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Porter Versus StoutWhat’s the difference?

Milk stout, Russian imperial stout, Irish dry stout and export stout are four variations of the stout. But did you know that stout was derived from a porter? Stout originated in 18th century London and was initially nothing more than a strong porter, known as a “stout porter”.

This year, stout and porters are making a comeback! Kompaan Bloedbroeder has even been awarded overall winner of the Dutch Beer Challenge during Dutch Beer Week 2017. Kompaan Bloedbroeder is a smoky 9% stout produced in The Hague. This style of beer goes back years...

How it all began...

The porter was created in 18th century London and evolved from the brown ale. A dark, but not heavy, beer with roasted and toasted undertones. It was the beer of the porters, the English street and river carriers who drank the beer for its strong flavours and high nutritional values.

As the porter grew in popularity, more brewers began to experiment with their own versions which gradually produced a number of variations to the beer. Different ingredients were added and the alcohol percentage was increased, resulting in a stout porter, later just shortened to stout.

Is there a difference?

Porters range from dark copper to dark brown in colour and can have fruity to toasted malt aromas. You may also detect notes of caramel, cappuccino or liquorish. Porters are full-flavoured, slightly sweet and contain lightly roasted bitters.

Stouts are darker than porters and have stronger roasted, bitter and dry flavours. The aroma is toasted malt and can be slightly acidic.

It’s the detail that differentiates the two styles. There are variations of both and brewers are constantly experimenting with new versions. There are contemporary porters with higher alcohol percentages than stouts. The alcohol percentages of both can vary enormously from 4% to 14% (such as a Russian Imperial Stout). De Molen brewery in the Netherlands is well known for its selection of stouts.


  • ROBUST PORTER: a heavier version of the porter. Fuller and darker, with a sweet rather than bitter aftertaste hence the name robust. The Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter is a good example.
  • SMOKED PORTER: smoked malt is added to the beer for that distinctively smokey porter taste. An example of a Dutch smoked porter would be the Koud Vuur from Bax Bier in Groningen.
  • IRISH DRY STOUT: the best known stout is made by Guinness from Ireland. This stout variant is also known as Irish dry stout. Stouterik fromBrasserie de la Senne is a stout from Belgium.
  • EXPORT STOUT: Guinness produces a stronger stout for export, known as export stout.
  • MILK STOUT: also known as ‘sweet stout’. This variant, such as De Prael’s Milk Stout uses lactose or milk sugar (a non-fermentable sugar) which adds a sweetness to the beer. Other sweet stouts include the oatmeal stout (with oats) and a chocolate stout.
  • RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT: (R.I.S.): by far the strongest of all the stouts. An extra heavy stout which is strongly hopped to survive the journey from England to the Baltic states.
  • OYSTER STOUT: aside from the four most important stouts there are even more variations on this always popular beer. An oyster stout is brewed with oysters, which are added to the brew during the cooking process.
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Ice cream float

Stouts and porters are perfect for making a typical American ‘ice cream float’. Pour a generous dash of beer over a couple of scoops of vanilla ice-cream and enjoy. They’re also suitable for baking pies and cakes, and their lightly roasted flavours make them a great addition to beeramisu.

Storage and barrel ageing

Heavier varieties (> 8%) of porters and stouts make them ideal for storage. Because these beers are aged in the bottle, they gain a rounder and more intense flavour. They’re also perfect for ageing in wooden barrels where other drinks have been stored such as bourbon or cognac. Barrel ageing adds flavour to the beer in two ways: by imbuing it with the flavour of the drink that was in the barrel before, and through the barrel itself. Think of vanilla, herbs, wood, coconut, smoky and caramel tones. Sgt. Night Vision from Het Uiltje is a good example of a barrel aged beer.

To serve

Porters are best served in a tulip-formed or pint glass at a temperature of 8-10 degrees Celsius. A stout is better served slightly warmer at 10-14 degrees Celsius, also in a tulip-formed or pint glass.

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