Ah, beer. Homer Simpson once toasted with a mug of the sudsy elixir and proclaimed that alcohol was the “cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” Wise words, Homer. Wise words indeed. Alcohol is a such a varied and vast set of liquids on a macro level. There’s a lot of real estate between the world of Italian wines and bourbon, for example. And that’s before even talking about the separate ecosystem of beer. Which is simply to say, there’s a lot to know about what you drink. Plenty of sticking points and opportunities for confusion.
Today, we’re looking at the often-obscured differences between stouts and porters. The dark ales are strikingly similar in taste, texture, aroma, and endgame (they get ya’ drunk). So we asked our beer sherpa Joe Stange — co-author of the Good Beer Guide Belgium — to break down the difference between the styles. “If you look at a Venn diagram of stouts and porters,” Stange says, “you’d be looking at a single circle.” Basically, the two are almost identical as far as beer and drinking beer is concerned.
Some beer drinkers, brewer’s associations, and clubs do judge the styles as separate entities, which only compounds the confusion. So let’s dive in and take a look at two shockingly similar beers styles with two different names. But before we dive in, let’s get this out of the way: We’re talking about standard porters and stouts here. Both styles come in “Imperial” variations that equate to aging and higher ABVs. This piece is focused on the basic styles, not the variations on a theme via smoke, oats, milk, and geographic designations like the Baltic.
Cool? Okay, let’s dive into the black stuff.