Porter vs. Stout

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by LeRose, Jan 9, 2013.

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  1. Gregfalone

    Gregfalone Initiate (0) Sep 5, 2012 California
    Beer Trader

    Generally a stout is just a stronger, or "stout" porter. I mostly just comes down to what the brewer wants to call it.
  2. theCoder

    theCoder Disciple (393) Oct 24, 2011 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    My homebrewed porter and stout are nothing alike. My porter had smoked bacon I soaked in bourbon for 2 weeks then added it to the secondary for around 3 weeks and my stout had a pound of bakers chocolate and 6 chopped seeds and all habaneros. I can promise those two stood miles apart from each other :stuck_out_tongue:

    But yea, its a topic that's argued up and down. I love a good porter but most fail me. I really enjoy Leiny's Big Eddy Baltic Porter, Edmund Fitzgerald, uuuuuuuuuuh...yea another that I have a case of maybe its time I dig one out and have it so I can remember the name again (its English that's all I remember).
  3. AxesandAnchors

    AxesandAnchors Initiate (0) Nov 21, 2012 Oregon

    Stout is just a variant of Porter ( stoutest of porter, i.e. higher ABV porter ), but today brewers basically choose either or to name their beer based off personal preference. There is no real standardization amongst the brewing community ( at least not one that is consistently followed ). I find that for the most part stouts ( stronger porters, i.e. 8% or higher ) are more enjoyable to my particular palate because they tend to be more complex and interesting. To create a beer with a higher ABV you need to add more malt (or other ingredients that convert to sugars, unless you are freeze fermenting) so therefore in a general sense stouts will have bolder flavors (not all. Hey you, don't get your panties in a bunch). I've basically resorted to classifying them myself regardless of what the brewer says, if it's lower than 8% it's a Porter in my mind, and if it's higher it's a Stout (regardless of what anyone else thinks). Take it for what it's worth, untill everyone actually follows the same guidelines the destinction will continue to be a shit show.
  4. Pahn

    Pahn Meyvn (1,480) Dec 2, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    porter = stout. differences in brewery labeling are arbitrary, and differences in perception are based solely on "i tried beers A, B, and C called 'porter' and they all were medium bodied [or some other random thing], while beers X, Y, and Z called 'stout' were full bodied [or some other random thing], so THAT's the difference [even though there's fuller bodied porters than X Y Z and thinner stouts than A B C]."

    no difference at all. if a brewery calls 2 of their beers porter and stout, expect (maybe!) the stout to be higher ABV or to have more roasted malt flavor or something... maybe.
  5. hornsup

    hornsup Disciple (324) Nov 29, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    Porter-Mogli, Founders, and personally I enjoy Maui Coconut porter

    Stout- Hardywood GBS, Hunahpu, or more likely Founders breakfast, Ten FIDY, & Stone RIS are ones you can grab easier

    Porters tend to be thinner in body/abv/mouthfeel but theres always an exception
  6. basscram

    basscram Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2006 Maine

    I think of a porter as an amber ale with a tiny bit of dark malts involved to make it black and enough hops to juuuuusssst get it over the balancing act of getting the beer over the sweetness. Hope I described it ok. Porters are pretty neat beers, I know that sounds elementary.
  7. marquis

    marquis Crusader (762) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    An overall perspective.Porters have been around for three centuries and have obviously seen some changes in that time.As already mentioned, the stronger ones were labelled Stouts but these were just names.Brewers of "Stout" would clearly have acknowledged that these were still Porters.There were no rules and no styles, even less were there style guidelines! So brewers interpreted in different ways.In general though, when a brewer had a range of beers that the stronger one was named the Stout.
    When WW1 and its aftermath (massive rises in beer tax) caused massive reduction in beer strength, many brewers deleted Porter from their lists and just had Stout.But this Stout was in fact the old Porter relabelled.Here ended any differential betweenStout and Porter, it became simply a matter of marketing.
    I mentioned "no rules" but of course the Malt Act existed.Until 1880 it was illegal to use any unmalted grain in brewing. It was even illegal to have any on the premises.So the notion of stouts using roast barley has no basis.Guinness in particular resolutely refused to use it intil around 1930.
    The problem is to sift out the wheat from the chaff in beer literature.Many respected sources are sheer nonsense.This comes from the 2008 CAMRA Good Beer Guide which ought to be trustworthy regarding British beer!
    "a Dublin brewer called Arthur Guinness to fashion his own interpretation of the style. Guinness in Dublin blended some unmalted roasted barley and in so doing produced a style known as Dry Irish Stout"
    Pick your sources with care!
    I understand that visitors to the brewery have been fed this nonsense and maybe this is the source of the misinformation regarding stouts and roasted barley.The fact is that since 1880 brewers have chopped and changed their ingredients quite arbitrarily regardless of whether the beer was labelled Stout or Porter.
    devlishdamsel likes this.
  8. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,279) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    the line is blurry - actually, nonexistent - in the UK too
  9. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,279) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    your profile says you're from "PT"... might we inquire where this is, exactly?
  10. endovelico

    endovelico Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2008 Portugal

    I'm not sure what that has to do with the discussion or who the "we" are but Portugal.

    CORKSCREWFISH Initiate (0) Apr 22, 2011 Illinois

  12. endovelico

    endovelico Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2008 Portugal

    This is a great piece of history, but i can't buy the historical argument. Names and meanings change alot during history and while what most of what you say is correct we are assuming that since at some time there was no difference the same has to be said about today. Porters were also originally made using 3 diferent very specific beers, how many true Porters do you know then?

    The fact is that like in most other fields, conventions are dictated by the community and the experts within or guiding a given community. The guys at BJCP, the Homebrewing community and other proeminent Brewing writters share more or less the opinion of distinction and the use of Roasted Barley vs Chocolate Malt. Of course like many have said, there is still a big overlap, so sometimes (many times) it isn't as straightforward.

    Of course at the end of the day you can call it whatever you want, and i wouldn't be surprised (in light of how the styles are being made) if in the future a single term was used to describe either.
  13. Dennoman

    Dennoman Initiate (0) Aug 20, 2011 Belgium

    Search function called, he feels underused.
  14. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (833) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Yes, but the last time was more than 7 days ago. It was due.
  15. marquis

    marquis Crusader (762) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    But you make my point for me in your first paragraph (except the bit about 3 beers which is a popular misunderstanding)......because it's been around so long and in so many forms you simply can't pin it down and say "This is a stout, that is a porter" , the two fused so long ago that any distinction is artificial and without validity.
    We must not confuse fact with opinion. The history of stout and porter is exceptionally well documented; brewery records are available for centuries.What you mention about the use of roasted barley and the BJCP is pure opinion, frequently based on sloppy or no research , folklore and hearsay.These people have no mandate to ignore the facts and even less to pass on ill founded descriptions as definitions. They have a duty of care and a responsibility to present accurate information and not hide between "Words change their meaning" (roughly translated as "I got things wrong but I'd rather change the rules than admit it"
    If you buy a Labrador puppy you don't accept it as such just because the seller believes it to be a pedigree and tells you it's genuine. You look back and check the antecedents , the records and background. Otherwise you'll be sold a pup.Or of course redefine Labrador.
  16. endovelico

    endovelico Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2008 Portugal

    Semantics my friend. Would it be any better if they used two other unique names? How many beer styles do you think are made even remotely close to the way they were originally made (very few I'd wager). Noone is disputing that the styles were redefined. This happens in many other fields like Political Science or Music.

    No... The BJCP guidelines are arbitrary and not an interpretation of how the styles were being made back-then... You are talking about some of the most brilliant individuals in the brewing industry. I'm pretty sure they have SOME clue on the history of the style. This is what I'm trying to say. Even if they ignored the differences and just assumed Porters and Stouts are the same, i can STILL guarantee you the beers being made still wouldn't even come close to what the British were drinking at the time (Brewing practices, types of ingredients, hygiene). So your notion of what a Porter/Stout is just as valid (historically) as BJCP's.

    By the way i was intrigued with this line "(except the bit about 3 beers which is a popular misunderstanding)". Any sources to back this up? Because it's the first time I've seen this disputed.
  17. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,441) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    I'll settle this once and for all: porter and stout have the letter 't' and the letter 'o' in common, otherwise they are different.
    LeRose likes this.
  18. marquis

    marquis Crusader (762) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    I never said that beers are remotely related to their original styles, just that the difference between stout and porter has long disappeared. This is true to this day, I've had maybe hundreds of them and can see no pattern.Don't forget that around the globe Stout means Guinness and most people haven't heard of the wondrous new dark beers available though they may well know Guinness.
    Fuller's brew a Stout; http://www.fullersfinealeclub.net/Brewery-News/introducing-black-cab 4.2% ABV
    and a Porter ;http://www.fullersfinealeclub.net/Beers/Favourites/London-Porter 5.4% ABV
    See also
  19. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,270) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts
    Premium Member

    I know I know and wish I had used it...
  20. endovelico

    endovelico Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2008 Portugal

    I knew a Zythophile link was bond to appear, eheh. All i have to say is even CAMRA, acknowledges the three thread theory. Still, i'l keep an open mind about it, i'll have to do more researching.

    Anyway agree to disagree. I usually do find them different (many times they aren't however) and find that the grain bill (when disclosed) does reflect this. I've actually had the Fuller's Porter (Not the stout i think), deli-sh!

  21. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,279) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    "some clue on the history" gets trumped by actual primary source documentation, like zythophile. that's how history works.

    (EDIT: note that this in no way means that the "brilliant individuals in the brewing industry" aren't still brilliant brewers. but being a brilliant brewer doesn't automatically make you a brewing historian.)
    Roguer and jesskidden like this.
  22. ncaudle

    ncaudle Defender (602) May 28, 2010 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    why are we insisting on using historical records from 100-200+ years ago to define what a certain style(s) have evolved into today? it's interesting from a historical perspective to see the changes but a bit irrelevant for todays standards.
  23. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,279) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    plenty of documentation from the past couple decades too. the problem is that people are using unsubstantiated "folk history" to explain the supposed difference, TODAY, between stout and porter. but there is no consistent, meaningful way to distinguish them, TODAY. do a blind taste test of any number of these beers, and it will likely be impossible to do better than pure chance in saying it's one or the other.
    BrettHead likes this.
  24. endovelico

    endovelico Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2008 Portugal

    I don't see how a single blogger dropping literary sources (that seems to me few will bother to check out and validate) and making his own conclusions somehow trumps anything. I'm not about to just blindly trust his interpretation of whatever sources he read. I'll read it myself, see what both sides drew from what they used as a primary source of information, what the primary source of information was and make my mind.The Onus is still on him in my opinion but I'll keep an open mind.
  25. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (508) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    For anyone who is going to quote the BJCP you should know that BJCP doesn't even have a category for plain "stout" or "porter." the BJCP splits the "stout" category into 6 styles, and "porter" category into 3 styles, so there's a problem with your argument there. Furthermore your insistence on "chocolate vs roasted malts" being the difference isn't backed up by the BJCP guidelines either. There's a lot of chocolate and roasted malts in the descriptions for the 3 different porters and 6 different stouts.

    Look for yourself: http://www.bjcp.org/docs/2008_Guidelines.pdf

    Keep in mind too that, the Beer Judging Certification Program (or BJCP) was established to judge beers at competitions. Brewers like to win medals, and the BJCP likes to award medals. Some would argue the BJCP relentlessly creates new beer classifications so that they can hand out more medals, which is fine by the brewers because they have more opportunities to win medals, which in turn helps them promote/sell their beer. Now there are a lot of porter/stout style beers produced, so clearly there is an incentive to split up that style in various categories. I think many would argue that the BJCP is as much a marketing tool for brewers as they are a standard of judgement.

    Don't cite homebrewing experience as proof of your opinion either, because that's incredibly circular logic.... it's like arguing with a creationist.

    The only position in this debate that has historical basis and sound footing in logic is that the difference between a stout and a porter is whatever the brewer chooses to call it. Those that want to make a distinction between stout and porter just have too many conflicting opinions with little facts to back up those opinions.
    BrettHead, Roguer, ncaudle and 3 others like this.
  26. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,279) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    ROFLMAO - i was trying to find a descriptor for how i felt! this is perfect!
    BrettHead, tehzachatak and Ranbot like this.
  27. marquis

    marquis Crusader (762) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    I think the onus on you is to prove he is in error. Martyn is a thorough and impartial historian.He might be a single blogger but his conclusions do dovetail with other beer scholars.He does quote sources so the rest is up to you.
    When you assume that prominent people in the brewing industry know their stuff we have to ask "what was their source of information?" It's possible and probably usual to research a beer topic and find lots of totally incorrect though often repeated material, often from highly respected organisations or writers.CAMRA is a prime culprit.
    To ncaudle - what happened 200 (or even 300) years ago served only to set the ball rolling.History is the thread which explains the present and the thread shows that by the mid 20th century nobody bothered whether a beer was a porter or a stout.It's only since the invention of "styles" that anyone gives a toss.
  28. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (526) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Martyn Cornell is one of the most respected beer historians. He has a rigorous, evidence based approach and does not make claims he cannot back up with evidence from primary sources.

    He's much more than just a single blogger. He has published two books on the history of British beer: "Beer: the Story of the Pint" and "Amber, Gold and Black" The latter is easily the best history of British Beer styles to have been published.

    Check out the primary sources the BJCP used? As they don't reference any of their claims there's no way of knowing what evidence they based them on.
    BrettHead likes this.
  29. endovelico

    endovelico Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2008 Portugal

    Theres plenty of members with published books and referenced books. But you are right. I didn't even though who Martyn Cornell was to be honest :s. Seems like someone to follow, then. Cheers.
  30. ncaudle

    ncaudle Defender (602) May 28, 2010 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    @marquis - I wasn't questioning the historical info. I was a history major in college so I value its relative importance. however, history doesn't fully explain the present; it merely provides context as to how the present formed. they should not be confused. what was "X" in the past doesn't necessarily mean the present is still, or should be, "X".
    all things evolve over time...

    please don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing what a porter is (or was) versus a stout.
    if I feel better this evening after work I may open up a Evil Twin Lil' B - a 11.5% roasty porter :slight_smile:
  31. endovelico

    endovelico Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2008 Portugal

    I'm was merely trying to cut down on the text. My point was, that if you check the Stout and Porter sub-styles you'll find somewhat of a pattern on the Roasted Barley vs Chocolate malt/darker malts thing. Sorry you took it literaly.

    I think they are more well intentioned than that, but sure that could be the case.

    I never said that because i brew Stouts in a given way, that means Stout are to be defined that way. Then you'd be right, it would be extremely circular. What i was trying to point out is how the homebrewing community follows those guidelines and they do make the distinction. I don't agree that only history is to be used when classifying genres and styles. Usually the experts and community have a strong say, and that was what i was trying to point at.

    The fact is Porter and Stout were once upon a time the same thing. Then eventually Beer organizations and beer communities chose to differentiate. No one is right or wrong on this. It's like the people who see no difference between the term 'Thrash Metal' and 'Speed Metal' because they were once the same thing (and are now by and large considered distinct genres) or 'Socialism' and 'Communism' because they were once synonyms. If you see no difference or think the difference isn't enough to warrant distinction, more power to you, all i can say personally is that i do pick up on Chocolate/Coffee notes and that most European Porters or Stouts will usually comply to what I'm expecting.
  32. Martyartie

    Martyartie Initiate (0) Oct 22, 2003 United Kingdom (England)

    With respect to my many friends in Camra, their take on beer history is shockingly out of date. Apart from Feltham in 1802, and all those many who blindly copied him since then, you won't find ANY evidence for the idea that porter began life as a mixture of three separate types of beer called 'three-threads'. Instead the evidence is that porter was an improved version of the London brown beer that had been brewed for quite some time. Something called 'three-threads' certainly existed, but the evidence is that (1) it was actually a mixture of two beers, not three and (2) it has nothing at all to do with the development of porter. I've been digging around this subject for 15 or 20 years, and I was shocked when I couldn't find anything to actually back up the claims about three-threads and porter that every book on beer seemed to repeat, but there we go: it's a myth.
    BrettHead likes this.
  33. chinabeergeek

    chinabeergeek Meyvn (1,279) Aug 10, 2007 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    unless you have done this blind with commercial examples of similar strength, then the potential for confirmation bias is too high for anything other than personal anecdote.
  34. Jettanbass9

    Jettanbass9 Initiate (0) Sep 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    What type of stouts and porters are we talking about here? The 'lighter than/stronger than' argument is not relevant if there is no point of comparison (Dry Stout, Sweet Stout, Oatmeal Stout, American Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Brown porter, Robust Porter, Baltic Porter).

    WEBBEER Aspirant (207) Feb 17, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Stout was historically a sub-species of porter. Now it seems the line has been blurred and there no real boundries
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