What is the difference between the two darkest beer styles?   Just by looking at them it is practically impossible to tell them apart.

Porter? Stout? Who came first?…

The history between the two names begins in the 18th century in England with the term Porter, a name that was given to dark brown beers by the local street workers(porters).  Another term also used around the same time period to distinguish the darker and stronger porters was stout.   As the years past and roasted barley broke onto the scene the stout/porter relationship began to separate.  Stouts began to take on their own style with the help of Arthur Guinness, continuing to use more roasted barley then dark malts.

Porter

Porters are basically described to be dark in color, have medium body and have a good balance of malty sweetness to hop bitterness.  Porters have three unique sub-styles; a brown porter, robust porter and a Baltic porter.  Porters are usually known for using crystal, black, and dark malts.  They generally are medium to high in hop bitterness.  Baltic porters are brewed imperial and are usually around 8% ABV, they are malty up front with characters of dark fruit, raisins, toffee coming through.  Check out the latest BJCP guidelines to grab more specific details on the different porter sub-styles.

Stout

Stouts are basically described to have a roasted barley character, to be dark in color and have medium to low hop bitterness.  Stouts come in six unique sub-styles; a dry stout, sweet/cream stout, oatmeal stout, foreign stout, American stout and imperial stout.  The most common being the dry Irish stout ( recipe), which was made famous by Guinness and is from Ireland.  Generally most stouts are brewed using  a pale malt to make up about 80-90% of the grist and a roasted barley to make up about 10% of the grist.  This roasted barley usually attributes to a coffee like taste.  There bitterness forms with the hop additions made mostly at the start of the boil.  Most stouts are full in body and flavor making them a great winter beer.  Check out the latest BJCP guidelines to grab more specific details on the different stout sub-styles.

a dry Irish stout beside a German hefe

Conclusions

Stout – Generally dark and full in body with a roasted barley taste.

Porter – Generally dark and medium in body with a good balance of malty sweetness to hop bitterness.

Having said that, the bad news is that both styles have examples of using characteristics of the others.  There are full bodied porters and medium bodied stouts out there.  Cross over between the two styles exist especially by the micro brewers of today.  Regardless these two dark beer styles do have distinct characteristics and I hope I helped alleviate any confusion you may have had.  Here is a direct comparison between two of the most popular dark beer styles.

  Dry Irish Stout Brown Porter
Aroma Coffee like roasted barley taste, slight chocolate, cocoa notes. Low to no hop aroma Malt aroma with mild roastiness, slight chocolate. May have aromas of caramel, grains, bread, nut or may be sweet. Moderate to no hop aroma
Appearance Dark brown to black in color with a thick creamy tan/brown head Light brown to dark brown in color.
Flavor Moderately roasted, dry at times with a coffee like finish. Some creaminess, medium to no hop flavor. Malt flavor with mild roastiness. May have secondary flavors of coffee, licorice or biscuits. Medium low to medium hop bitterness
OG 1.036 – 1.050 1.040 – 1.052
FG 1.007 – 1.011 1.008 – 1.014
IBU (Bitterness) 30-45 18-35
SRM (Color) 25-40+ 20-30
ABV (%) 4-5% 4.0-5.4%
Commercial Examples Guinness, Murphy’s Stout, Brooklyn Dry Stout, Goose Creek Dublin Stout Fuller’s London Porter, Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, Burton Bridge Burton Porter

Interested in comparing beer styles? Check out our article Wheat Beer Styles: Weiss vs Wit.  Feel free to comment on any thoughts regarding dark beer styles below.

Weiss Beer -- Hefeweizen

Weiss Beer -- Hefeweizen

You might be asking yourself what are the differences between weissbier, witbeir, hefeweizen, wheat, white beers?  Here is an article that I hope will solve all of the confusion.

Wheat Beer

Their are two major styles of wheat beers, weissbier (German) and witbier (Belgian).  Wheat beers are usually top fermented ales, that consistent mostly of wheat followed by a pale malted barley.  Since wheat contains much more protein than barley it produces a thicker head along with a hazy appearance.  Most wheat beers are light both in body and flavor making them a great summer beer.

German Weissbier

The most common type of weissbeir, as it is called in German, is the Hefeweizen.  Directly translated in German “Hefe” means yeast and “Weizen” means wheat. Hefeweizen is a unfiltered, top fermented, bottle conditioned German wheat beer with noticeable yeast sediment and a hazy appearance. Weissbier that has been filtered, which removes suspended yeast and wheat protein, are usually called Kristallweizen (crystal wheat), or Kristall Weissbier (crystal white beer). Dark weiss styles are also available and are known as dunkelweizen (dark wheat), or Weizenbock (strong wheat beer), these usually have higher alcohol content.

Belgian Witbier

White beer, witbier, as it is called in Belgium is a unfiltered, top fermented, bottle conditioned wheat beer. It gets its name from the suspended yeast and wheat proteins, which make the beer look white when cold. This style originated without the use of any hops, instead fruits and spices were used. Today the style tends to use orange peel and coriander along with a light bit of hops for aroma and flavoring.  Check out our Belgian Witbier Recipe it is an amazing brew, loved by many of my friends.  The article brewing with coriander goes into more details on how to use coriander when brewing.

Weissbier Witbier
Aroma Moderate to strong phenols (usually clove) and fruity esters (usually banana). Moderate sweetness with light, grainy, spicy wheat aromatics, often with a bit of tartness.
Appearance Cloudy, Pale straw to very dark gold in color. Cloudy, Pale straw to very light gold in color.
Flavor Low to moderately strong banana and clove flavor. Pleasant sweetness and a zesty, orange-citrusy fruitiness.
OG 1.044 – 1.052 1.044 – 1.052
FG 1.010 – 1.014 1.008 – 1.012
IBU (Bitterness) 8-15 10-20
SRM (Color) 2-8 2-4
ABV (%) 4.3-5.6% 4.5-5.5%
Commercial Examples Paulaner, Franziskaner Hoegaarden, Lost Coast Brewery Great White, Blue Moon Belgian White

Feel free to comment on any thoughts regarding wheat beers below.