We always hear a lot of questions about the difference between stouts and porters. In modern times, it’s generally accepted that a stout can be considered a stronger version of a porter, but there’s no single set of rules that draws a fine line between both. There’s a lot of history on how these two names evolved and how their characteristics overlap, but since none of us live in the 1700s, let’s focus on how people in the 2000s see stouts and porters.
According to the 2015 BJCP style guidelines, here are some descriptors of the more commonly available styles:
OG 1.040-1.052 | FG 1.008-1.014 | ABV 4.0-5.4%
IBU 18-35 | SRM 20-30
“A moderate-strength brown beer with a restrained roasty character and bitterness. May have a range of roasted flavours, generally without burnt qualities, and often has a chocolate-caramel-malty profile.”
Commercial Example: Fuller’s London Porter
OG 1.036-1.044 | FG 1.007-1.011 | ABV 4.0-4.5%
IBU 25-45 | SRM 25-40
“A black beer with a pronounced roasted flavour, often similar to coffee. The balance can range from fairly even to quite bitter, with the more balanced versions having a little malty sweetness and the bitter versions being quite dry. Draught versions typically are creamy from a nitro pour, but bottled versions will not have this dispense-derived character. The roasted flavour can be dry and coffee-like to somewhat chocolatey.”
Commercial Example: Murphy’s Irish Stout
OG 1.045-1.065 | FG 1.010-1.018 | ABV 4.2-5.9%
IBU 25-40 | SRM 22-40
“A very dark, full-bodied, roasty, malty ale with a complementary oatmeal flavour. The sweetness, balance and oatmeal impression can vary considerably.”
Commercial Example: Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout
Foreign Extra Stout
OG 1.056-1.075 | FG 1.010-1.018 | ABV 6.3-8.0%
IBU 50-70 | SRM 30-40
“A very dark, moderately strong, fairly dry stout with prominent roast flavours.”
Commercial Example: Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
OG 1.050-1.070 | FG 1.012-1.018 | ABV 4.8-6.0%
IBU 25-50 | SRM 22-40
“A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavourful dark-malt character.”
Commercial Example: Anchor Porter
OG 1.050-1.075 | FG 1.010-1.022 | ABV 5.0-7.0%
IBU 35-75 | SRM 30-40
“A fairly strong, highly roasted, bitter, hoppy dark stout. Has the body and dark flavours typical of stouts with a more aggressive American hop character and bitterness.”
Commercial Example: North Coast Old No. 38 Stout
OG 1.075-1.115 | FG 1.018-1.030 | ABV 8.0-12.0%
IBU 50-90 | SRM 30-40
“An intensely flavoured, big, dark ale with a wide range of flavour balances and regional interpretations. Roasty-burnt malt with deep, dark or dried-fruit flavours and a warming, bittersweet finish. Despite the intense flavours, the components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.”
Commercial Example: Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout
As you can see, there’s no guarantee that the stout you order at the bar will be darker and stronger than a porter. Although the BJCP guidelines try to cover as many styles of porters and stouts that a beer drinker would normally encounter, there will be times when you’ll find a porter or stout that somehow just doesn’t fit into any of the styles listed. At the end of the day, it’s really up to the brewer to decide whether the beer s/he brewed is a porter or a stout.
For those of you who are into homebrewing, here’s a recipe for one of the porters that a couple buddies and I brewed together a while back. We intended for it to be a stout, but decided that calling it a porter made it sound cooler.
Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt: 7.5kg
CaraAroma Malt: 0.2kg
Caramel 80L Malt: 0.6kg
Special B Malt: 0.4kg
Chocolate Malt (350L): 0.3kg
Roasted Barley: 0.4kg
Flaked Barley: 0.4kg
White Labs WLP041 (just throw in a pack or try to achieve 1M cells/ml/P).
Chinook 60 (60 mins boil, 35 IBU)
Kent Goldings (30 min boil, 11 IBU)
Kent Goldings (15 min boil, 7 IBU)
Filtered coffee: 200ml (made with 100g coffee and 300ml water)
OG: 1.087 | FG: 1.022 | IBU: 53 | SRM: 40
1. Mash in the malt in the grain bill with 25L of water at 74°C and rest at 67°C for 1 hour.
2. Add 11L of boiling water to raise temperature to 76°C and rest for 10 minutes.
3. Recirculate from the lauter until wort is clear, then sparge with 12L of sparge water at 76°C.
4. Boil for 60 minutes and add hops according to the timing above.
5. After the boil, add 200ml coffee and then cool wort to 18°C.
6. Pitch yeast, and ferment at 17-18°C.
Chris Wong (aka “Beer Dumpster”) is a co-founder of HK Brewcraft, the homebrew supply headquarters in Hong Kong. A certified BJCP beer judge, when not binge drinking, he’s also involved in several other beer-related projects in town, including TAP: The Ale Project, Second Draft and Hitachino HK Brewery.