Introduction to: The Porter

Introduction to: The Porter, Red Shed Brewing

What Is A Porter

The Porter is a dark beer with flavors of chocolate, coffee, nuts and caramel. Its official definition from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is “a substantial, malty dark ale with a complex and flavorful roasty character.” Porters are so similar to Stouts that there tends to be confusion between the two style categories. Some craft brewers say the style guidelines between the two “can be blurred or erased,” while others use the names interchangeably when categorizing darker beers. 

Introduction to: The Porter, Red Shed Brewing
Cherry Valley Smoked Porter

This style emerged in London in the 18th century when brewers determined that the dark malts neutralized their water’s high mineral content. The result was a dark, medium-bodied beer with a balance between malty goodness and a lot of hops. With experimentation came the Stout, as brewers would tweak recipes to boost alcohol content creating a “stouter” or stronger beer. With the approach of the 20th century, this distinction became distorted. Some craft brewers brewed Porters that were stronger than Stouts, but still called them as such.

So, what’s the true difference? It comes down to roast intensity and acidity. Stouts are brewed with unmalted roasted barley. These intense roast flavors give Stouts their signature coffee or espresso-like taste. On the other side, intense roast flavors are practically optional among Porters, which are brewed with malted barley. In terms of acidity, some substyles of Stouts feature a “slight acidic note” or a touch of sour character, whereas there is no mention of acidity or sourness in any Porters.

Styles of Porters

Within the category, there are five substyles:

  • English-Style Brown Porter is softer, sweeter and more caramel-like than the American Robust substyle. It is also lower in alcohol (around 4.5-6%) and is not nearly as dark in color.
  • American Robust Porter comes closest in having a roasted profile out of the five substyles but is not as “roasty” as a Stout. It is often reminiscent of cocoa with a caramel and malty sweetness and dark brown color.
  • Smoke Porter typically starts with an American Robust base followed by a wood-smoked malt. Different woods create different flavors in the finished product.
  • American Imperial Porter is darkest in color and highest in alcohol content. It has medium caramel and cocoa-like sweetness with complementing bitterness.
  • Baltic-Style Porter has the malt flavors of a Brown Porter but is bigger in alcohol and body. It may include fruit flavors like berries, grapes and plums.

At Red Shed

Introduction to: The Porter, Red Shed Brewing
Cherry Valley Smoked Porter

You will find our Cherry Valley Smoked Porter on tap year-round at Red Shed. It is a dark, rich brew that warms you up from the inside out. Brewed with cherry wood smoked and chocolate malt and light floral hops to create its medium to full body. Our customers say it reminds them of “the beautiful fall nights in Central NY” or “sitting around my woodstove laughing with my friends.”