Stout & Porter Ale Styles

Stouts are very dark, almost black beers, and feature a heavily roasted flavor profile. This is achieved by brewing with malt that has been kilned until it resembles burnt toast. Although not always considered ales by consumers, these beers use top fermenting yeasts and as such are members of the ale family. Porter was originally an English, specifically London dark beer style that was the drink of the masses long before lagers were conceived or modern ales were fashionable. In the heyday of Porter in London, during the eighteenth century , the term “Stout” was used to denote the strongest and weightiest beers in a brewers portfolio. The same relationship still holds true to this day, with porters generally being lighter in body and color than stouts. Stouts and Porters are enormously popular among US craft brewers and virtually all brewpubs and regional microbrewers produce one or both as year round brews.

Dry Stout. Dry stout is closely associated with Ireland in general, and Guinness in particular. These brews tend to be rich and dark with a definitive bitter note and a drying palate feel. They are classically paired with oysters, although any Irish Stout drinker will tell you that a pint it is a meal in itself. Draught (draft) Irish Stout is nitrogen-flushed to give it that tell-tale white creamy head that has made Guinness so recognizable. This process is also effected in cans and bottles with a nitrogen “widget.” The style is widely emulated throughout the world and is particularly popular with US microbrewers and brewpubs, often as a more full bodied and dryer interpretation.

Flavored Porter. Flavoring traditional beer styles is a particular feature of the ever creative US craft brewing scene. Flavorings used in porters are typically dark berry fruits and coffee, and when skillfully done the effect can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Flavored Stout. Flavored stouts are stouts, be they sweeter or drier, which have been flavored in some way. Dark fruits, coffee and chocolate are particularly popular, and the marriage of flavors should at best be greater than the sum of its parts.

Imperial Stout. Imperial Stout is an extra strong version of stout which was originally brewed by the British to withstand the rigors of export to Russia and the Baltic states. This style is dense, opaque black and strong in alcohol (6-7%), with a note of sweetness. Burnt cocoa and dried fruit flavors are typical. Russian Imperial Stouts originate from recipes that British brewers tailored to the tastes of the Imperial Russian court. Imperial stout was almost extinct until recreated by the British brewer Samuel Smiths in the early 1980s. The style has now been embraced by US craft brewers as a winter specialty.

Oatmeal Stout. This brew is a variation of sweet stout which has a small proportion of oats used in place of roasted malt, which has the effect of enhancing body and mouthfeel. They were originally brewed by the British in the earlier part of this century, when stouts were thought of as a nutritious part of an everyday diet. After having fallen from favor, the style was revived by the Yorkshire brewer, Samuel Smith, in 1980. They tend to be highly flavorful with a velvety texture and sometimes a hint of sweetness. Oatmeal stouts are now a very popular staple of the US craft brewing scene.

Porter. Porters are red-brown to black in color, medium to medium-full bodied, and characterized by a flavor profile that can vary from very subtle dark malts to fully roasted, smoky flavors. Being a centuries old style, there are differences of opinion with regard to what a “true” porter was actually like and there can be wide variations from one brewer’s interpretation to the next. Roasted malt should provide the flavoring character, rather than roasted barley as is used with stouts. Stronger, darker versions and lighter more delicate versions are equally valid manifestations of the style. The influence of hops can often be notable in the richer craft brewed examples of the style. Although Porter was the drink of the masses of the 1700s London, it is not a significant factor in the British market today, despite the production of a few outstanding English examples. In the US it is enjoying new found popularity among US craft brewers and many fine US examples are produced.

Sweet Stout. Sweet stouts are largely a British specialty. These stouts have a distinctive sweetness to the palate and often show chocolate and caramel flavors, They are sometimes known as milk or cream stouts. These beers obtain their characters by using chocolate malts and lactic (milk) sugars in the brewing process.

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