Top of the Hops: A stout review of porters

Is there a difference between a porter and a stout?

Is there a difference between a porter and a stout?

Where do we begin?

Is there a difference between a porter and a stout? A question that has flummoxed a great many and caused much debate and rancour. Well, let me save you a Google search and answer: in short, no. Well, not in any meaningful way, aside from Porter historically being stronger.

A brief history lesson for the uninitiated:
Porter is a dark style of beer developed in London from well-hopped beers made from brown malt. The name was first recorded in the 18th century and is thought to come from its popularity with street river, and latterly Railway porters.

Porters (folk who carried stuff around) worked irregular hours and would want a strong filling brew when clocking off.

You will be familiar with stout if you’ve ever sampled Ireland’s national beverage of choice. Fun fact: Which country drinks the most Guinness per head in the world? Read on to find out…

So here are my three Top of the Hops for Porters

#1. Beavertown Smog Rocket, Smoked Porter, 5.4%

Beavertown make a plethora of damn tasty tipples and I recommend a visit to their taprooms in Tottenham Hale. This black beauty is another fine example of their signature branded style; a well-conceived beer in a comic book inspired can with pulled-out metal detailing. For me it’s hard to see past this beauty when standing at the bar, it is that good.

In their own words:

“Inspired by London’s Industrial Revolution when Smog filled the air and the Porter was the beer of the people. An original home brew recipe using 9 different malts including a good chunk of smoked ‘Rauchmaltz’ from Bamberg, Germany. Big flavour hits of molasses, raisins and caramel are cut with the resinous US hop Chinook. Smokey aromas fly, reminiscent of the smoke stacks of industrial London.”

Malt: Best, Smoke, Caramalt, Crystal, Oats, Munich, Brown, Chocolate, Black

Hops: Magnum, Chinook

#2 Guinness, West Indies Porter, 6%

The first stout/porter I tried was Guinness, as probably is the case for you dear reader. Then Guinness decided to diversify their product range and boom! Guinness says the recipe dates back to 1801, which may have influenced the simple bold type and colour palette. The shield shaped logo and distinctive colours held to distinguish it from Guinness’ ever-expanding range. This particular porter has a little sister (“Dublin Porter”), but the ‘Windies’ is the one for me.

In their own words:

“A beer well-travelled, Guinness West Indies Porter was inspired by a recipe devised by our brewers back in 1801, when we first decided to export our legendary porter across the globe. The mother of what we now know as our Foreign Extra Stout, it was the pioneering brew that began it all, crafted with more hops to preserve the beer during sea voyages of four-to-five weeks in tropical climes.”

Aroma: Toffee, caramel, slight chocolatey notes

Flavour: Sweet, more chocolate than coffee flavours

Palate: Smooth easy finish, with a medium sweet mouth feel

Appearance: Ruby red with a frothy head

#3. 5 Points Railway Porter, London Porter, 4.8%

Five Points is based in Hackney, East London, and has been brewing bold, flavoursome beers in a Victorian railway arch since March 2013. Kate Lyons, the graphic artist behind their visual branding, created a clean and classic look that still manages to be bold and eye-catching.

In their own words:

“A Porter in the classic London style with our own twist. Aromas of chocolate and coffee with hints of caramel, brewed with British East Kent Goldings hops.”

Hops: East Kent Goldings


Thanks for reading, if you’ve made it this far then I can reveal that Nigeria consumes the most Guinness per head globally. More than Ireland. Crazy.


Image source: Beavertown


Chris Jeeves
Bitchin’ Kitchen in house beer enthusiast