Stout vs. IPA: What Is the Difference?

Stout vs. IPA

Like all beers, both stouts and IPAs are made with the same basic ingredients, i.e. water, yeast, hops, and malt. But that’s where the similarity ends. The two are, in fact, quite different from one another. Even the dates of their first appearance in the market are different. Let’s dive deep and understand what makes these two beers so different, not only in appearance but also in their flavor, alcohol content, and bitterness.  

What came first?

Stout beers were introduced in the 1600s in London and were extremely popular among the porters in the city. This is where the name stout porter comes from. It had a strong flavor, was long-lasting, and was cheap. In a few decades, Arthur Guinness opened his very first stout brewery in Ireland in 1776.

IPAs, also known as India Pale Ales, on the other hand, came in the 1700s and were named as such because they were primarily manufactured to be exported to India for the British living there. While pale ales spoiled quicker, India Pale Ales were heavily hopped, and since hops act as a preservative, they lasted a long time, making them ideal for extensive six-month journeys from England to India. And the mastermind behind it was Hodgson. He was a brewer who sent heavily hopped beer on this long voyage, and it survived.


In most cases, the colors of the two styles of beer are different. Stouts are darker and have a coffee-like color, and can sometimes even be jet-black. IPAs are largely lighter in color, more towards a caramel or an amber tone. However, black IPAs also exist. An example is Sierra Nevada’s Blindfold, with an ABV of 6.8% and an IBU of 70. These black IPAs can often be confused with stouts, but while they have roasted malts added to them just like stouts to get the dark color, they are hoppier, giving them a distinctive IPA flavor. 


Aside from the four base ingredients that make them both beer, stouts and IPAs differ because of the different additional ingredients used to make them. These added ingredients create different fragrances and tastes. 

Stouts use black malt or roasted barley, which gives them a darker color and a rich flavor. To add bitterness, hops such as East Kent Goldings and Fuggles are used, and other varieties like Willamette add floral notes to them. The yeast added is an ale strain fermenting at cooler temperatures that gives it a creamy texture and a coffee-like or chocolate flavor. The water used to make stouts doesn’t contain a lot of minerals because of the negative effects these minerals have on the taste.

IPAs use pale malt that gives them a light golden hue with flavors that are milder than stouts. The hops used are mostly Amarillo and Cascade for a citrusy flavor and Centennial for an earthy or piney aroma. The yeast added is generally an American Ale strain, and the fermentation occurs at warmer temperatures that give the beer crispiness and a banana or clove flavor. IPAs also don’t use water with a lot of minerals because these can mess up the flavor profile of the beer. 


Some of the common flavors that you can associate with stouts are licorice, chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut. These tastes and flavors are more like dessert. Stouts are also creamier, silkier, and more full-bodied than IPAs.  

IPAs, on the other hand, are completely different from stouts in terms of their flavor. They are more citrusy, floral, piney, and fruity. If you think of stouts as dessert, then IPAs are more like an appetizer. They are also more bitter and watery than stouts.

Hoppy or not?

IPAs are hoppier than stouts which is why they are more bitter, in a good way. Stouts, on the other hand, usually have more malts in them, making them sweeter than IPAs. Some people don’t like the bitter taste of hoppy beers, and so they are more attracted to the maltiness of stouts. But, what you will like will depend on the kind of taste that your taste buds prefer. 

Brewing processes

Initially, stouts are brewed by fermenting the wort in which the yeast added eats the sugars resulting in alcohol production along with flavorful elements, releasing carbon dioxide in the process. In the next stage of fermentation, during the oxidation and aging phase, more flavors are produced. The long fermentation used to produce stouts results in them having a higher ABV than IPAs.

IPAs use different yeast during primary fermentation, i.e. ale yeasts. These yeasts give rise to fruity esters. This, along with a higher quantity of hops used, give IPAs a unique taste and flavor with a combined effect from the esters and the bitterness of hops.

The rest of the fermentation is the same for both types of beer. Malted grains are boiled in water, creating a wort, after which hops are added to give the beer a characteristic aroma and flavor. The flavor profile will change depending on when the hops were added in the process. The wort is then cooled, and yeast is added, after which the primary and secondary fermentation processes can start, which are different for each style of beer.

Health benefits

Both types of beer contain antioxidants that help remove free radicals from the body and prevent the harm caused by oxidation. However, stouts contain more antioxidants because roasted grains are used to make them. Lighter-colored IPAs generally have no roasted grains in them, except for the darker-colored IPAs.    

Both stouts and IPAs are quite popular in pubs and are appreciated for their different characteristics. Which one you prefer depends on the kind of tastes and flavors that your palate likes. For stout beers, you can try Guinness Draught, which has a creamy texture and a coffee and roasted barley flavor. The Torpedo Extra IPA by Sierra Nevada is a great choice for IPA lovers that balances the strong hoppy flavor with the malt sweetness.    

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