate, coffee, and caramel flavors, but don’t usually have the burnt, roasting qualities reserved for Stouts. Stout is described as a very dark, roasted, bitter, creamy beer, while a Porter is described as a substantial, malt dark beer with a complex and flavorful character.
The easiest way to separate the two is through the presence of roasted malt, a set of malts that create predominantly coffee flavors. Basically, a Stout has roasted malts and the flavors associated with them, whereas a Porter doesn’t.