Beer Types – Porter

Porter is a dark style of beer originating in London in the 18th Century. The name came about as a result of its popularity with street and river porters. Most traditional British brewing documentation from the 1700s state that Porter was a blend of three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale), with various combinations of blending and staleness. The end result was also commonly known as “Entire Butt” or “Three Threads” and had a pleasing taste of neither new nor old.

In 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 but….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.

Porter pairs well with almost any meat dish. But since the brew is such a complex combination of mild flavors I typically enjoy it on its own. Some famous porters are:

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

and the one pictured here is Sleeman Fine Porter from Sleeman.

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