December 08, 2021
Dark beers are a mystery to many, as they're not nearly as popular as light beers. However, if you're passing on these beers, you're missing out! This whole category of beers offers a unique blend of aromas and flavors that you won't find with a light beer. Dark beers come in many styles but the most popular two are stouts and porters. They often get mistaken for one another due to a lack of knowledge about dark beers but we're here to clear the air and give them each a spotlight to shine in.
What is a Porter?
Originated in London, England in the early 18th century, this well hopped and dark beer gets its unique characteristics from the use of brown malt. The "porter" name derives from its popularity with street and river porters or vendors. These beers are recognizable by their deep ruby brown to black color. The dark malts impart chocolate and caramel flavors with a well-balanced and hearty flavor.
What is a Stout?
TA stout is a dark, top-fermenting beer that comes in several varieties. Some popular stouts are dry stout, oatmeal stout, milk stout, and imperial stout. Stronger porters, with 7 to 8% ABV, were called "stout porters", which is why the two terms are so closely associated. Stouts are porters but they are a much stronger variety with creamy notes and hoppy bitter flavors. Stouts have the characteristic chocolate and caramel flavors associated with porters.
How to Serve a Stout
Stouts are unique beers, as they require a little more thought and care when it comes to serving them. The perfect pour isn't just cracking a can or bottle open. To truly get the best tasting experience, you'll need some equipment and ideal conditions to bring out the best of your stouts and porters. Luckily, we have the knowledge and the serving equipment that you'll need.
Serve your stout with a kegerator
While you can find stouts in cans and bottles but they lack the signature foamy head and creamy body because these containers don't preserve the rich and creamy carbonation. The only way to enjoy a porter or a stout is with a kegerator. A kegerator uses carbon dioxide to dispense the beer, infusing the beer with carbonation and delivering that fresh taste. It also maintains that creamy and frothy body that you want to feel and taste when you're drinking a stout. There are specific stout kegerators that include all the ideal parts for dispensing a stout beer. Learn more about how a kegerator works here.
Use a stout faucet
When you're dispensing your stout, you need to be sure you're using a stout faucet because it allows this unique beer to cascade into the glass maintaining its creamy body and creating the delicious foamy head to the beer. Stout faucets are designed with a special restrictor disc that allows the beer to flow slowly into the glass, delivering the perfect pour.
Serve with Nitrogen
The unique thing about dispensing a stout is that it is dispensed using nitrogen. Nitrogen creates the thick foamy head and rich body that we associate with stouts. Also, nitrogen is used because carbon dioxide can cause the beer to taste bitter or bring out unwanted flavors from the beer. Dispensing using nitrogen greatly enhances the beer and unfortunately, most cans and bottles can't deliver that same experience. This is why a kegerator is so essential for serving a stout.
Serve your stout at 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit
A stout is ideally served at a slightly warmer temperature than other beers. Colder temperatures mute the fruity flavors of these beers hence, the slightly warmer temperature. Luckily, if you are serving the beer with a kegerator, you can easily control for the exact serving temperature you need.
Serve it in the right glass
The complex flavors and aromas of a stout are enhanced when poured into the appropriate glass. The right glass will have a generous capacity and rim size, which will maintain the foamy head of the beer, which carries the oils, aromas, and spices to the nose and palate. With such a bold beer, you need a thick bold glass to go with it.
A classic serving glass for many beers, the thick glass construction, and easy-to-grip handle is ideal for this dark beer. Since it is served slightly warmer, you don't want the beer to warm up too quickly as you're drinking it. The thick glass will keep the beer insulated and the handle will prevent your hands from warming up the beer. The wide rim maintains the aromatic head of the beer.
Dimpled Beer Mug
If you want to embrace every aspect of your stout, a dimpled beer mug has all the advantages of a classic beer mug but the dimples around the sides allow you to enjoy the deep caramel or dark color of the beer. The dimples reflect the light throughout the beer displaying the beautiful color and enhancing your beer drinking experience.
Beer steins have a very similar structure to a classic beer mug, keep your beer cool while you drink it and the heavy construction is bold enough for your dark beer. The advantage of some steins is that they have a cover to keep your beer from collecting any dust and debris.
At many breweries, you may find yourself being served a stout in a snifter glass. This large and bulbous glass with a wide and tapered lip elevates your tasting experience. The rounded shape directs the flow of the aromas of the beer upwards to your nose and the tapered wide rim holds the foamy head of the beer, containing more aromas and oils from the beer. The tapered lip also allows for the beer to cascade onto the tongue, giving you the best beer tasting experience.
Steel Pint Glass
This is one of our favorite ways to serve stout beer because, with an insulated double-walled stainless steel pint glass, your beer will stay at its ideal temperature for longer. Even as you continue to drink it, the double-walled construction prevents the heat from your hands from warming up the beer. A pint glass has a wide rim that maintains the aromatic foamy head that is so desirable with a beer like this.
A lot like a snifter glass, a wine glass has that bulbous shape that carries all the aromas and flavors to the nose and palate. If you get one with a tapered lip as well, the beer will cascade onto the tongue developing the complex flavors. The wide rim maintains the head of the beer and carries the aromas to the nose, which is a huge part of the stout drinking experience.
Types of Porters
Porters expand a wide range of flavor profiles and they are very different dispensing on the region they derive from. These are just the most common porters you will come across.
English Brown Porter
These are your quintessential porters with the typical characteristics of a dark brown color with a red tint and mild notes of roasted grains, chocolate, and toffee. There are occasionally undertones of coffee or licorice. The mouthfeel is thin and they don't have the harsh or bitter notes of a stout. The alcohol content is moderate.
These porters are lagered and cold-fermented with lager yeast, which is unusual for a porter classification. This style is commonly brewed in Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Poland, and Russia. This dark beer has the maltiness of a brown porter with the roasted crispness of a black lager. These full-bodied beers have a silky and creamy mouthfeel. The characteristics of this beer are a balance of smoke, roasted malt, and hoppy bitterness. These porters tend to be higher in alcohol content, about 7 percent to 10 percent ABV.
Inspired by the English porter, the American porter has a nice balance of flavors. These beers expand a wide range, some have big hop bitterness while others are as mild as their English counterparts. Typically medium brown to black in color, these beers tend to have chocolate, coffee, and vanilla flavors. Many are also aged in whiskey barrels, offering a unique hint of a smokey whiskey flavor.
American Imperial Porter
These beers have more intense and amplified flavors of the imperial beer category. Typically, these beers have a moderate caramel, cocoa, and malt sweetness that enhances the flavors of American hops. Each brewer selects a different variety of malt and hops, which greatly affects the final flavor of the beer. These beers are almost always black in color and highly alcoholic, ranging from 7 percent to 12 percent ABV.
These beers do not contain more alcohol but they are a more flavorful version of brown porters, hence the name. In this robust version, the bitterness and roasted malt flavors are more pronounced. This beer sits on the fine line between porter and stout, which means that a brewer may select one label over the other, depending on the brewer. The roasted flavors in porters come from malt, not the roasted barley of stouts. Characteristics of a robust porter are sharp bitterness of black malt with apparent hop bitterness, offset by caramel and malt sweetness.
These beers are typically robust porters with added smokey flavors from wood-smoked malt. The type of wood used varies and will impart a different flavor to a beer. Most smoked porters don't have a strong hoppy flavor and these beers can have strong alcoholic content, between 5.1 percent and 8.9 percent ABV.
Types of Stouts
As we have discussed, stouts are porters but they have very high alcohol content. Stouts also have their own unique characteristics that allow them to be further characterized into specific stout varieties. We'll go over some of the more popular stout varieties here.
Oats are a classic brewing ingredient; however, this ingredient can give the beer a bitter flavor. For this variety of beer, oats are added to the malt during the brewing process. The malt adds sweetness and balances out the bitterness from the oats. Oats are added not for the oaty flavor but they give the stout the smooth texture and finish, due to the fats, proteins, and gums it contains.
This stout has a sweet malty flavor with hints of nutty oatmeal and fruity characters with slight hop aromas. The texture gives the beer a smooth and velvety mouthfeel, which is characteristic of this stout. These stouts often have mild notes of coffee and medium hop bitterness.
These beers, unusually, actually contain oyster or oyster shells. This derives from brewers adding oyster shells to stouts to clarify it. The calcium carbonate contained in the shells turned a misty brew into a beautiful clear elixir. In modern oyster stouts, some varieties of oyster stout use only the shells, whilst others use both the shells and the oyster meat. Shockingly, this doesn't result in a fishy beer instead, the oysters add sweetness and a subtle tanginess. Stouts that use the oyster together with its shell have a more full-bodied taste.
These beers are often classified as sweet stouts. They often have notes of chocolate, coffee, or caramel aromas. These oyster stouts have a slightly mineral-like and bitter aftertaste. These dark and heavy beers have a semi-sweet in taste with notes of chocolate, coffee, or caramel aromas.
This beer variety uses dark malts to create a dark and rich chocolate color. The roasted dark malt also gives the malt a bitter chocolate flavor and aroma. Brewers take different approaches to chocolate stouts with varying quantities of chocolate or chocolate flavoring. There should be a noticeable chocolate flavor to this beer with minimal hoppiness and some bitterness. Sometimes oats will be added to this beer to create a smooth mouthfeel, which means there aren't clearly defined lines between the different beer varieties.
The Imperial Stout is sometimes also called the Russian Imperial stout because of its need to travel the long distance from England to Russia. This beer was developed with more hops and stronger alcohol content to make the long journey to Russia. This old-school beer style has fallen out of favor recently but you can still find this classic from some brewers.
This stout is intense and complex with variable ranges of roasted flavors malt tones, hoppiness & fruity esters. Common characteristic notes of this stout are chocolate, coffee, burnt grain & dark fruits. There is a noticeable alcohol warmth with a dry or sweet finish.
Pouring Phenomenal Porters
From porters to stouts and every beer variety across the board, Beverage Factory offers a variety of dispense equipment to deliver the perfect pour every time. To fully enjoy your beers, acquiring the best dispensing equipment and beverage accessories is essential. Our team of experts can help you select everything you need to elevate your beer drinking experience. Contact our team at 800-710-9939.