For many Americans, dark beer is something to be avoided. It's scary – the full body and complex flavor characteristics are so completely different from Budweiser that many people shy away on impulse. However, if you do venture into the realm of dark beer, you'll find several delicious varieties to choose from. The two primary options are porter and stout – what's the difference, though? Which is better? In the battle of porter vs. stout, who wins?
In the Beginning
First, there was ale, and then came porter. Porter was devised in the late 1600s and early 1700s and was extremely popular with "porters," river and dockworkers. Thus, the name came about. This is a very dark beer (often dark brown in color), though it is not as strong as many people suspect. Porter tends to be a medium bodied beer. The dark color is from roasting the grains for a longer period, rather than because it is "hearty."
The Rise of Stout
Stout came about after porter, and as a direct result of modifications to the recipe used for brewing it. These were originally simply stronger versions of porter recipes, and were called "stout porters." Over time, the porter part of the name was dropped and, today, we have stouts as their own category.
Most stouts have many of the same characteristics of porters – dark coloring, medium bodies and the like. However, they tend to be a bit more flavorful than their forebears are.
The Modern Craft Beer Industry
Porter and stout both began dying out in terms of popularity, though breweries like Guinness and Murphy's helped to keep the heritage of these beverages alive. Today, though, things are very different. Since the rise of the American craft brew scene, both porter and stout have gained immense popularity and more styles of both are available today than ever before.
Declaring the Winner
In the battle of the dark beers, there is no clear cut winner. Both stout and porter offer significant enjoyment, and, though they were once the same, they provide very different drinking experiences today. Therefore, both are great options for the beer lover. And, while you'll find a handful of major international breweries still producing time-honored beverages (such as Guinness), it might be best to start with an offering from one of America's many amazing craft breweries. That's the best way to discover the widest range of characters and flavors.