What is a Porter?

September 17, 2007

Beer Styles

History of Porter Beer

The porter has a very interesting history and a fair amount of disagreement on what it is and should be, leaving the question of exactly what is a porter beer?.  Originally, a “porter” or porter beer was not a single beer at all but a combination of beers mixed together based on customer requests.  The British have a custom of mixing cheaper and lighter beers with heavier more expensive aged beers (i.e. a black and tan). The combining of these beers would create what was called an “entire beer”.

Amazon ImageApparently, there was a particular combination that was particular to the porters around Victoria Station in 18th century London.  These porters were rumored to make a meal out of this heavier darker beer (sounds like a good lunch hour to me).  Eventually, around 1730, a brewer named Harwood brewed a beer based on this combination.  It was heavily advertised as richer and more “nourishing” than a regular ale, which spoke to porters on lunch break.  The porter was officially born.

Tasting Notes

Amazon ImageIn general, the porter is a top-fermented beer that uses black or chocolate malts to create a beer that ranges in color from dark brown to almost black.

The taste of a porter should be spicy, chocolaty and be dominated by a distinctive dark malt or roasted grain flavor, with a slight sweetness.  They also tend to be well hopped and the hoppiness can range from bitter to mild.

Often compared to, or confused with Stouts, porters tend to have a lower alcohol content, lighter body and malt character, and a slightly sweeter taste… and they were here first. The stout actually gets its name from a porter.  The name “stout” for a very dark beer seems to have come about from the name for a strong porter – “extra porter” or “stout porter”.  The name would eventually be shortened to just stout.

Popular Brands of Porter:

Arcadia’s – London Porter
Anchor Brewing Co.’s – Anchor Porter,
Samuel Smith’s – The Famous Taddy Porter,
Fuller’s – London Porter

 Let us know what you think – What is a Porter?

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One Response to “What is a Porter?”

  1. Beer Kits Says:

    Great post! Dead on and very informative. Cheers!

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