We did just brush upon Porters in our profile, a few months back about the Stout style of beer that sort of migrated into its own unique style during the mid-1800’s. For those of you who missed it, here’s the brief history of the Porter style;
The dark Porter was a beer that was popular amongst the river and street porters of London in the early 1700s. The Porter style, as written in some publications was originally a blend of what was named, the Three Threads. This was a blend of ale, old ale and a potent beer called Twopenny (the cost per quart). Sometimes Porter was referred to by the name “Entire Butt”, based upon it having all the blends together in one beer. An aged, stronger Three Threads blend became known as Stout Porter, and in time, shortened to “stout”. In many circles of the day, the name porter and stout became interchangeable. Many Porters today have drifted into the lager family of beers, while stouts remain loyal to the ale family in which they were born and bred.
English Porters true to the style can be a fairly complex beer, with toasty Pale, Crystal, Chocolate and or Brown (sometimes smoked brown) barley malts that display tastes of chocolate, rye toast and strong coffee. There can be a fair amount of bitterness, but it’s usually a pretty balanced beer. A slightly astringent or tart fruit taste can be added via the yeast strains and/or by adding live bacteria to the brew process. The sweetness level is normally subdued yet varied with tastes of licorice, molasses or honey. Some brewers add real chocolate or Coffee during the brew process to accentuate stronger flavors. True Porters range in ABV from around 4.2% ABV on the low end to 6.2% on the high end. Baltic, Robust or Imperial Porters are a subject unto themselves and will be profiled in early winter when that style is more in season.
Jolly Olde England and Surrounding Isles
Fuller’s London Porter
12oz dark brown bottle. Freshness date on back label.
Pours a roofing tar/brown-tinged black with a tan fast-fading head.
The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee billows out. Smells of toasted brown bread and dark roasted malt are lasting.
Flavors of deep roasted barley malt, rich coffee and dark chocolate flow together in the full creamy body.
The ample hop bitterness has a tea-like, and light citrus bitterness.
A nice, easy to drink Porter that tastes more potent than its listed 5.4% abv. Decadent!
St. Peter’s Old-Style Porter – Bungay, Suffolk, UK – 5.1% ABV
Nice olive green flask-style bottle. It pours a red tinged dark chocolate color. The beige head of various sized bubbles fades to a constantly thin-rimmed coating. I enjoy the coffee and chocolate aroma. The whiff of malt, light smoke, burnt caramel and hops are present as well. Chocolate malt with sweet caramel and mild coffee mingle quite nicely. A pleasant citrus bitterness and light taste of plums provide some balance. Nice Porter!
Huvila Porter – Malmgard, Finland – 5.5% ABV
16.9oz dark brown bottle. Freshness date on label. Served in a nonic pint glass.
A pitch black liquid rests beneath a thick foamy tannish head, with loads of sticky lacing.
A smell of strong coffee rises at first pour, followed by smells of dark chocolate, licorice and floral hops.
The flavor profiles mirror the aromas, almost to a tee. Speaking of tee, I mean Tea. A taste of strong black tea edges forward, as does a slightly citrusy bitterness.
The body is thinner than it appears, but this is normal for the style, so no harm done.
This is a very gulpable brew!
New England Porters
Samuel Adams Holiday Porter – Boston, MA – 5.8% ABV
12oz brown bottle. Freshness date etched into side of label.
It pours a roofing tar color with a beige/tan head that fades to a thin permanent coating.
The aroma of strong coffee leaps out. A smell of bitter chocolate vies for attention as does a whiff of dry dark roasted malt.
Toasty malt flavors are supported by tastes of strong coffee and dark chocolate.
This brew is fairly hoppy for the style. A bitter resinous hop taste mingles with a dry hop and peppery spiciness.
I wonder why this brew isn't offered in its own 6 pack and/or on draught.
Geary’s London Style Porter – Portland, Maine – 4.2% ABV
Its pours an almost pitch black with a thin beige head on top. Aromas of smoky campfire wood (the next day), malt and light floral hop bouquet are right in line with the style. The malt taste is akin to blackened toast, strong coffee and bitter chocolate. The hops have that unmistakable Geary's raw and wild bitterness. A citrus peel and light metallic bite add a nice edgy character to the brew. This Porter could use a dose of sweetness and the body is a bit thin, but I wouldn't hesitate to try it again...and again.
Berkshire Brewing – Coffeehouse Porter – Deerfield, MA. 6.2% ABV
Sampled LOTS of this at the source. Pours...you guessed it; black coffee with a light tan head and some sticky lace. The aroma is, of course, mostly coffee, with some malt and hops. A substantial caramel sweet malt body and abundantly hopped with fairly sharp spicy and mild citrus bitterness. Chocolate notes and a hint of camphor astringency. It borders on a Robust Porter, but I thought you should have a better idea of the possibilities this style can go into. This is a highly gulpable brew!
Worth mentioning is the Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter from Vermont and Newport Storm Blizzard Porter from Rhode Island. Both tasty beers in their own right!
Don’t fear the dark Porter! It really is an approachable beer. Very fluid and toasty and roasty! Flavorful, but not overly so. Great with a variety of cheeses and salamis or grilled meats and veggies. It also pairs nicely with vanilla ice cream or rich, creamy caramel-based puddings.
God save the Queen! God save our Porters!
Quote: “And what this flood of deeper brown,
Which a white foam does also crown,
Less white than snow,
More white than mortar?
Oh, my soul! Can this be Porter?” – The Dejeune