The Style Guide: Porters
Written by: Amber Phillips, Certified Cicerone®
Porters are a dark style of beer that began in London close to the end of the 18th century. Originally called Entire beer, it was meant as a replacement for the Three-Thread system of blending beers at pubs to get a stronger ale. This style took its final name from the workers who delivered it to the pubs and drank the greatest quantities of it.
Today we recognize the Porter style as being a dark ale that is not brewed with roasted barley. It is typically malt-forward in both aroma and flavor, with such characteristics as toast, caramel, toffee, chocolate, coffee, licorice, and even dark fruit esters such as raisin, plum, or cherry. They can have some hop characteristics that are floral and earthy or an even stronger resinous hop as found in American Porters. A number of substyles fit into this spectrum, such as Baltic, English, and American. Each is distinct from the other.
If you like a strong dark ale and porters sound like your kind of beer, here are a few recommendations to get a good idea of the diversity that this beer can offer.
Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter
English Porter | 5.0% ABV
The Taddy has a smell like candy with molasses, dark cherry, and toffee malts, but once you take a sip, it mellows into a dry roasted malt and nuttiness that still retains just a hint of the cherry character. Despite the strong malty notes, the body is on the medium-light side and has a lift of carbonation to keep things crisp.
American Porter | 6.5% ABV
This American style porter offers all you could want in the morning: the smell of dark chocolate and espresso. Its flavor keeps all the promises that the nose made to you and more, adding almost burnt-like toasted malt qualities and a substantial body that will warm you as you sip every last drop.
Baltic Porter | 9.5% ABV
This Baltic porter amps up the ABV to 9.5%, and the sweetness follows. It has an aroma of roasted malts, melted caramel, and a dash of dark coffee. The flavor is full and also sweet with the same caramel aspect, but with a much more present coffee note. The linger fills your mouth with the mild spice of licorice root. A sweet and surprisingly strong adversary that you don’t want to throw back too quickly.