Conventional wisdom has long held that the resumption of large-scale American beer production after Prohibition led to the use of 'adjuncts' not typically found in European beer—most notably, corn, rather than a full grain bill of barley or a combination of barley and wheat. These cheaper ingredients led to a bland, watered-down brew, and until the resurgence of craft beer in the US over the past 20 years, it was impossible to find a beer made with ingredients that America's first European settlers would have recognized; at least, that's how the story goes. The truth is a bit more complicated, and it goes back to the Mayflower.
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There are many myths swirling around the origins and evolution of porter and stout. First there is the notion that stout and porter refer to quite different styles; another holds that these beers were always dark, while a third tradition relies on the 'three threads' story to give porter an origin myth. All these tales are largely—and in some cases entirely—untrue.