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What is the difference between a porter and a stout?

A stout and a porter are both dark beers with a rich and toasty flavour, but they have some differences in their origins, flavor profile and history. What is the difference between a porter and a stout? And what do they mean by barrel aged stouts? What about non-alcoholic porters and stouts? We tell you all about it.
non-alcoholic stout beers
Big drop milk stout

Origin and history

Porter: The porter beer originated in 18th century London, England. It was originally a mixture of different types of beer, such as brown ale, pale ale and old beers. Porters were popular with workers and merchants because of their affordability and taste.

Naughty: Naughty originated ​​as a stronger version of porters. The name "stout" originally meant "strong" in the context of beer. Stout beers were originally advertised as "stout porters", and they gradually became stronger and more robust than traditional porters.

Taste profile

Porter: Porters generally have a rich, malty and lightly toasted character. They can display an array of flavors including chocolate, caramel, nuts and sometimes some fruitiness. In general, porters tend to be less alcoholic and less roasted than stouts.

Stout: Stouts generally have a deeper roasted flavor and can show notes of coffee, chocolate and even smoke. They can also vary in strength, ranging from lighter dry stouts to heavier imperial stouts with higher alcohol percentages and more intense flavours.

Alcohol percentage

Porter: Porters usually have a moderate alcohol content, usually ranging from 4% to 6%.

Stout: Stouts can have a wide range of alcohol content, ranging from lighter stouts with a lower alcohol content to heavier imperial stouts that can contain 8% or more alcohol.

Both variants are also available alcohol-free.


Porter: There are different varieties of porters, such as ruby red porters and brown porters, which differ subtly in taste and character.

Stout: Stouts also have different variations, including dry stouts, sweet stouts, oatmeal stouts, milk stouts and imperial stouts, each with their own unique characteristics and flavor profiles.

Pastry Stout

Rock City French Toast Pastry Stout Alcohol Free
Rock City French Toast Pastry Stout Alcohol Free

The emergence of the pastry stout is clearly visible. But what is that actually? A "pastry stout," as the name suggests, is a special type of stout beer inspired by sweet and decadent desserts. This beer style is known for using ingredients commonly found in pastries and desserts, such as chocolate, vanilla, coffee, caramel, fruit, nuts, spices, and even cookies or pastries. The purpose of a pastry stout is to recreate the taste and aromas of a dessert in a beer.

Other dark beers

In addition to porters and stouts, there are many other dark beer styles. Examples are: Oud Bruin, Dubbel beer, Bock, Quadrupel, Black IPA, Schwarzbier, Belgian Strong Dark beer and Scotch Ale.

Barrel Aged

A "barrel-aged stout" is a special type of stout beer that is aged after the brewing process in wooden barrels, usually barrels that were previously used to store strong alcoholic beverages such as whisky, bourbon, rum or wine. This aging in wooden barrels adds complexity and depth to the taste and aroma of the beer. Here are some characteristics of barrel-aged stouts.

The barrels for barrel aged stouts
The barrels for barrel aged stouts

  1. Aging in wooden barrels: Barrel-aged stouts are transferred to wooden barrels after primary fermentation. During the maturation process, the beer absorbs the flavors and aromas of the wood and the previous contents of the barrel, such as whisky, bourbon or wine.

  2. Enriched flavor profile: The barrel aging gives the stout extra layers of flavor and aroma. You can encounter notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, coconut, smoke, spices and even fruitiness, depending on the type of cask used.

  3. Alcohol percentage: Often barrel-aged stouts increase slightly in alcohol percentage during the maturation process. This can vary, but many barrel-aged stouts have a higher alcohol content than unaged stouts.

  4. Aging Duration: The duration of aging in barrels can vary widely, from a few months to several years. During this time the beer develops and absorbs the flavors of the wood and the previous contents of the keg.

  5. Limited Editions: Barrel-aged stouts are often released in limited quantities due to the complexity of the aging process and the time it takes to perfect the beer. This often makes them highly sought after and collectable beers among beer enthusiasts.

Alcohol-free porters and stouts

An alcohol-free stout is a variation of the traditional stout beer where the alcohol content has been removed or reduced to a very low level, usually below 0.5% alcohol by volume. This allows the beer to retain its distinctive flavor profile and aromas without the alcohol content normally associated with beer.

Non-alcoholic stouts are produced using various techniques to reduce or remove the alcohol content. Some common methods are:

Mash Gang stout alcohol free
Mash Gang - Hand that feeds

  1. Heating and distillation: The beer is gently heated to evaporate the alcohol and then the alcohol is distilled out. However, this can sometimes affect the taste and aromas.

  2. Reverse osmosis: Here the beer is filtered through a special membrane to separate the alcohol and other compounds, after which the alcohol-free beer is restored by mixing the resulting concentrate with water.

  3. Fermentation stop: Fermentation is stopped early before all sugars have been converted into alcohol, so that the alcohol content remains lower.

  4. Dilute: The beer can be diluted with water or other liquids to reduce the alcohol content.

  5. Fermentation with non-alcoholic yeast: Some brewers use special yeasts that produce less alcohol during the fermentation process.

An alcohol-free stout still has the distinctive flavors of a traditional stout, such as roasted malt, chocolate and coffee-like aromas. However, as alcohol also contributes to the mouthfeel and depth of flavour, an alcohol-free variant may feel slightly thinner in the mouth and subtly differ from the experience of a fully alcoholic stout.

Some good non-alcoholic porters and stouts at a glance:

  1. Guinness Draft 0.0% Perhaps the most famous Irish stout with its characteristic creamy head, but completely alcohol-free

  2. Galea Holy Roasty A low alcohol (0.5%) stout with a nice body where the notes of coffee predominate

  3. vandeStreek Hard Pour A nitro stout from Dutch soil with an alcohol percentage of 0.5% You can shake this beer before drinking it to ensure a nice foam head

  4. Mash Gang Hand that Feeds Mash Gang varies greatly in assortment, but they release very cool stouts. One of the most famous is the Reign in Blood, with cherry and vanilla. This Hand that Feeds is on the dry side, but still has the recognizable sweet and roasted taste that you expect from a stout

  5. Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout A milk stout from English soil with honeycomb and chocolate.

  6. Nittenauer Lola To the extent that we currently have in our range, this is the only non-alcoholic (0.5%) porter from Germany with a nice light dry coffee taste.


Although the lines between stouts and porters have become somewhat blurred over time and there is a lot of overlap in their flavor profiles, these traditional beer styles are still recognized and appreciated by beer enthusiasts around the world. The barrel aging process adds an extra dimension to the character of the stout and can lead to beers with deeper, richer and sometimes surprising flavours. Barrel-aged stouts are popular in the craft beer world for their unique and luxurious profile, but they can also carry higher price tags due to the labor-intensive nature of the aging process. Alcohol-free porters and stouts are also available on the market. Although you then get a slightly lighter body, these beers retain their deep characteristic taste and you are not left with a hangover.

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