As the night are getting darker and the cold weather is rolling in, I start to move towards darker beers as I prefer the roasted malt warming flavours to tropical hops. The porter seems to be a dark beer version of the pale Saison, in that brewers are re-visiting this traditional style and are now starting to experiment with what we can expect from it.
Porters are an English style beer made with a balance towards dark malt rather than hops originating in the 18th century, London porter was a strong dark beer that got its name due to its popularity among street porters and other labourers. Due to is popularity among working folk breweries used to produce different strengths of porter. The term ‘stout’ was used to denote a beer that was stronger and was originally known as extra stout porter or porter stout, with the prefix being dropped sometime in the 1800s to give the stouts we know today. As one of my favourite beer styles I decided to take it upon myself to try as many porters as I could find. Below are the ones I tried with a few tasting notes.
Moor Beer Company, Amoor, 4.7% – An excellent smooth mouth feel, chocolatey nose leading into espresso and roasted malt flavours with a subtle finish of dark chocolate. Yet another fantastic beer from the Moor beer company and I’ll say it quietly but this was possibly my favourite one out of all described below.
The Kernel Brewery, Export India Porter, 4.5% – A nose of pine and freshly cut grass from southern cross and columbus hops with a mild chocolate and strong hoppy flavour. Definitely a first for me in the world of porters! I did enjoy this beer a lot but I would describe it as more of a Black IPA than a porter.
Burton Bridge Brewery, Burton Porter, 4.5% – An aroma of strong alcohol almost wine like in its smell with flavours of malt loaf and cherry.
Samuel Smith, Taddy Porter, 5% – A liquorice nose with favours of roasted malt coming to the fore and americano coffee. A very traditional porter.
Lucky Labrador Brewing Company, Stumptown Porter, 5.7% – An offering from Portland Oregon in the USA. The US is typically the domain of the new super hoppy craft brewer so when I saw this I had to give it a go. The initial smell is of liquorice and chocolate with the expected flavours of roasted malts and some tobacco and very mild liquorice flavours to finish.
Black Isle Brewery, Porter, 4.6% – This is an old favourite of mine and one of the first porters that I came across. As well as the usual porter flavours it contains espresso, dark chocolate and a hint of hedgerow berries which sweetens the finish.
Poppyland Brewery, Wild Damson Porter, 6% – A nose of dark damson fruits and alcohol with flavours that make it almost coffee like to begin with and the roasted edge being taken off by the sweetness of the damson.
Sainsbury, London Porter, 5% – Brewed by the Shepherd Neame brewery for Sainsbury’s I bought this as it is very rare to find porters in high street supermarkets. This is a good gateway porter to those that have not tried them before and has a mild chocolate flavour to it. When drinking this I thought of it as a darker version of the Shepherds Neame Bishops Finger.
Marks and Spencers, Chocolate Porter, 6% – Brewed by the Unicorn Brewery in Stockport and a collaboration with the renowned chocolatier Simon Dunn, this is like drinking a chocolate truffle. For me it’s a bit too sweet but this is a good one to try to see how versatile porters can be.
Innis and Gunn, Scotch Whisky Porter, 7.4% – Matured for 39 days in scotch whisky barrels prior to bottling it is very complex in flavour like most of the Innis and Gunn offerings. Initial orange flavours move into sweet chocolate and finish with some malt loaf and mild smoke.
Beavertown Brewery, Smog Rocket Smoked Porter, 5.4% – The first ever smoked porter I tried and still a firm favourite. It has everything that a normal porter has with the addition of a strong smoked finish. It is a great way to enjoy the end of a BBQ.
BrewDog, U-Boat Smoked Porter, 8.4% – The highest % ABV of any I have tried, this is a collaboration between BrewDog and Victory Brewing Company that uses lager yeast to enable the brew to reach imperial strength. A fantastic porter with flavours of dark fruits, strong alcohol as to be expected, mild tobacco and a surprising mild smoke finish.
Black Isle Brewery, Smoked Porter, 5.5% – I had high hopes for this based on the esteem to which I hold their non-smoked porter and I was not disappointed. It carries the previously mentioned flavours along with some peaty notes, tobacco and smokiness. A real gem.
Thornbridge Brewery, Beadeca’s Well Smoked Porter, 5.3% – Beadeca’s well is the old English name for the town of Bakewell where the Thornbridge Brewery is based. This has a gentle smokey flavour with hints of caramel, toffee and molasses and a subtle dark alcohol rich fruit finish.
The range of flavours that can now be expected from the Porter are increasingly large. The porter is now have a bit of a renaissance and this is great news to all fans of dark beers. There are some great craft brewers doing a really good job in trying to reboot this style of beer. Hopefully this will encourage you to try one if you see them.