Winter approaches like a toothless, wrinkled old man struggling to carry a glass of dark, murky liquid. (Not visually disturbing enough? Okay, he’s wearing filthy lederhosen, no socks, has bulging, pasty knees and the expression on his face suggests he’s about to poop his pants. Better?) So… watcha got in that glass, old man? Porter? Stout? So, what’s the difference between porter and stout and why is winter the best time to discover your favorite dark brews?
Time for more “Beer History!” My pal Charlie, a stout aficionado, also known as “malt breath,” says stout, more particularly brown stout, was simply the name for the strongest, highest alcohol version of porter. One chilly Delaware evening, Charlie hoisted a growler filled with dark, malty brew and growled from his disturbingly stained copy of “A General Dictionary of Commerce, Trade and Manufactures,” published in 1810:
“Porter may be divided into two classes, namely brown-stout and porter properly so called … Brown-stout is only a fuller-bodied kind of porter than that which serves for ordinary drinking. A great deal of this is exported to America and the West Indies.”
Charlie went on to belch from another beer connoisseur publication that “brown stout” simply meant “strong porter” as determined by a court case reported in The Times of London in 1803 over the theft of the contents of a cask of “porter, of superior quality, called Brown Stout” on its way from London to Barnsley, in Yorkshire. In court the stolen beer was described as both “remarkably fine old porter and very strong” and “excellent brown stout.” Research by the beer historian Ron Pattinson among the records of London brewers in the early 19th century has shown that early 19th century brown stouts very often had identical recipes to the same brewer’s porter, differing only in the amount of wort drawn off a given quantity of malt: less water was used for mashing stouts, so that they would be stronger.
I left Charlie snoozing by the fireplace and headed home, the thoughts of stouts and portersenjoyed on a chilly evening with 5-year boerenkaas cheese and a comfy fire. Stouts and porters are generally malty, heavy beers best suited to a chilled evening, whereas I prefer a hopped delight like Victory Hopdevil on a hot Saturday afternoon. Good winter company can be found with Lancaster Milk Stout, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Obsidian Stout, Sam Adams Cream Stout, August Schell and Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout… Porters? Sierra Nevada, Black Butte of Deschutes, Iron Hill Bourbon Porter and one of my all-time favorites, the Iron Hill Pig Iron Porter, Samuel Smith’s Taddy and Santa’s Butt by Ridgeway. Oh! And all the Elves by Ridgeway! Bad Elf! Very Bad Elf! Insanely Bad Elf! These are unique holiday beers that you should try with friends, especially if they fall asleep with half a growler left over. After all, you gotta finish the growler. I’ll send an email to the brewer for a future interview.
Don’t stay thirsty, my friend. Slake It!