|A reader wrote in and asked about the difference between a stout and a porter. First note that while there are
many varieties of so-called ‘dark beer’ such as schwarzbier, Scotch ale, dark American lager etc., the broad
categories of stout and porter are probably the most well known so it's a question I often get.
In reality there are many variations and substantial overlap across the two styles. For example, an Irish Stout will
generally be a bit more bitter, have less body, and be lighter than other brewers' takes on porter. In the same way
that some pale ales seem more like IPAs or vice versa, so is the case with versions of stout and porter. One
defining feature of stouts is they are more likely to contain roasted barley as opposed to most porters
Historically speaking, the first of the two styles was porter, born about 300 years ago from the English brown ales
of the time. Stouts came after, as stronger, fuller-bodied versions of porters, aka “stout porters.” When a pub
offered both a stout and a porter, stout was always the stronger beer.
Porters and stouts share dark malts, which give them their classic black, or near-black, color. Before the advent of
modern-day kilning, most beers were on the darker side because grains were frequently roasted over open flames.
As far as our understanding of the first porter’s ingredients and brewing process, we know it was made mostly of
such open-flamed ‘brown malts,’ and was frequently aged in wood barrels for varying lengths of time. All of this
variation meant porter from batch to batch tasted differently (and maybe had some funky, even sour, barrel-aged
characteristics). Frequently the beer was blended at the pub where it was served.
As the popularity of porter and ‘stout porter’ grew, the styles morphed and changed based on region. Eventually
sub-styles of porters/stouts emerged, such as Baltic Porter – a lagered, stronger version t exported to the Baltics.
Rauchbier is a German-style beer brewed with smoked malt. It can be any style, but most commonly it is a
medium-strength lager. Rauchbier (German for “smoke beer”) is quite popular in Franconia, especially in
Bamberg and its surroundings, where it is usually brewed to märzen strength.
During the brewing process, the amount of smoked malt in the mash is crucial for the desired smokiness—as
is the yeast. Some modern brewers have noticed that their first rauchbier does not taste as smoky as they would
like—even when it is brewed from 100% smoked malt. This is because the yeast absorbs a significant portion of
the smoky flavor during fermentation. If this “smoked” yeast is subsequently used to ferment a nonsmoked beer,
it too may show a hint of smokiness.
Aecht Schlenkerla uses this fact for good effect in its Helles lager, a brew made without smoked malt, but with
repitched rauchbier yeast. More typically, rauchbier yeast is repitched into consecutive rauchbier batches for a
consistent smokiness. This yeast trick even works with brews that are not made from 100% smoked malt, that is,
when part of the mash is made up of caramel and dark malts for extra body and mouthfeel.
Hope you found this month's column of interest. If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just e-mail it to me.
Thanks and Cheers!
|Stout - Porter // Rauchbier
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer.
Hope you join me every month.
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14,
#15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29
|Techniques and insights
for the serious ceft beer
fan and home brewer.