Sunday, January 19, 2014

Porter Vs Stout... Fight!

I have been thinking a lot about Stouts and Porters lately. My brew club just held a style meeting on Stouts. We must have sampled around 20 of them. All the styles were covered and even included some odder variations like a Mole (Mexican Spiced Chocolate) and an Oyster Stout. They were all pretty good.

Our clubs next style meeting will be focused on Porters. For this reason I have been researching the two styles to try and discern the differences. Let me tell you, it's a mess! Where do I even start?

I guess the first thing I will mention is that originally the term Stout did not have anything to do with the color, flavor, or aroma of a beer. It just meant it was strong. So any beer could have been described as being stout. Of course that would change over time, but that is the origin of the word.

A common theme I came across in research is that many people think the main difference is roasted barley. Stouts use it, and porters do not. However lets debunk that one right away. It is just not the case, and it goes both ways. Roasted barley was not even introduced into brewing until the late 1800's. But even then it was not readily accepted into the mash tun. I came across one source that said Guinness did not start using roasted barley in their stout until 1930.

From Martyn Cornell: "At Whitbread, whose Chiswell Street premises, on the edge on the City of London proper (the "Square Mile"), was one of the top two or three London porter breweries, in 1805 the firm used 160 quarters of pale malt and 56 quarters of brown malt to make both its porter and single stout, and 136 quarters of pale together with 40 each of amber and brown malt to make its double stout. From these 216 quarters of malt it would make 798 barrels of porter (3.7 barrels to the quarter, around 6 per cent alcohol by volume), or 720 barrels of single stout (7 per cent abv or so) or 580 barrels of double stout (2.7 barrels to the quarter, around 8 per cent abc).

The brewery made it's porter and single stout with the same malt bill. It's double stout was made with additional amber malt. The resulting beer was 6%, 7%, or 8%. I am going to guess the yeast used for all was the same. Nothing is mentioned about hops, but I am sure they were all hopped similarly as well.  So really we are back where we started. The term is being used to describe the beers strength. At this point in time a very similarly produced beer is called a porter at 6% ABV and a Stout at 7% ABV.

After all of this I would have to say that the only difference between stouts and porters is whatever the brewer wants!

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