Stouts and Porters
Twins of the Beer World
When I ask people to tell me the difference between porters and stouts, even if they can do it, most can’t do it quickly. This confusion is understandable since, of all beer styles, stouts and porters are arguably the twins of the beer world. Originally they were more or less identical, and now more or less fraternal.
Sharing a common origin in 18th century Britain, the names “stout” and “porter” were often used interchangeably for the same brewing style, and sometimes the same beer. Stouts were usually the stronger of the two, but these days that distinction is blurred―popular, moderately lower alcohol Irish stouts like Guinness draft being a case in point. And the myriad variation of craft stouts and porters further complicates the matter with many porters and stouts being about the same strength, be it high or low. And speaking of strength, they are clearly suffering from sibling rivalry as the emergence of high-octane styles like imperial porter proves. What’s next, kids: ‘Baltic stout’?
Practically speaking, color is one of the keys to fingerprinting these two sibs, and it became even more evident this time around in our tasting room, with the porters displaying slightly lighter, reddish tones to the stouts’ very dark brown to black colors. Weight and body were important yardsticks among the traditional examples, porters being lighter on the palate and stouts more weighty, but less so with the craft creations.
Our latest review of stouts and porters found many great examples of traditional, flavored and cutting-edge brews to enjoy. Some standouts include: Brooklyn Black Ops Stout, Marin Brewing San Quentin’s Breakout Stout, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Sam Adams Imperial Stout, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, Stone Brewing Smoked Porter, Breckinridge Brewery Imperial Porter, Rogue Ales Imperial Porter, Issaquah Brewhouse Smoked Frog Porter and the Garrison Brewing Grand Baltic Porter. We also reviewed barley wines and ciders in this round since many are most available around December. Standouts included: Pike Brewing Old Bawdy Barleywine, Wyder’s Dry Pear Cider, Aspall Perronelle’s Blush Cider and Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider.
So don’t worry about playing favorites with the twins, there’s plenty of fine brews to choose from, no matter what style you prefer.