December 28, 2020 | By Kalimah Mustafa
Today, there are so many different types of both Porters and Stouts, and so much overlap that it can be hard to tell the difference. Most of the time, it seems like there isn’t one at all. But is there?
Every time another person asks “what’s the difference between porters and stouts?” they are usually met with a myriad of answers, most of which take you on a walk through time and history. But what’s the short version?
In sum, both porters and stouts share dark malts, which gives them their inky color, and the thought leading BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) offers style guidelines that are similar, but different. Historically, however, they have the same origin.
Porters came first, rising from the English brown ales of the time about 300 years ago. Later came stouts, or “stout porters,” which just meant an especially strong (high ABV) Porter. Though from humble beginnings, the artisans of the craft beer world to date have created a wonderful kaleidoscope of porter and stout style variations. That means today we can only separate porters from stouts with general trends, but no rule will always be true.
Porters are complex and flavorful dark beers that are generally brewed with roasted malt. They tend to be lighter in body and alcohol than stouts, but that varies depending on the substyle. They can be categorized into 3 subtypes: brown, robust, and Baltic.
Brown Porters: Low roastiness, but often has a lot of caramel and toffee flavors, as well as chocolate. Can range from light to dark brown, and often have ruby highlights in direct light.
Robust Porters: A medium to full body ale with complex and flavorful roasty characters. Medium to very dark brown often with hints of ruby. The ABV generally packs a bit more of a punch than brown porters, but less than Baltic porters.
Baltic Porters: Thick, dark copper to dark brown in color. Usually rather smooth, and often malty sweet with dried fruit and pronounced roastiness.
Stouts are very dark colored, roasty, bitter, and creamy ales. While porters use roasted malt, stouts are more often brewed with unmalted roasted barley.
Dry Stout: Very dark, sometimes black ale. Roasty, bitter, and creamy.
Sweet Stout (Pastry Stout): Again, a very dark colored beer ranging to black. Sweet and full bodied.
Oatmeal Stout: Thick and creamy, sometimes oily. Full bodied, roasty, and malty. Medium brown to black in color.
Foreign Extra Stout: Very dark brown to black. Creamy and roasty, with medium to higher ABVs.
American Stout: Hoppy, bitter and strongly roasted. Black.
Russian Imperial Stout: Runs the highest ABV, usually weighing in between 8 and 12%. Intense, velvety, both roasty and fruity. Usually have an alcohol bite. Very dark to black and opaque.