Black & Malty and Confusing All Over – Porters vs. Stouts

Over the past year, I have started getting into more “dark” beers. Meaning, in my mind, I never really took interest in porters or stouts until recently. But I want to try new things, so I took a trip to my local Friar Tuck’s and picked up a couple random stouts and porters from the “Make Your Own 6-pack” section. I didn’t really know what I was looking for or where to begin choosing, so I selected at random. I came home with a collection of beers that, for the most part, I knew nothing about. But I was ready to taste them! I enjoyed a couple while the others did not do much for me. However, while I sipped on these rich, malty beers, I got to thinking…what is the difference between these two styles?? What makes a porter different from a stout? And thus, began my research.

Naturally, the difference is not so simple and certainly not a black and white issue. In reality, the two are extremelysimilar. In fact, these styles are so similar that they are the same. A stout is actually a type of porter, just stronger. Think Imperial IPA to IPA…where stout is akin to that Imperial beer. The analogy is not perfect, but gives something to wrap your head around. In the end, what one brewery may call a porter, another may call a stout. But if you’re like me and that answer doesn’t quite do it for you, there are a couple things you can keep in mind.

A stout is stronger than a porter (sometimes). A stout is darker than a porter (kind of). A stout is more bitter than a porter (not always). Within the porter family there are, of course, many different branches (with stout being one of them). In the stout family there are, again, many different branches. A dry stout, like Guinness is a bit bitter – like coffee. An oatmeal stout (oats replace malt) is a tiny bit sweet and very smooth. But, y’know, you can have a sweet stout and a dry porter, so try not to read too much into these “details,” if you can even call them that.

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I have to say, I’m not totally happy with my findings…I’m not usually one who’s okay with a “gray area” for an answer. For someone who spends twenty minutes perfecting my eyeliner and gets up from a table at a restaurant to straighten out their wall décor – a “kind of this” or “kind of that” answer doesn’t really thrill me. But you know what does thrill me? Knowing that I can enjoy so many different dark beers, regardless of how they are categorized.

I’m really glad that I’ve opened myself up to trying these brown and black beers. While I can never resist the perfect IPA, I’ve been pretty dark happy with the porters and stouts I’ve tried so far, and can’t wait to keep tasting more!

Cheers to learning all about beers!

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