I have heard from some people that they are not sure what the difference is between stout and porter. Although these two beers are decidedly different, they can sometimes seem very similar. One reason for this confusion is that what we think of as a style description of these two was standardized long after the beers were invented, and in their infancy they often crossed paths, if not nearly identical.
Stout is, historically, a description, meaning strong. Stout beer was high in alcohol, and thus the term stout could have been applied to any style. There were stout ales of all sorts, simply meaning that they were strong brews, not that they were dark. However, as Andy was good enough to point out last week, the term "stout porter" took off for a while and the association of the two words left stout being associated with dark beers, and that is how it has been since the end of the 19th century, by which time stout had become an independent style. It was darker than porter, made with more hops, and was typically a drier drink than porter, which can sometimes have a more malty, slightly sweet flavor.
Porter gets its name from the working-class people in England, specifically ships' porters, with whom the dark drink was especially popular. It was a hearty, dark beer, and easy to drink, a simple brown ale, but darker, with extra malt characteristics.
There is more to these two styles than a similar name, though. Now that they have been around as independent styles for quite a number of years, the BJCP has style guides for various types of stouts and porters. I happen to be browsing through a newsstand a few days ago and found a copy of the March/April 2012 issue of Beer Magazine (p. 18) that discusses this very issue. Then I picked up the May 2012 issue of All About Beer (pp. 52-55) and saw that they also have an article on the topic of stouts versus porters. It was like getting beer in my Halloween bag, that type of luck!
If you want something like a stout porter now, you should try looking for recipes for a Baltic porter. This is the strongest of the porter styles outlined by the BJCP. Here is a Baltic porter homebrew recipe from Beer Smith, which is one of my go-to sources for recipes and general homebrewing information. It is an all-grain recipe, so it is a bit more complicated to make, but not a lot. We will post later how to get into all-grain homebrewing. It's easier than you think.
- 8 lbs Pale Malt (2 row Belgian or German)
- 4 lbs Munich Malt (9 SRM)
- 8 oz Chocolate Malt (450 SRM)
- 4 oz Black Patent Malt
- 2.25 oz Saaz hops (boil 60 min)
- 1 pkg Belgian Lager Yeast (White Labs WLP815)
Do you have a favorite recipe for either stouts or porters?