Stouts and porters are both dark beers. Both types of beer have so many similarities that many beer drinkers have little preference for one over the other. In fact, it may be impossible to tell by drinking an unmarked glass whether it belongs in the stout or porter category. As a result, one of the most popular questions about dark beers is simply “What is the difference between a stout and a porter?”
Porters first came to be in 18th century England when brewers sought a new type of beer to compete against copycats and generate more profitability. Unlike other beers at the time that had to be aged before being served, the porter was a first-of-its-kind ready-to-drink beer. They became the working man’s beverage and were named “porters” after the job many of their customers had.
Stouts developed as a variation of the porter. It was a more potent tasting beverage that brewers originally named a “stout porter.” For this reason, some people will tell you that all stouts are porters, but not all porters are stouts.
There’s no set rule about the ingredients for stouts versus porters, but generally, you will find these differences in the two beverages.
Stouts often include more roasted unmalted barleys that produce a dry, toasted flavor that some people describe as crisp. Those ingredients often leave the stout with a dark black appearance.
On the other hand, porters include more malts (or malted barley) that have a higher sugar concentration and produce a sweeter, smoother taste. They also include hops that will alter the flavor and increase its acidity. Porters appear more as dark brown than black.
Flavor and Feel Differences
Ask any two people what the flavor and feel differences are between a pint of stout and a pint of porter, and you’ll get completely different answers. The taste of stouts and porters is often so similar that most people cannot differentiate between the two.
Stouts are often compared to a cup of strong coffee. Without the inclusion of hops in the brew, tastes of coffee, chocolate, molasses, burnt toast, or licorice are usually predominant. A stout often has a crisper feel to it, yet it’s popular to offer stouts on nitro which makes the beverage extremely smooth.
Porters are a bit lighter than stouts with a generous amount of hops. They are often described as medium-light to medium-bodied beers. Depending on the hops, malts, and other additives, porters can range from acidic and dry to sweet and bitter. People may describe a porter as tasting like milk chocolate or having hints of fruitiness.
With so many variations from breweries worldwide, there’s no set rule about where porters and stouts fall on the ABV and IBU scale. However, you can typically expect to see stouts have a higher ABV and IBU. Remember, it’s the combination of both the ABV and IBU that will impact overall bitterness.
|Average ABV||Average IBU|
|Porter||4.8 – 6.5%||35 – 50|
|Stout||5.5 – 8%||30 – 70|
Want to taste the difference between a stout and porter for yourself?
You can try a wide spectrum of stouts and porters at the Growler Guys. With a wall of taps to select from, you can discover a world of beers to love. Our friendly staff is happy to answer all your questions, so you understand why you prefer the kinds of beer that you do. Stop by, relax, and enjoy exploring the best beers from regional breweries.