‘What exactly is the difference between stout and porter?’ someone recently asked me. As I opened my mouth to explain, I realized that the answer is not as cut and dry as you might think.
While there are many varieties of so-called ‘dark beer’ such as schwarzbier, Scotch ale, dark American lager etc., the broad categories of stout and porter are probably the most well known. Actually, their histories are so intertwined that honestly I still get confused – what came first? The porter or the stout?
I was chatting recently with my friend Scott at Blank Slate Brewing Company about the differences and asked him how he approaches this topic with people. He responded that first, he likes to take a step back. He explains that as you go up the style chain, beers generally increase in flavor, body, and intensity (though there are some exceptions). If you think about the differences between a blonde ale and pale ale, or amber and brown ale this premise fits the bill. Porter and stout are a similar story, but with a lot more overlap.