There are so many types of beer brewed today. Everything from the generic light lager to the triple mango IPA has made its way to your local beer store shelf. Some of these styles are noticeably different, yet others aren’t. Two common basic styles that many of us have issue distinguishing from one another are the classic porter and its big brother, the stout.
The first of the two styles to make an appearance was the porter. This showed up in London in the 1700s. The dark, medium bodied beer was a hit amongst the strong, portly workers who drank it. Hence came the name, porter. But as with anything these porters were not the end of beer experimentation. Brewers quickly wanted more body, and more alcohol. From these desires, a stout was born. A stout, in its original form, was just a stronger, “stouter”, version of a porter. At its conception, it was even called a stout porter.
The reason people have issue with keeping this formula straight today is the fact that brewers have since crossed the paths of porters and stouts. Many craft brewers have created porters that are stouter than your average stout, and vice versa when it comes to stouts. Some brewers still determine the difference based on the malt that is used within each style. Porters generally use malted barley, and stouts unmalted roasted barley. This is not a hard and fast rule in the industry however.
In the same way some Pale Ales taste more like IPAs, and vice versa, the porter and stout dividing line has blurred dramatically since the stouts creation. The brewers themselves often cross the lines of the source material, making it difficult for the nerdiest beer nerd to fully define why a beer is called one or the other. The debate rages on, so grab your favorite stout porter or porter-y stout, and discuss.