Last week, we tasted and drank some amazingly good Imperial Stout that John brewed. After that video, we had an impromptu discussion about what Stout and Porter meant to us. What is it in our minds (and palates) that make one different than the other? So we turned on the camera this week and had the discussion.
First of all, there are so many different takes on Porter and Stout commercially that it is dizzying.
Unfortunately, the marketplace rewards big versions of these two styles. The only style that seems to give IPA a run for its money in many “Best Of” lists is Imperial Stout. Russian Imperial Stouts are loved around the world by many people.
We feel that it is unfortunate that the “biggest” version of these styles gets all the accolades because the nuances in a brown porter can offer just as much depth as a RIS without the overpowering boozy notes.
Americanization of these of these styles also drown out the historical representations of these beers in the marketplace.
The average consumer may have not have the insight to all the versions that these styles can provide, but then again, one of the top reasons why I homebrew is to tailor a style to suit my palate and making styles that I might not be able to get on my local store shelf.
Much has been written on the historical journey of these two beers; we don’t even attempt to discuss it here. (Let’s meet for beers in a great pub for that discussion someday.)
I’ll only mention that these two styles are often very close together. Often many of the commercial beers available could be called either a stout or a porter.
It really comes down to marketing most of the time I suspect.
What separates the two styles for me is sweetness and toast character.
To be honest, this opinion of mine is likely rooted in my early days as a craft beer drinker, and maybe it’s not truly indicative of what the style guidelines would tell us today.
Both of these beers have strong and noticable roast character, obviously.
I prefer a stout to be more chocolate with a great toasty malt character behind it. I also think stout should have some caramel or sweeter malt character to it.
In contrast, I think Porter should have a dryness and harder hitting roast character. It should not have that much chocolate or toast character. There should be a little darker crystal character present to help soften a clear, coffee like note that should be in porter.
Looking at these descriptors, it’s interesting to compare them to the BJCP style guidelines.
Subcategories of Stout seem to surround the porter recipes as far as flavor profiles. Suggesting that porter exists almost entirely within the Stout’s range of flavors.
(A circle in a circle for all you venn diagram folks.)
That is pretty funny seeing how Porter is the senior and Stout the junior when it comes to beer evolution.
So what is your opinion on these two styles?
What character really defines Stout or Porter for you?
Let us know as we continue to think about these styles ourselves.
Oh – if you want to read a great post on the subject – go here: http://zythophile.co.uk/2009/03/19/so-what-is-the-difference-between-porter-and-stout/