Historical Beer Pre-Prohibition Porter

27. Historical Beer: Pre-Prohibition Porter

Overall Impression:
An American adaptation of English Porter using American ingredients, including adjuncts.

Aroma:
Base grainy malt aroma with low levels of dark malt (slight burnt or chocolate notes). Low hop aroma. Low to moderate low levels of DMS acceptable. May show low levels of caramel and biscuit aroma. No to very low esters. Light adjunct (licorice, molasses) aroma acceptable. Diacetyl low to none. Clean lager profile acceptable.

Appearance:
Medium to dark brown, though some examples can be nearly black in color, with ruby or mahogany highlights. Relatively clear. Light to medium tan head which will persist in the glass.

Flavor:
Grainy base malt flavor, with low levels of chocolate or burnt black malt notes, along with low levels of caramel, biscuit, licorice, and toast notes. Corn/DMS flavor acceptable at low to moderate levels. American hop bitterness low to moderate and American hop flavor low to none. Balance is typically even between malt and hops, with a moderate dry finish.

Mouthfeel:
Medium light to medium body, moderate carbonation, low to moderate creaminess. May have a slight astringency from the dark malts.

Comments:
Also sometimes known as Pennsylvania Porter or East Coast Porter.

History:
Commercially brewed in Philadelphia during the revolutionary period, the beer gained wide acceptance in the newly formed mid-Atlantic states, and was endorsed by President George Washington.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Two and six row malt (or a combination of both) are used, along with low percentages of dark malts including black, chocolate, and brown malt (roasted barley is not typically used). Adjuncts are acceptable, including corn, brewers licorice, molasses, and porterine. More historical versions will have up to twenty percent adjuncts. Lager or ale yeast. Emphasis on historical or traditional American bittering hops (Cluster, Willamette, Cascade), though finishing and flavor hops may vary.

Style Comparison:
Smoother and less hoppy-bitter than a (modern) American Porter, less caramelly than an English Porter with more of an adjunct/lager character.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.046 – 1.060
IBUs: 20 – 30
FG: 1.010 – 1.016
SRM: 18 – 30
ABV: 4.5 – 6.0%

Commercial Examples:
Stegmaier Porter, Yuengling Porter

American Porter

20A. American Porter

Overall Impression:
A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavorful dark malt character.

Aroma:
Medium-light to medium-strong dark malt aroma, often with a lightly burnt character. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high, often with a resiny, earthy, or floral character. May be dry-hopped. Fruity esters are moderate to none.

Appearance:
Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color. Clarity may be difficult to discern in such a dark beer, but when not opaque will be clear (particularly when held up to the light). Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.

Flavor:
Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of grainy, dark malt dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet. May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, but should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. Medium to high bitterness, which can be accentuated by the dark malt. Hop flavor can vary from low to high with a resiny, earthy, or floral character, and balances the dark malt flavors. The dark malt and hops should not clash. Dry-hopped versions may have a resiny flavor. Fruity esters moderate to none.

Mouthfeel:
Medium to medium-full body. Moderately low to moderately high carbonation. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from dark malts, although this character should not be strong.
Comments: Although a rather broad style open to brewer interpretation. Dark malt intensity and flavor can vary significantly. May or may not have a strong hop character, and may or may not have significant fermentation by-products; thus may seem to have an “American” or “British” character.

History:
A stronger, more aggressive version of pre-prohibition porters and/or English porters developed in the modern craft beer era. Historical versions existed, particularly on the US East Coast, some of which are still being produced (see the Historical Beer, Pre-Prohibition Porter). This style describes the modern craft version.

Characteristic Ingredients:
May contain several malts, prominently dark malts, which often include black malt (chocolate malt is also often used). American hops typically used for bittering, but US or UK finishing hops can be used; a clashing citrus quality is generally undesirable. Ale yeast can either be clean US versions or characterful English varieties.

Style Comparison:
More bitter and often stronger with more dark malt qualities and dryness than English Porters or Pre-Prohibition Porters. Less strong and assertive than American Stouts.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.050 – 1.070
IBUs: 25 – 50 FG: 1.012 – 1.018
SRM: 22 – 40 ABV: 4.8 – 6.5%

Commercial Examples:
Anchor Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Founders Porter, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter

English Porter

13C. English Porter
Simply called “Porter” in Britain, the name “English Porter” is used to differentiate it from other porters described in these guidelines.

Overall Impression:
A moderate-strength brown beer with a restrained roasty character and bitterness. May have a range of roasted flavors, generally without burnt qualities, and often has a chocolate-caramel-malty profile.

Aroma:
Moderate to moderately low bready, biscuity, and toasty malt aroma with mild roastiness, and may have a chocolate quality. May also show some non-roasted malt character in support (caramelly, nutty, toffee-like and/or sweet). May have up to a moderate level of floral or earthy hops. Fruity esters moderate to none. Diacetyl low to none.

Appearance:
Light brown to dark brown in color, often with ruby highlights when held up to light. Good clarity, although may approach being opaque. Moderate off-white to light tan head with good to fair retention.

Flavor:
Moderate bready, biscuity, and toasty malt flavor includes a mild to moderate roastiness (frequently with a chocolate character) and often a significant caramel, nutty, and/or toffee character. May have other secondary flavors such as coffee, licorice, biscuits or toast in support. Should not have a significant burnt or harsh roasted flavor, although small amounts may contribute a bitter chocolate complexity. Earthy or floral hop flavor moderate to none. Medium-low to medium hop bitterness will vary the balance from slightly malty to slightly bitter. Usually fairly well-attenuated, although can be somewhat sweet. Diacetyl moderately-low to none. Moderate to low fruity esters.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-light to medium body. Moderately-low to moderately-high carbonation. Light to moderate creamy texture.

Comments:
This style description describes the modern version of English porter, not every possible variation over time in every region where it existed. Historical re-creations should be entered in the Historical style category, with an appropriate description describing the profile of the beer. Modern craft examples in the UK are bigger and hoppier.

History:
Originating in London around 300 years ago, porter evolved from earlier sweet, Brown Beer popular at the time. Evolved many times with various technological and ingredient developments and consumer preferences driving these changes. Became a highly-popular, widely-exported style in the 1800s before declining around WWI and disappearing in the 1950s. It was re-introduced in the mid-1970s with the start of the craft beer era. The name is said to have been derived from its popularity with the London working class performing various load-carrying tasks of the day. Parent of various regional interpretations over time, and a predecessor to all stouts (which were originally called “stout porters”). There is no historic connection or relationship between Mild and Porter.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Grists vary, but something producing a dark color is always involved. Chocolate or other dark-roasted malts, caramel malt, brewing sugars, and the like are common. London-type porters often use brown malt as a characteristic flavor.

Style Comparison:
Differs from an American Porter in that it usually has softer, sweeter and more caramelly flavors, lower gravities, and usually less alcohol; the American Porter will also typically have more of a hop character. More substance and roast than a British Brown Ale. Higher in gravity than a dark mild.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.040 – 1.052
IBUs: 18 – 35 FG: 1.008 – 1.014
SRM: 20 – 30 ABV: 4.0 – 5.4%

Commercial Examples:
Burton Bridge Burton Porter, Fuller’s London Porter, Nethergate Old Growler Porter, RCH Old Slug Porter, Samuel Smith Taddy Porter
Tags: standard-strength, dark-color, top-fermented, british-isles, traditional-style, porter-family, malty, roasty

Baltic Porter

9C. Baltic Porter
Overall Impression:
A Baltic Porter often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English porter and the restrained roast of a schwarzbier, but with a higher OG and alcohol content than either. Very complex, with multi-layered malt and dark fruit flavors.

Aroma:
Rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes. Complex alcohol and ester profile of moderate strength, and reminiscent of plums, prunes, raisins, cherries or currants, occasionally with a vinous Port-like quality. Some darker malt character that is deep chocolate, coffee or molasses but never burnt. No hops. No sourness. Very smooth.

Appearance:
Dark reddish-copper to opaque dark brown (not black). Thick, persistent tan-colored head. Clear, although darker versions can be opaque.

Flavor:
As with aroma, has a rich malty sweetness with a complex blend of deep malt, dried fruit esters, and alcohol. Has a prominent yet smooth schwarzbier-like roasted flavor that stops short of burnt. Mouth-filling and very smooth. Clean lager character. Starts sweet but darker malt flavors quickly dominates and persists through finish. Just a touch dry with a hint of roast coffee or licorice in the finish. Malt can have a caramel, toffee, nutty, molasses and/or licorice complexity. Light hints of black currant and dark fruits. Medium-low to medium bitterness from malt and hops, just to provide balance. Hop flavor from slightly spicy hops ranges from none to medium-low.

Mouthfeel:
Generally quite full-bodied and smooth, with a well-aged alcohol warmth. Medium to medium-high carbonation, making it seem even more mouth-filling. Not heavy on the tongue due to carbonation level.

Comments:
May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7-8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout.

History:
Traditional beer from countries bordering the Baltic Sea, developed indigenously after higher-gravity export brown or imperial stouts from England were established. Historically top-fermented, many breweries adapted the recipes for bottom-fermenting yeast along with the rest of their production.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Generally lager yeast (cold fermented if using ale yeast, as is required when brewed in Russia). Debittered chocolate or black malt. Munich or Vienna base malt. Continental hops (Saazer-type, typically). May contain crystal malts and/or adjuncts. Brown or amber malt common in historical recipes.

Style Comparison:
Much less roasted and smoother than an Imperial Stout, typically with less alcohol. Lacks the roasty qualities of stouts in general, more taking on the roasted-but-not-burnt characteristics of a schwarzbier. Quite fruity compared to other porters. Higher alcohol than other porters.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.060 – 1.090
IBUs: 20 – 40 FG: 1.016 – 1.024
SRM: 17 – 30 ABV: 6.5 – 9.5%

Commercial Examples:
Aldaris Porteris, Baltika #6 Porter, Devils Backbone Danzig, Okocim Porter, Sinebrychoff Porter, Zywiec Porter