It's time to face the facts. Summer has been over for months and we're nearing the long cold months of winter. To us, that means it's time to shelve the kettle sours and hefeweizens in exchange for something that can pair well with the shoulder months, handling sleet and snow just as well as those rare warm days that continue to peek their eyes at us on occasion. This beer is the porter. It's a somewhat tough beer to define when compared to its slightly heftier cousin, the stout, but what it lacks in idiosyncratic identity, it makes up for in class. It's a beer style that stems from the early brewing days in England, before they had the technique perfected for kilning barley and often brewed up darkly colored, slightly burnt, roast forward ales.
These days, the porter is a favorite of beer drinkers everywhere as it can scan the gamut of light on the palate with a hint of roast to bourbon barrel aged and seeping with gooey sugars. If you aren't too familiar with the offerings within the style, there is no day like today to get acquainted. To help you out, here are a few of Drizly's personal picks that might wet your whistle.
Let's start with a classic. Samuel Smith has been brewing beer out of Yorkshire, England since 1758. Yep. They were already 18 years old and busy worrying about hops and yeast when the United States celebrated their Independence from England. This ever so classic example of the British porter is rich with notes of both milk and dark chocolates, finishing with a dry, coffee-like bitterness from the use of traditionally mineral rich English water in combination with the dark roasted barley malt.
Let's jump from England to just about halfway around the globe for this second porter on our list. Hawaii might not be the first place that pops into your mind for a state that produces one of the best porters in the US, but Maui Brewing has been absolutely killing it with their take on the classic for as long as we can remember. The twist here, quite obviously gathered, is the addition of hand toasted coconut. This crushable take on the roasty beverage balances the slight mocha notes from the grains with the fruity, sweet flesh of a ripe Hawaiian coconut, for just a subtle taste of sunshine and beach swells.
A beer built upon the classic foundation, but notched up just a bit for the extreme weather that can be found out near Grand Rapids, Michigan, Founders' Porter is borderline stout and borderline the best thing you've ever enjoyed. Perhaps it's the ratio of roasted malt to pilsner malt. Maybe it's the water or the hop varietal. Maybe it's just the music that the beer listens to as it ferments in the beer cellar. One way or another, this beer winds up with a deep, chocolatey character that melds with the moderate combination into a silky smooth sip.
Perhaps known best for their steam beer, one of the truly indigenous American beer styles, Anchor has proven over and over again that they are more than a one trick pony. Their porter is a true to style example of the British classic, but brewed in Northern California. Full of those classic roast qualities of bitter chocolate, anise seeds, and a perfectly roasted cup of coffee, Anchor's Porter is one of the best examples of a straight forward porter out there. If you are new to the style, love the classics, or just enjoy good beer, this is the right choice.
Leave it to some bold characters in New York to add a heap of locally roasted coffee beans to an imperial porter that clocks in at 10% ABV (nearly twice that of a standard porter brew), age it in oak barrels, and then put it in a slim can for easy enjoyment. Sixpoint Brewing is well known for some of their heavy hitting IPAs, but this big and bold porter is truly something great. Certainly not an everyday beer, particularly given the alcohol content, the rich chocolatey flavor is accented with the taste of fresh coffee beans.
They've done it. Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. It's the best of everything and it all comes in a bottle that you can enjoy whenever you are in need of something luxurious and indulgent. Just imagine the flavors of your favorite milky chocolate candy stuffed with creamy peanut butter like you used to spread on white bread as you headed out to school. Combine that with the the roasty, carbonated quality of a well made porter and you have a beer that needs no pairing.
This porter is not just one of the best porters out there today, but simply one of the best beers. It's a paradigm for the fact that a simple, four ingredient beer, can be stunning and delicious. No extra ingredients, just the pure taste that the right combination of barley, hops, yeast, and water can relay into a beverage. Smooth and creamy, lightly roasted with hints of cacao, balanced with clean hop flavor and a subtle effervescence. Perfection in simplicity. Pair it with a grilled steak and a baked potato.