Various records indicate that the term “Stout” was used to describe beer earlier than “Porter”. Sixty years before the term “Porter” was used to describe beer, the word “Stout” appeared in Egerton’s manuscript to express the meaning of a strong beer. Obviously, in English, “Stout” means strong and high. For example, the earlier type of beer was called “Stout Pale Ale”, which only referred to it as a high-quality light beer. Of course, there is also “Stout Brown Ale”, which was later referred to as “Stout Porter” when Porter emerged.
As I mentioned before, Porter was popular in the UK, as well as in other regions influenced by the British Empire. Using a similar formula, but with a German Lager beer production process (Lager for bottom fermentation, Ale for top fermentation), the Baltic Sea region became popular for brewing beer in Northern Europe. However, this kind of beer is quite different from the traditional British style of porter, including the fermentation type. We won’t discuss it here. Meanwhile, Ireland, England’s neighbor, continued the legacy of Porter and evolved it into the style of Stout that we know today.
The well-known Irish beer company, Guinness Brewery (don’t ask me why they have two names), which is the parent company of Guinness World Records, introduced the Porter beer in Ireland in 1776. In 1817, after the invention of patent malt (black malt), they were the first to abandon the use of 100% brown malt in Porter beer production, which was far ahead of the more conservative English brewers. Later on, they also experimented with brewing Porter-like beer using roasted black barley in addition to malted barley, which gave Guinness its distinctive taste profile of rich bitterness reminiscent of coffee and chocolate.
Due to the impact of the two World Wars, Porter declined and eventually disappeared in England. However, Ireland, being less affected, maintained its own brewing tradition. They continued producing the rich and flavorful Stout beer, which gradually became synonymous with Porter. In the past 30 years, breweries like Jian Li have gradually reduced the alcohol content of Stout to cater to public taste, resulting in the unique Irish Dry Stout we have today.
Both Stout and Porter are brewed using four basic malts (from light to dark: pale malt, brown malt, dark malt, and roasted barley). It is evident that Porter relies heavily on brown malt, with little to no use of roasted barley, while Stout has a higher proportion of dark malts and roasted barley, such as chocolate malt. This gives Stout a higher alcohol content, a pronounced roasted barley flavor, a richer and more complex taste profile, and, most importantly, endless possibilities for experimentation.
Among the top 20 beers in the world, Stout beers, represented by Imperial Stout and Barrel-Aged Stout, account for 14 of them. This demonstrates the significant influence of Stout in today’s beer scene.
Therefore, it can be said that Stout originated from Porter, but it has surpassed its predecessor. It has diverged significantly from the original definition of Porter, similar to the distinction between British IPA and modern IPA.