Beer meisters love to argue over the differences between porters and stouts. Some say porters are lighter and sweeter; others say stouts must contain roasted malts. In the 19th century, brown stout was simply the term for the strongest version of porter. We’re not weighing in on this debate, but can say with certainty that both categories fare well at festive gatherings and can carry a chilly, dark season way beyond the solstice.
Here are some to try:
Stone Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter with vanilla beans is made with whole Madagascar beans and blends chocolaty, coffee, toffee-like flavors with subtle smokiness and vanilla sweetness. It’s definitely an ebony-hued dessert in a glass. Some revelers may want to add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to gild the lily. 5.9 percent ABV.
Arcadia Ales’ Shipwreck Porter is a robust, malty Baltic-style porter (so named by British producers for porters exported to the cold climes of the Baltic countries and Scandinavia). Aged in 10-year old Kentucky bourbon barrels for 12 months, this dark elixir from Battle Creek, Mich., features undertones of vanilla, oak, cocoa and coffee. At 12 percent ABV, this porter will ward off winter’s chill. Interesting factoid: Aging takes place in abandoned Michigan mines at a constant 45F.
Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout won’t be the top pick of super-sweet or milk stout cognoscenti, but this jet-black brew has a creamy head and offers roasted malt and grain aromas plus chocolate flavors delicately balanced with a clean, bitter finish. At 6.1 percent ABV, it’s great with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding – or perhaps while rediscovering the Bard’s sonnets.