Craft Beer 101: stouts and porters

Stouts and Porters are likely the last thing most of you guys want to be drinking in the summer heat, but in a few months we're all going to welcome the cool weather with a nice glass of one of these beauties. But before we dive into the main attraction, we have to cover an important style that we missed last week...


There are two types of Barleywine, British and American. Like in all things, the American style tends to have more hop character than the British. They tend to be a deep amber in color with rich toffee and caramel malt and a boozy punch. There tend to be a lot of fruity esters, adding to the complexity. Barleywines also age incredibly well, some breweries release them as vintages. 

  • Malt: Caramel, Toffee, Sweet Bread
  • Hops: Hop aroma and flavor are medium to very high. Hop bitterness is high
  • ABV: 8.5-12.5%
  • Pair With: Barbacoa, Blue cheese, Basically anything with strong flavors

English Porter

IPA currently dominate the market, as super-style if you will. Well Porters were the first super-style. Porters were HUGE a couple hundred years ago. They were the first beer to be shipped around the world and were made popular by the advent of advanced malting techniques other than... well burning them. Before the options for roasting malt were basically light, medium, and burnt. They all changed with the advent of the English Porter which gave way to all the dark chocolaty goodness we know today.

  • Malt: Nutty, Chocolate, Caramel, Bready, Toffee
  • Hops: Hop aroma and flavor are not perceived to medium. Hop bitterness is medium
  • ABV: 4.5-6.0%
  • Pair With: Roasted Meats, Gruyere, Peanut Butter Cookies

Robust Porter

These are basically halfway between the English Porter and Stouts. Robust porters have a roast malt flavor, often reminiscent of cocoa, but no roast barley flavor. The line between Porters and Stouts can blur pretty easily but there are some great examples of the style worth trying out there, and you should try them. 

  • Malt: Grainy, Bready, Toffee, Caramel, Chocolate, Coffee, and the bitterness of black malt
  • Hops: Hop aroma and flavor are very low to medium. Hop bitterness is medium to high
  • ABV: 5.0-6.5%
  • Pair With: The same as English. What can I say, they work for both. But seriously... peanut butter cookies.

American Stout

American Stouts are Chocolate and Coffee forward flavored ales. They're often fairly highly hopped but the hop character is drowned out by the roasted malt flavor. American stouts are bold, with a distinctive dry-roasted bitterness in the finish. Oatmeal added to the mash leads to a richer mouth feel and greater head retention.

  • Malt: Low to medium malt sweetness with heavy roasted malt flavor and bitterness.  
  • Hops: Hops are low to high in flavor, often hopped with citrus or resin forward hops
  • ABV: 5.7-8.9%
  • Pair With: Lamb, Sharp Cheddar, Coffee Cake

Imperial Stouts

These are the beers that we wait around all year for. Monsters of Malt and Hops cranked up to 11 and packed with as much flavor and body as we can. They are incredibly rich and stand up to almost any addition which is why we see them barrel aged and with additions from chocolate to coffee to ginger to cayenne and everything in between. I'm not going to focus on the Barrel Aged monsters but classics of the base style. 

  • Malt: Bittersweet Coffee, Chocolate, Cocoa
  • Hops: Medium to High Hopping balanced with huge malt character
  • ABV: 7-12%
  • Pair With: Foie Gras, Aged Cheese, Chocolate Cake