Are All Dark Beers Stouts? (What’s The Difference?)

If you’ve been developing an interest in the world of beer and all its vast varieties, you may have come across the idea of dark beers a few times.

Are All Dark Beers Stouts? (What’s The Difference?)

There are a great deal of different dark beers that you can buy, and they’re all immediately identifiable by their dark brown shade – far from the pale gold of more typical beers.

Guinness, for example, is perhaps the most famous dark beer. However, you may have heard Guiness and other dark beers referred to as “stouts”. So, are all dark beers stouts?

Well, we’ve got the answers for you. In our handy guide below, you’ll find out whether all dark beers are known as stouts – and if not, what are they all known as?

Are there different types? You’ll find all that – and more – below.

Are All Dark Beers Stouts?

To begin with, let’s answer the big question. The answer is no: not all dark beers are stouts. Stouts are certainly a dark beer, but there are other categories of beer that are also dark. 

The main other type of dark beer is known as a “porter”. These actually came about before stouts were invented and named, going as far back as the 1700s.

In fact, the stout actually came from the porter.

As the porter became more and more advanced, with brewers experimenting and altering it in new ways, new kinds of porter developed – and one of the off-shoots was the stout, originally named the “Stout Porter”. 

Stout And Porter – What Is The Difference?

From this, we know that they must be quite similar to an extent, and not just because they are both dark beers.

Naturally, they are quite similar to an extent, so much so that many beer enthusiasts will just use whichever name they like for the two.

Stouts used to have a higher ABV than porters, which is a measure of the alcoholic strength of the beer, standing for “alcohol by volume”.

However, this has changed over the years, and there are now plenty of porters that have ABVs equal or higher than stouts. 

Similarly, stouts used to be marked by the ingredients of roasted and unmalted barley, while porters would use malted barley.

However, over the years as more and more variations of each have come to exist, the ingredients have also changed – making the two types similar again.

Brown Ales

As if all this wasn’t confusing enough, let’s add another dark looking beer into the mix.

Porters and brown ales are also very similar in their appearance, with both taking on a dark and brown quality when you see it sit in your glass.

On top of that, they even have a few similar hints of flavor, as well as similar traces of aroma and smell. 

The key difference between a brown ale and the porters and stouts of the world, though, is its ingredients.

Though the final flavoring may have similar touches, you won’t find any hints of roasted flavoring when you taste a brown ale. 

On top of this, there are also different types of brown ales, which differ in their ingredients and shades. Firstly, there are English brown ales and then there are American brown ales.

English brown ales will use English ingredients, such as English hops, and have a final color that is anywhere from a light red to a rusty brown – and to a full and dark brown too, at the other end of the spectrum.

American brown ales, on the other hand, will use (you guessed it) American ingredients and have their own subtle and specific range of colors. 

Whichever you have, though, the dark nature of it will certainly have you confusing it for a stout or a porter. 

Stout Beers

Stout Beers

There is a range of different types of stout available, as we’ve previously mentioned, and they all have their own characteristics.

Official style guides recognise some but not others, but between the major beer style guides we can get the overall following range. 

  • American Stout – American hops heightens the strength of this, as well as making it more bitter than other stouts. It has a roasty flavor and a low level of sweetness. Dark color.
  • Irish Stout – a flavor reminiscent of coffee, the world famous Guiness is one of these. Known to be quite dry.
  • Irish Extra Stout – has flavorful hints of chocolate, as well as the coffee of the previous version. 
  • British Imperial Stout – not quite chocolate, more a caramel flavor. Very rich and malty. 
  • Foreign Extra Stout – has a relatively high level of bitterness, as well as being dry. Flavors of roasted malt. 
  • Tropical Stout – made from tropical grains and styles, all to achieve a sweet taste. Very moderately bitter, but not nearly as much as others. 
  • Cream/Sweet Stout – as you can guess from the name, this is sweet in its flavor. If it tastes like coffee, it’s a combination of coffee and cream, with hints of roast. 
  • Oatmeal Stout – has flavor hints of oatmeal – which seems quite out there! A must try.

Porter Beers

Porters also have a wide range of different types, with subtle differences. A selection are:

  • American Porter – stronger than the English, which we’ll get to next. This is malty and dark.
  • English/Brown Porter – the original version of the porter beer. These shouldn’t have any burnt taste to it, and can come in a range of brown shades. 
  • Smoke Porter – this has hints of smoke malt in both its flavor and even its aroma.
  • Robust Porter – fruity and dark, which is not what you might expect from the full-on name.

Final Thoughts

Stouts are not the only dark beer, because porters and brown ales also exist. They can be, however, all quite similar – in both their appearance and flavor!

Mandy Winters

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