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Porter beers have a deep brown colour an ABV between 4% and 5.4% and a medium bitterness.

Porter characteristics

Porter is a moderate-strength brown beer with a restrained roasty character and some bitterness. May have roasted flavour—but not burnt—, and often has a chocolate, caramel and malty character. Color is brown to dark brown, and aroma is moderately low bready, biscuity malty.

What is the difference between Porter and Stout?

  • – At the beginning of 19th century porter was the term used in Manchester while stout was the term used in London for the same thing.
  • – A stout has roasted malts, while a porter not. (Shaun Salyards, from The Fort Collins Brewery)
  • Porters are lighter in body and alcohol than stouts. (Carston Haney, from Ross Island Brewing)
  • Stout is defined as a very dark, roasty, bitter, creamy ale, while porter is described as a substantial, malty dark ale with a complex and flavourful character. [BJCP style guidelines].


Porter became the most popular style in London in the 1700's, being attributed to a brewer called Ralph Harwood, who created a beer that could recreate the flavour of the Three Threads. The blend that Harwood created was called Entire, but it became so famous among London porters that it started to be named after them. At the same time, from the 1720s and until the early 20th century, stout—or more specifically brown stout—was another denomination for strong porter.

In the first 1800s the use of the terms porter and stout had a geographical bias, being porter mostly used in the Manchester region and stout mostly in the London region, but the term stout is also found in Manchester newspapers, always referring to a strong kind of porter.

Already the second half of the 19th century, the only observable difference between porter and stout was the amount of water—less water was used for stouts, so their ABV was higher.

By the end of the 19th century, stout recipes started to diverge more from porter, as less roasted malt was used in favour o brown malt, and stouts started to be sweeter. After tax rises and restrictions in the WWI, their strength started to decrease, being the stout strength dropped to the same level porter had before the war, while porter decreased even further. This lead to public opinion to believe that porter was a softer version of stout.

From a modern perspective, nowadays porters are considered to have more sweet-chocolate character in contrast with a more bitter-fruity touch of the stouts.

Related Styles

Baltic Porter

Baltic Porter mixes the malt flavors of English Porters with the restrained roast of German style smoked beer, and adds a higher ABV. It usually has complex aroma and flavour profiles with caramel, chocolate and/or fruits, with no sourness at all. Taste has a roasted touch and a clean lager character, but is much less roasted than an Imperial Stout.

Imperial Porter

Imperial Porter or American Porter is a more aggresive version of pre-prohibition Porters or English Porters. It has a dark brown appearance and strong dark malt aromas, with some burnt character and malt additions—chocolate, coffee, etc.— and some hop, even dry hopped. Flavor is malty, with some roasted character, and medium to high bitterness and finish is from dry to sweet. It is more bitter and alcoholic than English Porters, and less strong than American Stouts.

A Modern Classic interview

London (UK), 23/01/2020

Paul Anspach (Anspach & Hobday), “You can come up with a new mushroom doughnut stout or whatever you want to do, but there's no real depth of traditional history to that.”

Anspach & Hobday

A Modern Classic

Read the whole interview with Paul Anspach

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