Porter beer has come a long way from its early moniker of a “meal in a glass” and a good supplement for breastfeeding mothers. The craft beer explosion has reignited interest in this old style and been lovingly embraced by US microbrewers.
So, what exactly is a Porter beer and how is it made? What about the taste and the different styles currently being brewed? Our roadmap will guide you through the world of Porter and Stout easily and quickly.
Fasten your seatbelts and get ready to discover a beer style loved all over the world.
What Is Porter Beer?
Porter is a style of beer that was developed in London, England, in the early 18th century. It was well-hopped and dark in colour owing to the brown malt used to brew it. The name originated from its popularity with street and Thames River porters carting goods.
The history of stout and porter are intertwined. The name “stout”, used for a dark beer, came about because strong porters were marketed as “stout porters”. The term was shortened to stout as the English are known to do.
Guinness Extra Stout was originally called “Extra Superior Porter” and was not given the name “Extra Stout” until 1840. Today, the terms are used by different breweries almost interchangeably to describe dark beers.
What Is The History Of Porter Beer?
The beer known as Porter first appeared in the early 1700s, becoming a common beverage of choice for thirsty London workers. Porters were then more robust brown ales, designed to be ready to drink on delivery. This notion may be strange to beer drinkers today, but back in those days, beer barrels were delivered young and required ageing by publicans prior to serving.
The early London Porters were also strong beers by modern standards, traditionally around 6.5% ABV. But this figure dropped to around 5% over time due to taxes on malt.
The popularity of the style prompted brewers to release different Porters of varying characteristics. One of the first of these was a strong brew which was christened Single Stout Porter. This appears to be the first time the word ‘Stout’ was used to describe a beer.
Simply put, Stout was a strong Porter. Double, Triple and Imperial Stout Porters soon followed. Over the following century, the ‘Porter’ suffix was gradually dropped from these beers, and Porters and Stouts became stand-alone beers in their own right.
Ireland has always brewed slightly stronger and darker stouts. These appealed to Arthur Guinness who discovered a tax concession using unmalted and roasted barley, as opposed to the brown barley typically used in Porters at that time.
This became the main difference between English Porters and Irish Stouts. Remember that Porters and Stouts are an ale.
What Are The Different Types Of Porter Beer?
There are broad categories of Porters and Stouts. While there are many varieties of “dark beer” such as schwarzbier, Scotch ale, dark American lager, the broad styles of stout and porter are probably the most well known.
- English Brown Porter: English brown porters showcase the original characteristics of the entire porter style. Typically, the brew is very dark brown with some showing a red tint. It’s almost opaque. The nose usually contains mild notes of roasted grains, chocolate, and toffee. There can also be undertones of coffee or liquorice. No bitterness in this one.
- Baltic Porter: Baltic porters are lagered and cold-fermented with lager yeast, so they’re the exception to the porter’s ale classification. Originally brewed in England and strong enough to withstand sailing across the North Sea, the style is now commonly brewed in Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Poland, and Russia.
- American Porter: The American porter is English inspired but has a distinctly American character with few style rules. Some have big hop bitterness while others are as mild as the English style.
- American Imperial Porter: As with imperial stouts, American imperial porters amplify every element of the beer style.
- Robust Porter: Though not stronger in alcohol, robust porters are a more flavourful version of brown Porters.
- Smoke Porter: Smoke Porters are most often a robust Porter with smoky flavours added with the use of wood-smoked malt.
So who drinks the most Porters and Stouts?
How Much Porter Beer Is Consumed Worldwide? Who Drinks The Most?
Did you you know that besides the UK holding the top spot for loving Porters and Stouts, Nigeria holds second place with Ireland taking third place. Northern America slips in at fourth place.
And the most popular brand of Porter in the world is from the US.
What Is The Most Popular Porter Beer Brand In The World?
Everett, brewed by Hill Farmstead, is the most popular Porter in the world. With an ABV of 7.5%, Everett pours an opaque black with a tan head that leaves a delicate lacing down the side of the glass as you drink. It has a depth of flavour and complexity with a deep chocolate roast flavour with a subtle underlying sweetness.
All this begs the question of whether Guinness is a Porter beer?
Is Guinness a Porter Beer?
Guinness’ dark, creamy brew was originally called Porter, and later Stout Porter, to denote its strength and popularity. The style grew so successful that Guinness stopped brewing other varieties of beers, focusing instead on porters and stouts.
So what makes Porters so popular. It’s all in the taste as they say.
What Does Porter Beer Taste Like?
Porter’s nose usually contains mild notes of roasted grains, chocolate, and toffee. There can also be undertones of coffee or liquorice. The mouthfeel is thin but not watery. The flavour is always mild with very little of the slightly more bitter notes of stout.
With the taste in mind, let’s turn to the best 10 Porter beers to try.
The 10 Top Porters To Try
- Hillstead Farm Everett (US): This Porter is naturally carbonated with gorgeous and decadent flavours and an ultra-smooth full-bodied finish.
- Deschutes Black Butte Porter (Germany): With its characteristic smoky taste, this is a great Porter for newbies starting out on their Porter journey. And to top it off, it’s very affordable.
- Night Shift Awake (US): Known as one of the smoothest Porters, it’s rich and smooth with intense flavours, bordering on the earthy and nutty.
- Anchor Porter (US): This porter is the pinnacle of a handmade dark beer with a solid black colour, an intense chocolate flavour with caramel and espresso notes. It is full-bodied smoothness personified.
- Ecliptic Capella Porter (US): Known for its drinkability, Ecliptic is very silky with pleasant mild flavours.
- Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Coffee Porter (US): Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is a sophisticated brew with many tastes at play, evoking a whole diner-style meal in a glass.
- Founders Porter (US): This beer leans more towards chocolate with a non-sweet chocolate and malt flavour upfront. Only then do roasted coffee flavour and hops come in at the finish.
- Pecan Porter (US): This strong Porter is prepared using organically grown 2-row malt for health-conscious Porter consumers. This pecan drink gives off an intense nutty taste, with a hint of pecan.
- Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter (US): If you like something different from the typical coffee, chocolate, and caramel notes in your Porter, this peanut butter-inspired beer provides a good change.
- The Alchemist Pappy’s Secret Stash (US): The charred malt, vanilla, and dark chocolate flavours come first, with a mild caramel taste. It finally finishes again with the vanilla and dark chocolate notes.
Let’s move on to which foods pair well with Porter beer now that we’ve got to know all the flavours and aromas.
What Foods Can You Pair With Porter Beer?
Think broadly about smoked foods, barbecue, sausage, rich stews, meats, bacon and chilli.
Porter is ideally suited to meat dishes such as steak or game. This dark, aromatic beer also pairs well with desserts or mature cheese.
Try these pairings:
- Oysters and Guinness is one of the beer world’s classic pairings.
- Dark beefy or venison stews such as oxtail.
- Steak and game pies are great with Porter.
- American-style barbecue especially BBQ ribs or smoked brisket, anything smoky.
- Stilton and similar mellow blue cheeses are a brilliant pairing.
- Dark chocolate cakes and desserts.
- Vanilla ice cream is also a winner.
And The Best Glass For A Porter?
Nonic pint glasses are the preferred vessel for almost every Porter. The bulbous, tall glass shows off the aromatic brews well while making them easy to drink. American Imperial Porters are often served in a stemmed tulip.
The typical beer pouring style is also preferred for porters: Tilt the glass to a 45-degree angle, gently pour onto the side of the glass, and slowly raise it upright. This should produce a nice balance between the beer and that beautiful creamy head.
With all these rich tastes and aromas here are 5 under-rated Porters you just have to try to complete your journey
5 under-rated Porters you must try now
- Ecliptic Capella Porter: Portland, Oregon.
- Mayflower Porter: Plymouth, Massachusetts
- Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout: Chicago, Il.
- Perennial Abraxas: Saint Louis, MO.
- Ommegang Smoked Porter: Cooperstown, NY.
If you’re a newbie starting out or a wizened old beer hand, do journey into the darker side of the beer pool! It’s a journey of discovery that you won’t regret.