The SHH Guide to Porters

15 Jan

IT FINALLY SNOWED! After what seemed like forever, there is snow on the ground where I live.  It is officially winter.  The holidays are over and there is nothing but the grey sky and shoveling for two/three months.  Refreshment be damned; it’s about staying warm.  Stouts get all the love, and I’ve been on a porter kick lately [Ed’s note – not a euphemism] so I decided to crack an egg of knowledge all on all ya’ll. Porter: the other dark beer.  Wikipedia’s got a whole bunch of facts that you can read if you want, but since I already did that just sit tight.  Anyways, you know the band Joy Division? Yeah, Love Will Tear Us Apart and all that.  Porter is what all their dad’s drank after a hard day at a Manchester textile factory.  Your son would be depressed enough to write “The Eternal,” too.  Early English porters were considered strong beers at one point in time.  While porter is dark in color, it’s not typically of high alcohol percentage when compared to the modern day beer market.  Porters commonly have a more nutty, roasted flavor than something like a lager.  The fine people at Wegman’s grocery store will have you know that porter is traditionally drank from a mug, and is best paired with Gorgonzola cheese.  I do not know this because I do not eat cheese.  (Topic for another day.)  SO anyways, yeah it’s English in origin and is likely the origin of the term “stout.”  How so?  A stronger porter would generally be referred to as an “extra porter,” or “stout porter.”  Simply put, porter is to stout as pale ale is to India pale ale.  In fact, Guinness Extra Stout was originally referred to as an “Extra Superior Porter.”  Those fancy Irish!  Three common styles of porter are American, English, and Baltic porter; all of which vary in fermenting processes. Single stouts like that would almost drive the beer into extinction, with there being none produced in England until the late 1970’s.  Porters can come , like stouts, can come with sweeter profiles when using vanilla bean, or cocoa.  Here’s some to look out for next time you’re in your favorite party store.

Walker’s Reserve Porter by Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA): From a world champion brewery comes a great example of a traditional American Porter.  It drinks particularly light at just under 6% alcohol by volume.  This has particularly great availability around the country, especially here in New York, (apart from Double Jack.)  Very distinct toffee and caramel flavors, but nothing over the top.

Mocha Porter by Rogue Ales (Newport, OR):  About a year ago, I was in school and waiting tables to make some quick money.  Like most waiting jobs, big tips came from big bills, and big bills usually require lots of alcohol.  For the lady, that could be anything from a $10 Patron margarita, or something with blue curacao in it.  The guy will inevitably ask you whats on tap.  Since no one could be bothered to actually update the tap list at this particular restaurant, it didn’t hurt to know what was available.  The words “mocha porter” practically sell itself.  There are no surprises.  Dark.  Chocolate. Beer.  The great thing was yeah, it’s not that strong.  Four mocha porters later, and that’s an extra twenty dollars on the bill.  Oh yeah, and it’s a good beer.  That too.

Vanilla Porter by Breckenridge Brewery (Breckenridge, CO):  I have seen this on tap at more than few places around here, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Breck’s Vanilla Porter is incredibly smooth and has a wonderful vanilla aroma mixed with the nutty flavor of the porter.  I have yet to be let down by the high elevation brewery.  Do yourself a favor and pick up their brewer’s lunchbox sampler package if you happen across it.

Smoked Porter by Stone Brewery (San Diego, CA): Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  I give this brewery a lot of shit on this blog.  Lots.  I am not particularly crazy about smoked beers either.  A traditional rauchbier is downright repulsive.  So, you can imagine this beer was a bit of a mindfuck.  Au contraire, this is my favorite beer that Stone Brewing makes.  I hate to give them any reason to flex their own muscle in the mirror and quietly grunt “fuck yeah,” but yeah, this is one damn fine beer.

90211 Porter by Sixpoint Brewery (Brooklyn, NY):  Sixpoint is a very reliable brewery out of NYC that is best known as being at the forefront of the canned craft beer movement.  While cans keep beer the freshest, try and find a place that’s got Sixpoint on tap. This was a limited brew, and don’t believe they’re canning this particular brew just yet, but if you’re on the East coast keep your eyes peeled for 90211 on tap.

Whiskey Barrel Aged Porter by Brown’s Brewing Company (Troy, NY):  I am proud to say that while this is a pick from my own area of the country, it deserves to be mentioned among any list of must try porters.  Brown’s has received a number of awards for this, including a silver medal finish at the 2008 World Beer Cup, and more recently a gold medal finish at the 2011 New York TAP Craft Beer festival.  Brown’s ages their Porter in whiskey barrels for two months.  This gives the beer a whiskey and oak flavor that adds to the already pretty awesome Brown’s Porter.  This is also something that is relatively available in 22oz bomber bottles around the region and beyond.

Yuengling Porter by Yuengling Brewery (Pottsville, PA): This is a bit of a rarity in these parts, but if you happen to find it you can buy with confidence.  Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery, and maker of reliable brews all around.  It’s a bit heavy on the carbonation, and is very light in consistency compared to other porters.

Other porters worth your time and/or money:  

  • Baltic Thunderby Victory Brewing Company
  • Dead Reckoning Porter by Troeg’s Brewery
  • Anchor Porter by Anchor Brewing Company
  • Pipeline Porter by Kona Brewing Company
  • Alta Gracia Coffee Porter by Wolaver’s Organic Ales
  • Taddy Porter by Samuel Smith Old Brewery
So next time you’re sad that it’s been cloudy for about three weeks and your ride home took two hours longer than it should have because you’re stuck between a plow truck and a school bus on an icy road, keep some porter on hand to help you unwind.  I’ll be back sometime with a style guide to stouts.  Until then if you’re drivin’ don’t drink, and if you drank, don’t drive.  Cheers!
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One Response to “The SHH Guide to Porters”

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  1. The Self Hating Hipster’s Guide to Session Beers « the self-hating hipster - August 20, 2012

    […] a year should be. If you’re not familiar with some of the other ones I’ve written, what I like to do is talk about a style of beer, it’s background, and offer some suggestions to help you […]

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