The Porter is a craft type beer, which is prepared following the same procedures that were used in the first breweries. It is a production style with a history that reaches back to the Middle Ages and is worth discovering to better appreciate its flavour.
Although it is hard for us to imagine now, the beers of ancient times were not yellow, but were all dark . In the Middle Ages, they all had a color similar to what we find today in “black” varieties such as Guinness. However, when the first Porter-type beers began to be produced in the 18th century, the black ones began to disappear. By the late 1700s, there were no dark beers left in pubs.
The tan color of the old beers was due, in large part, to the method of storage and conditioning. In this sense, the malts were stored in large barrels that had previously been used for other beers. In this way, the liquid absorbed microorganisms from the wood, causing sour flavors and tan colors . At the same time, when mixed with the rest of the other beers, its flavor and color changed.
On the other hand, by using darker malts, these beverages obtained roasted, smoky and, in some cases, charred flavors, especially when they took on the flavor of the charcoal with which the malt was baked.
Advances in technology and porter beers
Porter-type beers were among the first to benefit from some scientific and technological advances implemented in beverage production. In this sense, one of the first improvements introduced was the roast cylinder. This cylindrical-shaped drum, created by Daniel Wheeler in 1817, allowed the malts to be roasted homogeneously , thus creating a way of standardizing the malting and roasting process.
Along with the use of the cylinder for baking, the steam engine and the mercury thermometer were also introduced. With all these technological advances, the brewing industry modernized and began to manufacture beverages on a large scale. On the other hand, being able to fully control the malt kilning process, some manufacturers began to create a highly roasted, black malt known as Black Patent.
In this way, in 1820, Irish producers began to use the Black Patent and discarded the use of brown malts. In Dublin, Guinness brewed its first Porter-style stouts, long before its famous Guinness Stout. The name, “Porter” came from the “porters”, the shippers of the mercantile ports, who used to be the ones who consumed this type of beer. This recipe became popular and breweries around the world created their own versions of this beer.
As fermentation and brewing techniques improved, with the introduction of “aging” yeasts, Porter-type beers began to have more intensity, with more robust flavors, earning them the nickname “Stout”. In this sense, the Stout beer is not more than a porter black beer, but stronger . However, over time, the Porters were disappearing and only Stouts remained as dark beers.
How is porter and stout different?
Both beers share many similarities, such as flavor and roasted aromas that can be reminiscent of coffee or caramel. In fact, technically Stout is just a stronger version of Porter.
However, their main differences lie in their texture, as Porter beers tend to be creamier, with flavor notes reminiscent of dark chocolate or coffee. Also the malt used in each one is different, since the Porter is made with barley malt and for the Stout roasted barley is used, but without malting, so they obtain more powerful flavors.
types of porter beer
Today, there are three classifications of Porter beer, certified by the Beer Judge Certification Program and divided by their ingredient base and some characteristics, as follows:
They follow the traditional method, with flavors reminiscent of bread and biscuits, with a roasted finish similar to coffee or dark chocolate. Some may have a sweet, caramel-like finish, or a more bitter, dried-fruit-like finish.
The adaptation of Porters in Northern Europe began as a type of Ale-type fermentation, to which Lager yeasts were added, adapting the recipe to create these dark beers. They are the ones with a more complex flavor profile . In this sense, they are somewhat sweeter, with notes of coffee and a touch of liquor, with a very long finish in which sensations of walnuts, honey, caramel and red fruits are mixed. It is not as bitter as the rest of the Porters, so it is more liked by those who are not used to dark beer.
The American Porters represent the American spirit very well, since they have a little more of everything. They are more bitter because they have more hops, they are stronger because they have more alcohol, and they are darker because they have a higher concentration of roasted malts.
In this sense, they are complex beers, since the malt used is roasted more than usual , so it obtains flavors between burnt and smoked. These Porters often have flavors reminiscent of coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel. With a drier finish than English beers.
Now that you know the difference between Stouts and Porters, as well as their different styles, the time has come to go get one and enjoy it in the best way, with friends.