The year is 1720. 

If you just touched down in London town, you would see a bustling city with ships docked at each port. If you were a male looking for work, you might have considered the popular porter trade.

With London being on the banks of the Thames River, ships would come and go bring all sort of products. The porter man would be responsible for carrying the goods from the ship to his vendor.

But what about vendors within the city who had a need for exchanging goods? A different kind of porter would be used for this task.

Needless to say, London could have been dubbed Porterville.

The popularity of this profession carried its way into the pubs. Brewers thought it would be nice to pay tribute to the working class, and thus a darker, stronger (both in taste and alcohol content) beer was made at an affordable price for the working class folk.

This is also where the area becomes grey between porter beers and stouts.

So let’s back up for a minute and discuss what each beer is and why there is a thin line of distinction.

A porter is a dark browncoloured brew with a strong flavour palate. A stout is also a dark brown-coloured brew with a strong fl avour palate. The difference lies in the strength of the fl avour palate. Whichever fl avours are placed in a stout, you will taste to the max. Very strong, perhaps with a hint of bitterness.

A porter will be strong, but not as powerful as a stout. The colour can be lighter.

Which ingredients create these beers? Well nothing too different from non-stout or porter beers. The malt is there, but a different colour, brown – until 1817, when a black malt began to be used for some brands.

Back to London town. Historically, porters came fi rst. The stout followed closely.

For many decades there was not much of a distinction. Some say a stout is just a stronger porter.

But somehow I think the brewery Arthur Guinness founded in the 1770s in Dublin, Ireland, changed that to establish a clear distinction.

I’m not talking about Guinness draft. I’m talking Guinness stout. This one does not come in a black can with a plastic ticker. It is bottles only for this flavourful black brew.

This is indeed quite a strong beer, and can easily be used as an umbrella category for stout beers.

Prior to Guinness, porter beers would be marked with the letter X to determine strength. The XX was a very strong porter.

Guinness sought to rebrand, with what it called Guinness Extra Stout Porter. During the 1800s stout became known for very strong, robust flavours attributed to its black malt grain, thus making the distinction from porter.

As for the porters, there are many to choose from, but none with as much name recognition as Guinness.

In these modern times, I would suggest Rickard’s Dark, which is brewed porterstyle and has Canadian maple syrup as one of the ingredients.

Try both, then decide if stout is worth your porter.