I love Tom Waits, but there’s another reason my beer blog is named “I’ll Have Another Stout.” It’s one of my favorite styles. I’m also pretty sweet on porters. I remember university days when most parties were pumping kegs of Yuengling Lager. I always looked forward to the gatherings on West College Ave. because the hippies had kegs of Yuengling Porter. There was actually a time the style all but disappeared from Britain, but Pottsville was still continuously brewing it.
I commonly get asked the question “What’s the difference between the two?” There are boastful stouts with a bitter bite and modest stouts that are like silky milk chocolate. Brewer Chris Lapierre of Iron Hill says, “Great American Beer Fest Organizers state the difference is the inclusion of roasted barley flavor in stout versus roasted the malt profile of porter, as well as the acceptable presence of sourness and bitterness should be higher in a stout.”
“Porter was born out of the need to address a shortcoming of London’s water,” writes beer historian Christopher Mark O’Brien in his book Fermenting Revolution. The hard alkaline water lent itself to dark, malty beer.
In the late 1700s if you were talking stout you were merely talking about a strong beer, one that was stronger than porter. The stouts we sip on today are chock full of fun additives: chocolate, espresso, molasses, maple syrup and chipotle, to name a few. The addition of coffee and chocolate complements the flavors already there from the dark malt. But the ingredients could be added to a porter and it would be the same difference. So yes, they are similar. But in some cases porters might even bring more punch to the table that their big brother. Gordon Grubb of Nodding Head says, “Some brewers think their interchangeable. I don’t.”
Go out there and drink a few yourselves.
Sam Smith Taddy Porter 5% Abv
Beloved beer writer Michael Jackson had this in his top five I think it’s in my top 25. A benchmark for the style. No funny business added here. Just hops, water, malt and yeast.
Great Divide St. Bridgids 5.9% Abv
At first sip, I knew I wasn’t in England anymore. I was drinking an American stout with northwestern hop character and I was really enjoying it as I do most Great Divide beers.
St. Peter's Cream Stout 6.5% Abv
Now this is a roaster and the most viscous of the bunch. Make sure you have some White Strips handy. It’ll paint your kisser black
Chicory Stout 5% Abv
One of the first recipes brewed at the original Dogfish Head. It was an early morning brew day and owner Sam Calgione wanted some coffee. Chicory is an herb traditionally used in New Orleans-style coffee. Calgione says it gives it a little more of a smoky, earthy flavor. He also throws in some St. John’s Wort which makes it natures only “anti-depressant depressant.”
Beer Valley Black Flag Stout 11% Abv
This Oregon imperial stout is the most deliciously bitter of the bunch. The black flag is an international symbol for anarchy. At 11 percent, this should have a red flag- caution! Chaos might occur.
Other dark delights include: Rogue Chocolate Stout, Bells Expedition Stout, Bells Double Cream stout, Founders Breakfast Stout, Troegs Dead Reckoning Porter, and Victory Stormking
PW's Year of Beer: Yards PYNK