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What is the Difference between Stouts & Porters?

Stout vs. Porter: What’s the Difference?

Delve deeper into dark ales with our guide to the subtle but distinct differences between two of the most popular varieties…

It doesn’t matter whether you’re branching out from lager or you’re a bigtime beer lover on a quest to try different kinds, it’s tricky to pick something new these days. That’s mainly down to how much choice there is out there, both in pubs and supermarkets, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. But even when deciding what ‘genre’ of beer you’re going to choose, it’s not easy working out those subtle little differences between similar styles, like pilsners and helles, pale ales and IPAs, or stouts and porters.

When it comes to beer at Greene King, we know our stuff, and we want to help you make your mind up that bit easier when browsing our cracking beer range. So, here’s what you need to know about stouts and porters:

What are the main differences between stout and porter?

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that porters and stouts have as many similarities with one another as differences. If you sat a pint of each beer side by side, the chances are you wouldn’t be able to tell which is which by sight alone. However, if you give them a smell or taste, there are subtle differences to be found, with a trained nose and palate. But for the most part, the biggest factors that separate stouts and porters are historical. 

Porter has been around for many, many years. It was especially popular in London in the 1700s as much for its strength as its flavour. It was known for its relatively high alcohol volume, and as its popularity increased over time, the alcohol volume dropped slightly to mitigate rising taxes and grain shortages in wartime.

Originally, stout was a type of porter on the high alcohol volume end of the spectrum. But with time, the brewing processes deviated from one another. Porters were brewed using brown barley, while stouts were made using roasted and unmalted barley.

What about now?

There have never been more varieties of stout and porter than there are now, which is in no small part down to the world’s growing love for experimental craft beers. But that does mean that the key notes that identify porters and stouts are less clear. 

For the most part though, porters have less alcohol than stouts and have a slightly lighter colour. They’re known for aromas and tasting notes of chocolate, caramel and coffee. 

Stouts are typically very dark in colour, with bitter and roasted flavours and a creamy texture. Some retain those chocolatey flavours, while others even use oats in the malt to add to the richness and complexity of the taste. This combination lends itself perfectly to pairing with rich, flavourful plates, like roast beef, casseroles, or even chocolate desserts. And there are a few stouts we’re especially fond of, but we’ll get to that very shortly.

Overall though, because there are so many different kinds of stout and porter out there, the two often overlap with each other. That means there’s a good chance that if you enjoy the full-bodied flavour of one, you’re very likely to enjoy the other! So, don’t be afraid to switch it up and try both.

Greene King stout beers

If it’s those roasted, chocolatey notes you’re eager to try in your next pint, we have three different kinds of stout available right here at the Greene King shop. From our most popular kind to our brand new craft Sub Terranea, here, we’ll take you through each of them to help you branch out and enjoy stout!


Belhaven Black

This favourite from Scotland is enjoyed all over the UK and is loved for its dark chocolate complexity. Made exclusively with Scottish grown barley and water local to the brewery, Belhaven Black pays tribute to 300 years of brewing tradition in Scotland. 

Only one type of hop makes an appearance in Belhaven Black, and it’s kept to a minimum. The Challenger hop adds a subtle bitterness to the taste, which tempers the sweetness of the chocolate and roasted malt flavours but still allows them to take centre stage. If you’re into pairing your tipple with a meal that works perfectly with the complex notes of your beer, consider whipping up a steak pie or beef stew to go with a pint of Belhaven Black. We promise you, both will go down a treat.

Belhaven Scottish Oat Stout

Crack open a bottle of Belhaven Scottish Oat Stout and the first thing you’ll notice are the delicious aromas of coffee and roasted malt. Made using a mash that includes Crystal, Pale and Chocolate malts, roast barley and even oats (as the name suggests), the result is a deliciously smooth and intense dark beer.

At 7% ABV, Scottish Oat is considerably stronger than your average beer, so it’s not really a session drink. But those rich and intense flavours lend themselves to being paired with a wide variety of meals including game birds, grilled meats, and not forgetting sticky toffee pudding - those hints of chocolate take it to the next level.

Sub Terranea Oatmeal Stout

Meet one of Greene King’s newest creations, Sub Terranea oatmeal stout. This beautifully smooth ale is actually not as new as it seems – we recovered an old recipe dating all the way back to 1926 and brought it into the 21st century with modern brewing techniques. The result is a deliciously complex beer that has aromas of chocolate and coffee, and leaves subtle hints of caramel and treacle on the palate. 

The name has a bit of a story, too. Sub Terranea is actually named in honour of a folk tale about an ill-fated fiddler who got lost wandering the tunnels beneath Bury St. Edmunds. Why not lose yourself in the intense flavours of an intense craft oatmeal stout?

Those are the essential need-to-knows about stouts and porters. The historic brown barley and unmalted barley distinction was perhaps the most clearly defined difference between the two. These days, the lines between stout and porter are blurry, and there’s a lot of crossover between both styles. So, give them a try and find a new beer to tickle your tastebuds!