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10 Best Holiday Porters and Stouts of 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It's just fine when spicy, fruity and even hoppy beers mark the occasion as special holiday offerings, but there's a warm spot in many beer lovers' hearts for the more potent versions of porters and stouts that appear around this time of year.

Just as a good pumpkin ale or fall seasonal serve as markers of the first cold days, a great, strong stout or porter can serve as a staple of the holiday season -- or even one down the road if it has enough alcohol content to age. If you're wondering how to tell a porter from a stout, we have some news for you: It basically depends on what the brewer names it.

Arthur Guinness caused this confusion when his recipe for Extra Superior Porter eventually became Guinness Stout. True porters didn't return until the initial American craft beer boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the only distinction coming from judges at beer competitions. They insist stouts are darker, use roasted barley and use less water than porters, but even that's open to interpretation.

Brewers and beers experts have never come to much agreement on the topic and are convinced it's just a matter of naming convention. Writer Adrienne So did a far better job summing it up last year for now-defunct industry magazine Beer West, but drinkers looking for a dark, lovely example of either style shouldn't trouble themselves with minutiae.

That's just time you could better spend enjoying those beers. In the interest of expediting the holiday cheer, and building on last year's offerings, here are just 10 examples of stouts and porters that are a perfect fit for the cold months ahead: