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What Makes a Great Porter

What Makes a Great Porter

While the exact origins of porter are unknown, it is believed that the style was developed by brewers looking for a beer that would be more drinkable than stout. Porter is thought to be named for porters who worked in the London breweries and drank the beer at lunchtime. The style became so popular that by the early 1800s, there were over 100 different porter breweries in London.

In recent years, craft brewers have revived the porter style and created new variations on the traditional recipe. For example, Rogue Ales in Oregon makes a chocolate mint porter infused with peppermint extract and tastes like a candy cane. Other variations include coffee-flavored porters, pumpkin-spiced, and Melvin Brewing created their Scenario Porter with oats and midnight wheat.

Stout Vs. Porter

So, what's the difference between a stout and a porter? The main difference is that porters are less hoppy than stouts and have a maltier flavor. Porter is also generally lighter in color than stout. Another key difference is the fermentation process. Stouts are fermented with top-fermenting ale yeast, while porters are fermented with bottom-fermenting lager yeast.

Brewers often use different types of malt when making porters, which gives the beer its characteristic chocolate or roasty flavors. Roasted barley is one of the most important ingredients in a porter, and it can contribute to flavors of coffee, chocolate, and toffee.

How to Drink Your Porter

Porters are a versatile beer style that you can enjoy in various ways. They can be served as a session beer, meaning you can drink them all day without getting too drunk. They also pair well with food, making them a great choice for dinner parties or barbecues.

If you're drinking your porter at home, the best way to enjoy it is by pouring it into a glass and savoring the flavors. However, if you're out at a bar or pub, you may want to order it in a pint glass. Some bars also serve porters on nitro, which gives the beer a creamy texture and looks like Guinness.

With such wide variation in the overall style, it's hard to know what makes a truly great porter beer. Here are a few guidelines to look for when picking your next porter.

Dark Brown Color

The color scale for beers is measured by the Standard Reference Method (SRM), which measures how much light the beer absorbs when passing through it. The higher the number, the more light it absorbs and the darker the color. The scale goes from 0 - 50. Porter generally falls at about 30+, making it one of the darkest beer styles next to stouts. In the lighter porters, there may be a slightly red tint. The dark color here comes from heavily roasted malts which contribute to the coffee and toffee flavors that are common in this style.


Porter is not a see-through beer. Lighter styles are often rated on their clarity, indicating that specific proteins and off enzymes are not present in the final product. Darker beer styles are often not concerned with clarity because they are too dark to see through.

Malt Aroma and Flavor

Porter is a sweeter beer than you've probably had before. On the International Bitterness Unit(IBU) scale, Porters usually run anywhere from 25 to 40. The scale goes from 1 - 100, with the higher numbers being more bitter. For a reference point, IPA's are generally in the 70s for bitterness range. There should be a malty sweetness with chocolate, caramel, and toffee notes. The Scenario Porter from Melvin Brewing is even noted for having hints of toast like flavors. A little of the roasted malt bitterness may come through, but it shouldn't be the most forward flavor.

Hop Aroma and Flavor

Hops are a flavoring agent and preservative for beers. Some lighter styles like IPA's can be very heavy on the hops, while some like porters take a minimalist approach. Hops generally offer a more floral aroma and flavor, which is not what a porter is concerned with.

Final Thoughts

Porters can be a great introduction to dark beers for those hesitant to try them. They have a wide range of flavors that can please most palates, and they're not as heavy as stouts. With the popularity of porters on the rise, more and more options are being brewed every day. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and try a porter today!