Stout and porter — can you see the light

At the Australian International Beer Awards some years back we discussed the differences between ‘porter’ and ‘stout’, the commonest names for dark, malty beers.
We had on the judging panel several experienced stout makers and a mix of lager-focused but well-travelled brewers as well.

The distinction between the two styles, we decided, was not clear and that there was considerable crossover – for the simple reason that both stout and porter come in a spectrum of styles.

Dr Tim Cooper, now head of Cooper’s Brewery, Adelaide, but at the time its chief brewer (and an accomplished stout maker) summed up the discussion: ‘if you can see through it, it’s porter; if you can’t, it’s stout’.

Tim’s throwaway line captured the beer’s three-hundred year history: it appears that porter came first, probably in the early 18th century, and that stout was a more robust version of it and originally called ‘stout porter’.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007