Stout or Porter?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by RandyCongdon, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. bbtkd

    bbtkd Meyvn (1,336) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Supporter Subscriber

    Just think of porters as a spectrum of beers, where the upper reaches are more "stout"; stronger tastes, darker, thicker, perhaps more alcohol, etc.
    machalel and Chipotle like this.
  2. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Aspirant (254) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

    Ahhhh the good old stout and porter thread....that and the monthly ale and lager thread is only time I see marquis
  3. MNAle

    MNAle Crusader (793) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Then you don't read the "session" threads? :grinning:

    Actually, I appreciate @marquis perspective, but then, it was English Bitter on cask in English pubs that introduced me to what good tasting beer could be!
    JimKal, LuskusDelph and alucard6679 like this.
  4. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Aspirant (254) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

    Oh I do too, marquis is awesome. I just think it's funny, actually the main reason I look at these threads
  5. wordemupg

    wordemupg Poo-Bah (3,722) Feb 11, 2009 Alberta (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    I nearly died of exhaustion this exact time last week beating a dead horse, the horse preferred a nut black ale over stout and porter if I recall correctly........
    RMW66, eldoctorador and Roguer like this.
  6. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (2,612) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    I believe I can alleviate some confusion. If I can sum up some of the objections in this thread, those who insist there is a real, material difference usually bring up one or more of five basic points:

    1: "Stouts are thicker and/or creamier!"

    Hill Farmstead's Everett is thicker and creamier than the vast majority of stouts. Evil Twin's Imperial Doughnut Break and Imperial Biscotti Break Natale are porters. Just because one stout is thick and creamy doesn't mean a different porter isn't just as thick and creamy.

    2: "Stouts are more likely to have adjuncts!"

    Funky Buddha and their Imperial Maple Bacon Coffee Porter would like to have a word with you. (See also: Ballast Point, DuClaw, Sixpoint, et al.)

    3: "Stouts are barrel aged!"

    Someone should tell Deschutes, Ballast Point, Barreled Souls, Heavy Seas, et al they're doing it wrong.

    4: "Stouts are higher ABV!"

    Evil Twin's porters mentioned above are 11.5% ABV. Their imperial stouts are 10-12% ABV. The entire Victory at Sea lineup is above 10%.

    5: "Something something roasted or unmalted barley."

    The regular Imperial Biscotti Break is a stout. Some of the variants are porters. Evil Twin uses porter and stout interchangeably throughout the entire IBB lineup, and it has nothing to do with roasted barley.

    Ballast Point's Victory at Sea series start at 10%, with some reaching 13%. They all have adjuncts, and some are barrel aged. They are also thick and creamy. Hell, all five objections could have been settled with this one beer. :sunglasses:

    These aren't rare exceptions to the "rules" cited above. These are typical, obvious examples.

    If I can, in the space of a few paragraphs, cite a handful of examples well known to me that absolutely crush the arguments of a few dissenters, then clearly there are dozens upon dozens more. Ballast Point, Descutes, Evil Twin: they use porter or stout as a label however they feel. It is not in any way limited to any artificial style criteria, regardless of what BAs continue to insist.

    The brewer can choose any reason to call it either name. It may be because they like the sound of it, or some roasty quality (with which they could justify either label), or because they already have a stout or porter in the lineup, and they're using the label to distinguish between the two (ideally, the stout would be the stronger in this case, but that's clearly not universal).

    Look: do I like to assume a stout is bigger and thicker, while a porter is thinner and perhaps roastier? Sure! Is there any truth to it? Nope! Literally none!

    It's not up to you, and it's not up to me. We aren't part of this equation. The only difference is whatever the individual brewer decides. All else is pointless linguistic meandering.


    This doesn't even get into Baltic Porters. :grimacing:
  7. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (1,970) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    It's unfortunate for me, I guess, that I came of age when a 'stout' was meant to be consumed in quantity. Nothing like that is being made any more, for the most part- and high gravity and added flavorings work decidedly against that kind of enjoyment. But there really is nothing better than sharing a table with a few friends, bullshitting the night away after pitcher upon pitcher of a nice stout. Unless it's a porter :wink:.
  8. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,975) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Chris, it is not just the 'history' of British beers but as @jesskidden made mention in his reply to you American brewers in the later 1800's - early 1900's would label some of their lagers as being Bohemian Pilsners. I have read were some BAs would claim this labeling (branding) of Bohemian Pilsner is inappropriate because in the Czech Republic only beers brewed in the town of Plzen are permitted to call their lagers as being Pilseners. Well the 'cat is put of the bag' in that well over 100 years ago many breweries, not located in Europe, would label their beers as being Bohemian Pilsners.

    A very dynamic beer world we live (and lived) in.

    Bitterbill and machalel like this.
  9. RandyCongdon

    RandyCongdon Initiate (181) Nov 23, 2016 Nevada
    Beer Trader

    I just tried Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and am in heaven. Thanks to all for the information. I had no idea that this topic would lead to such lively discussion.
  10. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,260) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Hey, it's the law! (Or "was", anyway :wink: ).

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  11. flaskman

    flaskman Aspirant (253) Aug 3, 2015 New York

    I can't tell the difference myself other than the fact that the porters I have enjoyed tend to be thinner. This is a great thread. I look forward to reading more.
  12. bbtkd

    bbtkd Meyvn (1,336) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Supporter Subscriber

    I used to gravitate just towards my go-to style - stouts. Over the past year or so, I have explored porters as well and have found some really excellent examples from BA Baltic Porters to more traditional porters made by brewers such as Founders and Central Waters. Many of them are indistinguishable from their stout brethren, though porters do seem to be lower IBU and ABV, milder tasting, and smoother. I've also had a number of surprisingly excellent brown ales such as Lakefront My Turn Mike, Founders Sumatra Mountain, Surly Coffee Bender, Surly Cacao Bender.
  13. zid

    zid Champion (800) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    I think you mean coffee ales. :wink:
    bbtkd likes this.
  14. bbtkd

    bbtkd Meyvn (1,336) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Supporter Subscriber

    Yeah. I had a waiter yesterday trying to tell me what they had on tap since their online and printed menus were completely outdated, but he had no idea either. I finally went and looked for myself, came back and ordered a Watertown Kampeska Cold Press. He said - "oh, one of those coffee beers". Apparently does not think coffee beers should be a thing.
    VABA likes this.
  15. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (441) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Unfortunately, the attention-seeking ignoramuses who have no idea what they're talking about and ignore pages of exposition won't be reading your post either.
    Roguer, eldoctorador and dennis3951 like this.
  16. SteveSexton203

    SteveSexton203 Aspirant (205) Feb 19, 2014 Connecticut

    I have to agree to disagree with you on this. They use black, chocolate, and roasted barley. Right from the SN website.

    • YEAST Ale yeast
    • FINISHING HOPS Cascade, Yakima Golding
    • MALTS Two-row Pale, Munich, Caramel, Carafa, Black, Chocolate & Roasted Barley
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  17. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Crusader (747) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Here's the ingredients for the porter
    • Yeast Ale yeast
    • Bittering Hops Aurora
    • Finishing Hops Yakima Golding
    • Malts Two-row Pale, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Black & Carafa

    • They are not the same beer, but it's hard to make a case they aren't the same style IMO.
    LuskusDelph and Roguer like this.
  18. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (1,970) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Thanks. That recipe has drifted, then. It didn't used to include that. Now I really need to pick up a sixer to check it out.
    SteveSexton203 likes this.
  19. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (441) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I agree with all of this. I just want to add that I think many peoples' confusion about stouts and porters arise from incorrectly applying characteristics of specific stout/porter sub-categories to stouts and porters generally. If you visualize beer classification like a tree*, the trunk is "beer" and one of the major limbs is "porter/stout" [because they are equivalent terms]. which then branches into sub-categories (e.g. dry Irish stouts, Baltic porters, oatmeal stouts, Russian imperial stouts, milk stouts, Cascadian dark ales, etc.). The sub-categories could have characteristics matching one or more of the items you listed (roast level, adjuncts, thicker, ABV, etc.) but those characteristics cannot be applied to the entire porter/stout limb.

    * - A tree model of beer classification is overly simple because it cannot reflect changes over time, but let's go with it for the sake of this analogy.
    machalel and dennis3951 like this.
  20. SteveSexton203

    SteveSexton203 Aspirant (205) Feb 19, 2014 Connecticut

    I know its hard to make a case they aren't a different beer. I was just pointing they are going with the more common way of looking at porter / stout. One using roasted barley one not.
  21. zid

    zid Champion (800) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    What makes you think that that is the more common way of viewing them (as opposed to just one way of viewing them)? I'm really asking... not trying to make a point. Wouldn't we need to know every brewers' recipes rather than just Sierra Nevada's?
  22. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,094) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    OTOH, a tree model, while a current snapshot, can be changed over time to reflect growth or change from one time to the next. Just as a movie is just a series of snapshots shown in succession to create the appearance of movement, the same could be done with a dynamic tree model.
    #102 drtth, Jun 19, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  23. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Disciple (341) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    does anybody have any experience with a "milk porter"? I don't. Does anybody know of a commercially available porter which utilizes lactose?

    Other than that rhetorical question I have nothing to add to this thread which, as usual, explicates perfectly the history and current lack of consistently distinguishing characteristics well summed-up in Roguer's post. But to me, perhaps because I was incorrectly taught a non-existent distinction when I first started homebrewing, porters are a little thinner and maltier than stouts (which are a little heavier bodied and can be roastier, sometimes to the point of near-astringency (but in a nice way!), [other than milk stouts, that is, which are heavier-bodied because of the unfermentable lactose but non-astringent (also in a good way!)]. Although both/either can use varying amounts of chocolate or black patent malts, or roasted (unmalted) barley, stouts are more likely to make use of the regular (i.e, unroasted) unmalted barley which tends to give them a slightly "thicker" mouthfeel. More body, that is.

    But that's my individual taxonomy, and it has absolutely no danger of being adopted by any other person, let alone any commercial brewer! And there are doubtless dozens of cases in point

    (FWIW I did read the better part of 3 pages of content and still posted this, which I hope doesn't come across as "look at me!" at least any more than any other internet message board post, that is.)
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  24. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (441) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I thought about this more after I posted and the tree model is also weak because it's hard to account for overlap/connections in very different styles. Something like this is more like reality:

    ...As complicated as the above may appear, even that is just a snapshot in time. Beer styles live at a point in history too, so to account for history one needs to add a third dimension of time for above style dots and lines to move through. Like the GIF below, but far more complicated.

    Which gets to the root of this entire discussion and why people have such trouble categorizing beer, beyond the porter/stout question. Beer names and styles simultaneously exist in the present and past, but our language typically fails to accurately describe that duality.
    bbtkd and drtth like this.
  25. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Disciple (341) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    oops: perhaps a ten second search of this very site would have been a helpful exercise, before I hit "enter".
    Roguer likes this.
  26. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,094) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Interesting that you'd pick for your GIF one of the classic visual illusions to include the dimension of motion since it also emphasizes that what one sees can depend very much on where one stands when looking. :wink:

    The real trick to a tree model isn't the multiple connections it ignores but in knowing which connections to cut when creating the tree. (I'd suggest that a strong case can be made for the idea that any taxonomy is set up to ignore certain connections and emphasize others.)
    #106 drtth, Jun 19, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
    Chipotle and Ranbot like this.
  27. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Disciple (365) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Charlie Papazian just rolled over in his grave and isn't even dead yet.
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  28. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Disciple (365) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Well said.
  29. marquis

    marquis Crusader (722) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    This diagram contains so many false connections and misunderstandings that one doesn't know where to start.
    Back to the original question. Porter is the overall style.Stout is a Porter.
    For some reason Stout is a more prestigious name than Porter.When beer strengths were drastically cut after WW1 there were few Porters available. They were still brewed but labelled as Stouts.
    steveh likes this.
  30. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (441) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Yes, I would argue about many connections and groupings in the diagram too, but I posted it more for its concept of grouping and linking styles, as opposed to other conceptual systems of categorization (i.e. trees, static lists, plots, etc.). The diagram also lent itself well to my point and example of adding time as a third and mobile dimension. Concepts were more important than the details.
    steveh likes this.
  31. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,094) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Perhaps you could post a link to a better or an improved diagram without those false connections and misunderstandings? A simple assertion that something is "wrong" doesn't resolve misunderstandings.
  32. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,082) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Victory at Sea, which has been mentioned in this thread, would be a rather good one to compare.
  33. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (2,612) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    True. My gripe is more directed toward the literate masses. Consider it a search for consolation vice education. :wink:

    I've never seen that motion .gif attempt to display a tesseract. I'm not sure it makes the concept any easier to grasp (or is visually accurate), but it's certainly very cool. :slight_smile:

    Thanks for that, and I think you reinforce an important point: it's totally OK for people to have a conception of what a porter or a stout should be.

    I love robust porters, which I desire to be roastier and drier than a regular stout. I also love big, thick imperial stouts (with and without adjuncts). I generally assume porters will be lower ABV - at least within a single brewer's portfolio.

    However, I have no illusions that brewers are adhering to my personal mental image, nor do I insist that my viewing is the "correct" way of interpreting the prism.

    Heheh I was going to mention there are quite a few, actually. Milk Stout is certainly a more common name (vice milk porter), but many examples exist of flavored porters made with lactose. :slight_smile:
    Bitterbill likes this.
  34. patto1ro

    patto1ro Defender (618) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Robust Porter is a totally made up style with not a shred of historical basis.
    machalel, Bitterbill and marquis like this.
  35. bbtkd

    bbtkd Meyvn (1,336) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Supporter Subscriber

    I had a brewer-proclaimed "robust porter" last night, and I suppose that moniker is more marketable than "mild stout". It was a Bell's Porter.
  36. marquis

    marquis Crusader (722) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    "Robust" as an adjective is fine but when used as a compound noun it muddies the waters.I am afraid that many brewers (who may well create exquisite beers) sadly have little background knowledge of our brewing heritage to guide them.
    bbtkd and Bitterbill like this.
  37. MNAle

    MNAle Crusader (793) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Or, at least ignore it when naming their creations...
    marquis likes this.
  38. Squire123

    Squire123 Meyvn (1,473) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    When presented with a choice of Porter or Stout from the same brewer I generally prefer the Porter. This has happened often enough that I can say it's a preference.
  39. marquis

    marquis Crusader (722) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Well,of course it used to simply be the weaker of the two. But these days anything goes. Fuller's Black Cab stout is weaker than their London Porter.
    Sometimes it just sounds better when naming brews. A favourite of mine is Stilton Porter. Stilton Stout doesn't sound right.
  40. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,906) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Bleah -- neither of them sound right! Cheese and beer, not cheese in beer! :wink:
    Bitterbill and zid like this.
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