Porters are largely responsible for the brewery scene we know today. Thanks to its incredible popularity in England, brewing exploded from small scale pubs to the enormous breweries we're familiar with now. Porter beer continues on today, albeit slightly tweaked. A porter has a dark brown hue that's slightly lighter than stouts. British styles have flavors of caramel, toffee and a mild hint of malt. American porters, on the other hand, can incorporate almost anything into their taste, including malt, hops, fruits, chocolate, coffee and whatever else happens to be on the mind of the brewer that day.
A Brief History:
Porter was developed in London, with its name first recorded in the 18th century (most likely stemming from its popularity with river and street porters). It's crafted from brown malt and is heavily hopped.
The development of stout runs right alongside that of porter. It's basically a very strong porter and was originally sold as "Extra" or "Double Porter," and in some cases, "Stout Porter." Arguably the most popular brand in the world, Guinness Extra Stout, was first marketed as "Extra Superior Porter." Modern standard porters aren't as dark, heavy or overwhelming as stout.
Much like the person of the same name that drags your luggage around the airport, porters truly deliver. Rich and complex notes, a plethora of available flavors and a punchy alcohol content make porter an excellent choice for both the amateur connoisseur and the seasoned porter pro.
Something for Everyone:
The rich, complex base notes found in porter make it perfect for blending in flavors. Some that are found in the modern porter include basics such as vanilla, cocoa, coffee, chocolate and fruit. Porters can also be pretty funky, with tasting notes ranging from the unique to the bizarre. Pop open a coconut porter or bacon porter, and you'll see what we mean.
Recommending a beer to someone on a diet seems pretty counterproductive (not to mention sadistic), but in reality, there are porters that will satisfy the sweet tooth of any sugar junkie. The choices of dessert flavors are virtually endless and include chocolate shake, salted caramel, pecan pie, graham cracker, and peanut butter porters.
Types of Porters:
British porters are probably the most common. Britain produces brown porters and robust porters, with darker hues and higher alcohol contents found in the latter. Baltic porters fall anywhere from sharp copper to dark brown in color and can be quite a bit stronger than the British variety, sometimes hitting 10 percent ABV. They're closer to stout than British porters. American porter is dark brown to black in color, with an alcohol content similar to its British brethren. Here is where you'll find some of the more eccentric flavors mentioned previously.
How to Enjoy a Good Porter:
The best idea isn't to serve porter ice-cold, but instead to serve it cool. Anywhere from 45 to 50 degrees is optimal. It should be poured into a tulip glass or pint glass that's tilted 45 degrees to form a creamy head that's about an inch or two thick.