Posts Tagged With: England

Brown Ales: A History More Complex Than Its Nondescript Name

As the leaves turn from the color of a sunset to a dreary murky brown, we try not to think about what we’ve lost, but instead, what beer we can drink next. In honor of the fading, and ultimately falling, leaves that have given their lives to provide us with shelter, we will celebrate by focusing on Brown Ales this month.

Brown has such a bad rep. I mean, whose favorite color was brown…ever? Brown is associated with many unfortunate things, from dirt to well…so who in their right mind would really reach for a six pack of Brown Ale when you could walk away with an IPA or a festive seasonal? The India Pale Ale invokes a sense of adventure and bright, refreshing flavors. The Brown Ale? Oh, who even knows. And that breweries call their Browns “Moose Drool” doesn’t make this situation any better. Well. We are making it our mission this month to change the perception of what a Brown Ale is by drinking as many as possible and showcasing their goodness. Well, we’ll see about the latter at least.

Bring on the Moose Drool!

Moose drool…fresh from Missoula, MT.

Like with our early discussion of the Porter, the term “Brown Ale” has been associated with a number of different beer recipes throughout its history. It encompasses a number of regional British beers, a Belgian ale, and the American Brown Ale. Talk about an international sensation.

Marketing Matters

You might have noticed by now that most beer styles have an origination in Germany, Belgium, or the UK. This month, our story begins in England.

The “Brown Ale” has been around since the 17th century, although you would not recognize it among its contemporary counterparts. The original Brown Ale was simply a British Mild Ale that was brewed with 100% brown malts, rendering the ale a dark brown. This darker ale disappeared in the 18th century, as British brewers quickly made the switch to a new, cheaper malt (pale malt). Can’t blame them. RIP Brown Mild Ale.

A Regional Divide

This might have been the end of the Brown Ale for all eternity if  Mann Brewery didn’t market one of their products as a “Brown Ale” in the 19th century. With help from a marketing campaign advertising it as “the sweetest beer in London,” this beer wooed the London populace with its rich roasted malt and chocolate flavors. By the 1920s, Mann’s Brown Ale was one of the most popular beers in the area. Other British brewers quickly hopped on the Brown Ale bandwagon hoping to make a pretty pence. Perhaps you’ve heard of Newcastle? While Mann Brewery might have revived the Brown Ale (at least in name), Newcastle put the style on the beer map. Newcastle was established by Lt. Colonial James Porter in 1927. Working with a chemist, Lt. Porter developed this Brown Ale during an attempt to emulate Bass ale. Although he considered the initial recipe a failure, as you might note that Newcastle tastes nothing like Bass, it was an instant hit for its sweet malt flavors and high alcohol content. In fact, the story goes that this alcoholic ale was so popular, that the local police asked Porter to reduce the ABV because citizens were wastedly running amok and filling up the prisons for their misdeamonrs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had felt that way after drinking Newcastle. I guess I’m doing it wrong.

What? I know it’s the wrong country, I’m just illustrating a point.

So this little story about Mann’s Brown Ale and Newcastle turned out to play quite a significant role in the history of the Brown Ale. There are now two types of Brown Ale in Britain: Northern Brown Ale (ala Newcastle) and Southern Brown Ale (ala Mann). The Northern Brown Ale is light in color, light in hops, and light in carbonation. The predominant character of these is a sweet caramel malt. Some Northern Brown Ales are also called ‘nut brown ales’ for their resemblance to, well, the color of nuts. The Southern Brown Ale is a darker, more robust brew. It is characterized by a strong, fruit and malt profile with very little hops. If this was war, you could claim the North champion: Mann Brewery was purchased by Usher Brewery in 1964, which was recently purchased by Wychwood Brewery, who does not produce a Brown Ale. After near extinction, there is, allegedly, a Southern Brown Ale revival emerging in England…while Northern Brown Ales are exported across the globe. Newcastle FTW.

…And Back in America

So that’s the English story. Like many beer histories beginning in 17th century Britain, there was also an American story. Colonies developed their own Brown Ale, adapted from British recipes with ingredients found in the US. Molasses was a key ingredient in early American Brown Ale days.  Later, as Brown Ale production picked up in England at the turn of the century, its production followed suit in the US. Copycats.

“Nut Brown Ales” were advertised in the early 1900s as a winter seasonal brew and a traditional ‘Olde English’ beer. While little is known about the actual style of the beer, its association with England and its fancy beer drinkers was aggressively linked to this “Brown Ale.” This type of marketing persisted into the 1940s.

Pittsburgh Brewing’s Nut Brown Ale

The “Nut Brown Ale” fell out of fashion after WWII, only to be revived during the early craft beer movement of the 1980s. In true American fashion, these early home brewers developed a unique version of the British Brown Ale. The first American Brown Ale (ABA) was brewed in Texas. As with everything in Texas, this ABA was bigger, stronger, and meaner. It had a high hop content, high malt content, and a matching high ABV. As brewers in California and across the country began brewing their own versions of ABAs, they lost a little bit of their bite and evolved into a more balanced beast.

RIP, Wicked Pete

The most prevalent and successful American Brown Ale was Pete’s Wicked Ale, one of the first mass marketed craft beers. Pete’s Wicked Ale took the Northern Brown Ale recipe and added a helluva lot of hops. American, and all. However, as of this year, Wicked Ale is no longer in production due to the decline of the Brown Ale’s popularity in the US (according to Pete’s owner). I mean, it makes sense. Today, microbrew enthusiasts are searching for the incredibly hoppy, obscure, or bizarre. And while once Americans found the Brown Ale chichi, you know, coming from the classy British Isles and all, now they just find it boring. But! There are still some in production, and we will be the judge of their ability to appease and entertain our self-proclaimed classy palates.

Oh! We had mentioned that Belgium also produces a Brown Ale. It does. There are two types of Brown Ales made in Belgium: the Oud Bruin and the Bruin (or Brune). The Oud Bruin (or Flanders Brown) is a twice fermented Flemish ale that is aged for about a year (hence the name “oud”). These yeasty, funky beers are aged in oak, which give them a brown color (hence “bruin”). The Bruin is a darker, less funky Oud Bruin. Honestly, I wouldn’t have mentioned anything about these Belgian dudes if I hadn’t already purchased a Bruin to review this month. They’ll get their own profile another month.

What to expect

Since we’re really discussing three types of beer here, there will be much variation in each of these categories.

Sight: The color will range from a deep copper to a dark brown. While most Brown Ales are clear, the traditional recipes are unfiltered and will be a little cloudy.

Smell: Whether you are enjoying a Brown Ale in the Highlands or in Dallas, your Brown Ale will smell quite malty and you’re not going to get much hops on the nose. Some other aromas to expect include caramel, nuts, chocolate, and grains.

Flavor: You won’t be getting any bombastic, dynamic flavors from your resident Brown Ale. However, expect a malty and generally balanced beer. Some Brown Ales will have a more roasted, toffee taste (Northern Browns), while others will be sweeter and have a fruit and molasses flavor (Southern Browns). The hops will be largely undetectable, but some American Browns will serve you your daily dose of hops (thanks, America).

Feel: The body will be pretty thin with low carbonation from the British and slightly more from the Americans.

We will be the judge of just how light your dark side is, Newcastle.

Nice, straightforward history, huh? Well as most histories go, things were not this simple at the time. After reading a piece arguing that there is in fact no such thing as an “English Brown Ale” because the term does not convey any type of cohesive style, we feel especially compelled to make our own assessment before agreeing with his well-researched argument. While drinking a Newcastle Brown Ale and a Southern Brown Ale one after the other would likely prove his point, we will go a step further and drink thirty Brown Ales to prove our point: drinking beer is good. And if we can substantiate or disprove his argument along the way, all the better.

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Over the course of the next few days, we will be posting a series of Milk Stout reviews. The following is a brief on this Stout variety for your (and our) edification.

What’s in a name?

Milk Stout is also often referred to as a Sweet Stout; less frequently, a Mellow Stout or Cream Stout.

What’s in a Milk Stout?

The defining element of the Milk Stout is its inclusion of lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Since lactose is unfermentable by the ale yeast, it adds a sweetness to the Stout. Back in the day–the 19th century day–brewers actually put up to 10 ounces of whole milk into a Milk Stout. This is no longer modern practice.

What region is the Milk Stout from?

Southern England, originally.

When was the first Milk Stout produced?

The concept of the Milk Stout likely came from the practice by barkeeps of serving a shot of milk alongside a Stout to help “ailing workers as a source of midday rejuvenation.” (Who’s going to join me in reviving this cultural practice?) Brewers sought to capitalize on this practice, adding milk to the beer and marketing the brew as “healthy,” with restorative effects similar to those of milk. An English brewer patented a Milk Stout recipe in 1875. They eventually realized they could save money by just adding lactose instead of the milk. In 1946, when the UK was under strict food rationing during wartime, brewers were banned from suggesting that there was milk in their beer. The name for the lactose-beer was changed from Milk Stout to Sweet Stout. This was not an issue in the US, where we can find dozens of appropriately-labeled Milk Stouts!

Just what the doctor ordered (credit:

What are the common characteristics of a Milk Stout?

Milk Stouts are generally creamier and fuller than non-Milk Stouts. They are usually more balanced and much sweeter than regular Stouts.

What are some of the most popular Milk Stouts?

Sam Adams Cream Stout, Hitachino Nest Lacto Sweet Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout, Southern Tier 2X Stout, Moo Thunder Stout, Lancaster Milk Stout, Three Floyds Moloko, St. Peter’s Cream Stout, Castle Milk Stout, Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout.

Beer and Milk Love (credit:jbrookston, flickr)

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The Stout: In Honor of St. Patrick (and beyond…)

Happy March! This is the month of leprechauns, the vernal equinox, women’s history month, and….the STOUT! So before we start drinking the heck out of this style, here is a little bit about it’s early roots…

The humble origin of the Stout harkens back to January, when we investigated the history of the Porter. As you may recall, the Stout emerged as the younger and, well, stout-ier brother: the style “Stout Porter” referred to a stronger version of the Porter (at 7-8% instead of the typical Porter 6%).  So, the term “Stout” was more an adjective than a style. Eventually, the original Porter fell by the wayside–but are you surprised? The Stout Porter was stronger and richer than the original–and who doesn’t love a strong and rich man–er, beer?  Well, the Stout was loved so much, that doctors actually prescribed Stouts, so to speak, to athletes and nursing mothers to help them regain strength–or, in other words, regain their Stoutness. Stouts, Porters, and Stout Porters lost their popularity in England when a restriction was placed on making roasted malts during World War I, at which time the mild Ale won over the hearts of the Brits. However, it took the Irish population by a malty storm!

Stout Propaganda: "Guinness is Good For You"

Arthur Guinness opened his Dublin brewery in 1759, producing (along with an Ale) what can be considered the first Stout Porter.  (In 1799, Arthur made a wise decision to focus solely on Porter production–that’s why we see no Guinness Ales today.)  In the mid-1800s, the ‘Porter’ nomenclature was dropped, and thanks to keen advertising and calculated exporting, Guinness (with the help of other Irish breweries Murphy’s and Beamish & Crawford) made the Stout one of the most ubiquitous beers in the Western World.  Of course, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for this smooth brew: in the 1800s, Stouts became less popular, as it was expensive to produce based on the types of grains needed; and as mentioned earlier, the WWI restriction on roasting malts halted production in England, leaving the job to the mighty Irish. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when beer writers such as Michael Jackson (the beer god, not the music god) took an interest in the style, that the Stout was resurrected.

Throughout its development, a number of stout variations emerged, in England, Ireland, and beyond. The following will be included in this month’s beernalysis!

The Stout Styles

English Stout: The first to appear on the scene, the English Stout is notable for its black color and use of charred barley, which gives the beer a roasted, coffee taste. Chocolate Stouts are characterized under English Stouts; the malts in a Chocolate Stout are left in the kiln until they develop a chocolate taste and color.  (In some cases, actual chocolate is also added to the brew.)  Similarly, the malts of a Coffee Stout are roasted until they are as bitter as freshly ground coffee beans (and also, some brewers add coffee grounds to highlight the flavor).

Foreign/Export Stout: The Export Stout took the English Stout and made it a helluva lot more alcoholic to survive a journey across the sea where it was being exported. In fact, this style is still found in many tropical areas to where Stouts were first exported, such as Jamaica and Malta.

Irish Dry Stout:  The most popular of the Stouts, popularized by the aforementioned Guinness, Murphy’s, and Beamish. The Irish Dry Stout is the lighter of the Stout styles–it has lower carbonation and a uniquely creamy body, with a roasted and crisp taste.

Irish Stout

Milk/Cream/Sweet Stout: This is not for the lactose intolerant!  The Sweet Stout has a high content of dextrins and unfermented sugar that makes this Stout sometimes oddly sweet.  Milk/Cream Stouts are very similar to Sweet Stouts, but brewers add lactose to the brew kettle to add body and some sweetness. This was one of the beers that doctors would recommend mothers drink, because of the dairy content. In fact, one of the original Milk Stouts, Mackeson’s, claims to have 10 ounces of “pure dairy milk” in it.

Oatmeal Stout: As you can gather, Oatmeal Stouts are made with oatmeal, which is added to the mash. The major characteristic of this type of Stout is its smoothness. Oats have been used in beer production since the medieval times in Europe. It remained popular in Northern Europe, but Tudor sailors hated the bitter flavor that it caused in the beer so much that it died out in other parts of Europe. There was a brief revival at the end of the 19th century, when people thought that including oats would be healthy.  (But, of course, that’s like eating a bar of dark chocolate, washing it down with a bottle of red wine, and saying you did it for heart health.)  Subsequent Oatmeal Stouts used a very little bit of oats. When Michael Jackson wrote about the Oatmeal Stout in the 1970s, a European distributor commissioned the Samuel Smith Brewery to recreate the style; thus, their Oatmeal Stout has become one to imitate. The Oatmeal Stout can now be found in new incarnations all throughout the world, from Denmark to Australia. Fair warning, though: don’t expect it to taste like downing a big bowl of oatmeal; the uniqueness of this beer is in its smooth body.  (Oatmeal is used as a major component of moisturizers, too…)

Russian Imperial Stout (sometimes just Imperial Stout): This was a whole big marketing campaign on the part of Thrale’s brewery in the 17th century to impress Catherine II of Russia, as one story goes. Another is that Peter the Great, while visiting London, loved the Porter so much, that he requested Barclay Brewery send it over to Russia. However, the beer would spoil on the trip over; thus, a stronger brew was created to survive the journey. Barclay did so by brewing a beer with a higher alcohol and hop content. Rumor has it that Catherine the Great enjoyed this new recipe so much that she ordered kegs upon kegs of it to stock her court. And if it’s good enough for the courts, it’s good enough for us.

Catherine II with an Imperial Stout. Photoshop Credit:

Oyster Stout: Oysters, you say? Oysters! Back in olde time England, Stouts were enjoyed with a full plate of oysters in the taverns. But the two were not formally combined until the 1920s in New Zealand. Later, this recipe popped up back in London, and even later, after WWII, oysters were added to Stouts as another way of trying to infuse health benefits into beer, such as the Milk Stout campaign. Today, some breweries add oysters, while others only use the name, implying that the beer should be consumed with oysters. Vegetarians, be wary!

"Guinness Guide to Oysters" / Credit: Appellation Beer

While the British Isles hold the proverbially patent on the Stout, other countries have certainly had their fun adapting the style with local ingredients and recipes. Most notably, us crafty Americans!

American Stout: American Stouts range in their tenacity and ingenuity. There really is no way to generalize the American Stout, other than that they have a tendency of materializing as some crazy renditions of the English and Irish classics (from an Imperial Milk Stout to a Chicory Coffee Stout). However, one major difference is that American Stouts will often have a stronger hop presence than their British counterparts.

And with that…we venture into this month looking for the roastiest, maltiest, sweetest stouts this world has to offer. Stay tuned and drink up!


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St. Peter’s Old-Style Porter


Beer:  Old-Style Porter
Brewery: St. Peter’s Brewery Co.
Style: English Porter
ABV: 5.1%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer(s): Kerensa



Sight: Dark ruby body with a very thin off-white head filled with tiny carbonation bubbles.

ScentSlight isopropyl smell with musky, roasted malts. Very deep undertones of figs and plums.

Flavor: This is hands-down the yeastiest (wow, that’s actually a word–no red underlines!) Porter I’ve tasted. After I got passed the yeast, all I taste is toasted malts, which leaves a very slight bitterness in my mouth. Okay, at the end there’s just a hint of coffee.

Feel: Thin-to-medium body with lovely carbonation. This is a pretty spot-on example of what an English Porter should feel like.

Going back-to-back on English Porters, I’ll just say that Sam Smith’s Taddy is far superior. However, this guy has a solid roasted sweetness that keeps me going back for more sips. If you’re in dire need of an English Porter, this is widely distributed–so, lucky you, because it’s not bad. Caveat: I know the next thing I’m going to say is obnoxious, but, too bad. I appreciate the English Porters for their history, for their authenticity and adherence to the original recipes that came out of the 18th century. It’s like time traveling, a bit. HOWEVER, the adaptations of their innovative brew, in my heart and on my palate, reign supreme. From the North Sea to the Great Lakes, the interpretations of this historic English style are goddamn delicious. Okay, before I start writing poetry about my love for beer, I will conclude this sentence now.

Concluding remarks: I’m officially blitzed. Auf Wiedersehen, Porters. Thanks for the good times. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Samuel Smith Taddy Porter


Beer:  Taddy Porter
Brewery: Samuel Smith
Style: English Porter
ABV: 5.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Drinking Establishment: The Old Bay Restaurant, New Brunswick, NJ
Primary Consumer(s): Ally & Kerensa



Sight: Very dark brown body with a thin, pale tan head. Large carbonation bubbles gathered in the center.

Scent: Strong caramel and toffee aroma, with crisp coffee undertones.

Flavor: Initially, the intense toffee and caramel come through, but the aftertaste is like drinking roasted seltzer, if that was a thing.

Feel: Medium creamy body, moderate carbonation.

This Sam Smith “Famous” Porter has a fascinating background: the brewing water is drawn from a well sunk over 200 years ago, and it’s fermented using the Yorkshire Square system (Samuel Smith being the last independent brewery in England to utilize this classic system of fermentation in stone squares).  However, the result isn’t as remarkable: the Taddy is your classic Porter with flavors of roasted coffee and toffee/caramel.  Not too heavy, and just a tad(dy) bit sweet.

Fun fact: All Samuel Smith beers are vegan and registered with the Vegan Society.  Woot!

Concluding remarks: Better Porters have been had, but we can see it being the Yuengling or Sam Adams go-to equivalent when having a pint in England.

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Mr. George’s Ruby Porter


Beer: Mr. George’s Ruby Porter
Brewery: Batemans Brewery
Style: English Porter/Ruby Porter
ABV: 5.0%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Acquired from: City Swiggers 
Drinking Establishment: Kerensa’s kitchen
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Dark brown, slightly transparent with ruby red hues. Very little, almost non-existent head. Proliferation of carbonation bubbles.

Smell: I have never smelled a Porter quite like this; it’s incredibly sweet and citrusy.

Flavor: This tastes like sweet milk, with a complex spice profile and just a bit of earthiness. There are notes of nutmeg and just a bit of citrus as well.

Feel: Very light body with excellent carbonation.

Why, Mr. George, so nice to meet you. This English Porter was surprisingly light and refreshing, all the while packing an incredible amount of sweet spice flavor. I kid you not, this tastes and feels like a sweet milk-based drink. Perhaps this is not an excellent portrayal of a traditional English Porter, but I sure as hell was excited and challenged by the flavor of this beer. Perhaps this stylistic divergence has to do with it being a Ruby Porter (though, after some research, I’m not convinced that this is an actual style).

Concluding remarks: It’s a pretty obscure one to find, but if you ever see it on a beer run, definitely give Mr. George a try. He will not disappoint. If you don’t believe me, just look at his stoic yet warm and trustworthy face.

Also, for the vegans out there, this beer is approved by the Vegan Society. So have your way with this one.

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The Porter

And we are starting the year off with the elusive Porter! We have a number of friends, and Kerensa includes herself in this group, who once assumed all dark beers were Stouts. (Ally was just happy living in ignorant bliss.)  Legend even has it that Kerensa came up with some completely inaccurate but intellectual-sounding phrase like, “All Porters are Stouts, but not all Stouts are Porters.” We really had no idea. And on an early quest to learn more about the style and what to look for when tasting one, we were baffled by the number of different forms a Porter could take: Smoked Porter, Mocha Porter, Vanilla Porter. Then, we began noticing that some Porters were even classified by geographic region: Baltic Porter, London Porter, Irish Porter. We knew that there must be some fascinating story behind this…

And so, to sort it all out, we’ve compiled a brief history of the Porter from a number of trustworthy and informative sources.

But first!

Some Technical Jargon

While we do not fancy ourselves chemists, we recognize that brewing is ultimately chemistry. Thus, we will do our best to provide relevant information without inundating you (and ourselves) with too many discussions on molecular formulas and the like.

You may or may not know, but there are, predominantly, two types of beer: the ALE and the LAGER. What is the difference, really? Well, an ale is produced by using a “top-fermenting” brewing yeast in what is known as the warm fermentation method, while a lager is produced by using a “bottom-fermenting” brewing yeast in the cold fermentation method. Top-fermenting yeasts produce sweeter, higher alcohol content beer (making ales your go-to beer if you’re planning on getting a little wild on a Friday, or, um, Tuesday night).

The Porter is a warm-fermented beer using the ale yeasts. Thus, it contains a hint of sweetness and is often characterized by flavors of coffee, caramel, and chocolate.

A Fabled Beginning

The origin of the Porter is to be found in 18th Century England, but the origin story is a slightly mythical and unsubstantiated one.  It has been said that in order to be frugal, workers in London would mix a more expensive beer with a lighter one (e.g. the Black and Tan). In 1802, a writer named John Feltham claimed that this was the case with the Porter. It developed from a particular combination of three beers (known as the “three threads”) that were popular with transportation workers in London: a bad ale that was no longer drinkable on its own; a brown or pale ale; and a mild ale. According to this legend, the combination became so popular that a man by the name of Ralph Harwood began brewing “three threads” as a single beer, and it became popular with–lo and behold!–London porters.

London Porters

The term “Porter,” as used in relation to the beer, is actually mentioned as early as 1721, but no writer before Feltham says it was made to replicate “three threads.”  Given this lack of evidence, many believe the Harwood origin story to be a fable. Instead, it is more likely that Porter evolved from the already-existing brown beers being made in London at the time. Before 1700, London brewers shipped out their beer very young and any aging was performed by either the tavern owner or a dealer. Porter, however, was aged at the brewery–a first in the history of beer–and was sent to bars ready to be consumed immediately.

The Pioneer of Beer

Not only was Porter the first beer to be aged at the brewery, it was also the first beer that could be made on any large scale–and lead to breweries such as Whitbread & Co. and the Old Truman Brewery making a pretty penny from it.  Furthermore, Porters benefited from the first applications of technological advances in brewing, such as the use of the thermometer and the hydrometer (an instrument that measures the relative density of a liquid).  Early London versions were strong by modern standards (at about 6.6%) and were brewed with 100% malt. However, as taxes increased during the Napoleonic Wars (you know, the conflagrations in the early 1800s that led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire), the percentages as well as the types of malt used fluctuated.

Whitbread & Co. (credit:

As the Porter developed and changed through the years, it varied in levels of strength, the stronger Porters being referred to as “Extra Porters” or “Double Porters” or even–oh hey–“Stout Porters.”  The term “Stout Porter” would later be shortened to, simply, “Stout.”  And so, as it turns out, Kerensa and friends weren’t so far off in considering this month’s beer to be a Stout in Porter’s Clothing.  But in answer to the chicken-or-egg question of what came first, it is the mighty Porter that wins.

Not Just an English Thing

The Porter recipe was exported to other countries, the most famous journey of which evolved into what we know now as the Baltic Porter, popular in the Baltic region–from Estonia to Denmark (and most countries around and in between). The major difference between the English and Baltic Porters is that, though the style was introduced to the area using top-fermenting yeasts typically used for ales, many breweries started to use bottom-fermenting yeast that are typically used for lagers (lager yeasts were more common in the region). However, some Baltic Porters do use ale yeasts. [If you are super interested in teasing out the variations of this style, here is a link to message board thread discussing the finer details of the Baltic Porter:]

A Typical Baltic Voyage (credit:

And what about us Americans?  In the United States, Porters can be traced back to colonial times.  (Makes sense, right?)  American Porters were originally made using top-fermenting yeasts and were rumored to be most tasty. In fact, Porters were the favorite brew of George Washington himself (also Jefferson, but whatever). Yards Brewing Company of Philadelphia even produces a “George Washington Porter” using his original recipe!

George Washington's Porter recipe (credit: NYPL)

However, as the country welcomed German immigrants who brought with them the Lager, brewers began using lager yeasts in the production of the Porter. Two of the oldest surviving Porter recipes in the United States are the Yuengling Porter and the Lion Brewery Porter, both of out of Pennsylvania (the home of many a German immigrant).

The Fall and Rise

Around the 1940s, Porter production stopped in England as the Stout increased in popularity. However, there was a renewed interest in the style at the end of the 1970s, and now, many brewers around the Western world have  brewed up their interpretation of the English classic. Many, in fact, have even put their own spin on things, with the introduction of a variety of flavored Porters (the aforementioned mocha, vanilla, and smoked–even the jolly pumpkin Porter!)

Well then!  Now that we’ve filled out brains with a little bit of knowledge on this month’s spotlight beer, it’s time to fill our mouths with some examples of the delicious brown stuff.  Check back soon for posts highlighting the taste, texture, and titillating aromas ascribed to the Porter, as well as hard-hitting reports and reviews on the bars and breweries that do this fine beer justice.

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