Last Modified On:
September 12, 2023

What is Porter Beer? Beginner's Guide to Porter Beers

Discover the rich and complex taste of porter beer with our beginner's guide. Learn all about the history, styles, best brands and brewing proces of porter beers.

4 minutes

Move over, beer amateurs! Today, we're diving into the world of porter beers. But wait, what is a porter beer? It's not just a fancy name for an ale or lager. Porters beer have a rich history and unique brewing process that sets them apart from other types of beer. In this beginner's guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know about porter beers - from their origin story to the different styles available in the market. We'll also answer some pressing questions like how they compare to stouts and other dark ales. And because we're feeling generous, we've even listed some of the best brands of porter beer out there and which foods pair well with them.

So, grab a cold one (or not so cold if it's a porter) and let's get started!

What is a Porter Beer?

Porter beer is a dark-colored beer that often includes adjuncts such as maize, molasses, and porterine. Brewed using lager or ale yeast, it offers notes of caramel, toffee, and dark chocolate. Alcohol content typically ranges from 4% to 8% ABV.

In the early 18th century, porters beer became popular among London's working class. Its rich flavors and brown malt color won over their hearts, leading to its name - "porter." Arthur Guinness played a significant role in popularizing it beyond England, bringing it to beer lovers worldwide. So, raise a glass to the working class heroes and enjoy this timeless brew that tells a tale of history.

The Brewing Process of Porter Beers

Ah, the magical process of crafting porter beer! Picture a brewer at work, concocting a dark and delicious elixir. The secret lies in the malt flavors and roasted barley, which give porters beer its distinctive taste. Whether it's a lager yeast or an ale yeast, the brewing process starts with adding different malts to create a complexity of flavors. Imagine the richness of caramel, the sweetness of toffee, and the indulgence of dark chocolate all melded together. This style of beer often boasts a velvety mouthfeel and can vary in alcohol content. To balance out the sweetness, hops step in and add that signature touch of bitterness.

Styles of Porter Beers

Now that we know what is a porter beer, let's dive into the exciting world of porter beers and explore the different styles that will tantalize your taste buds. When it comes to porters beer, there is a wide range of styles that offer unique flavors and characteristics. From traditional English porters to innovative American variations, there's something for everyone.

So grab a pint and let's take a flavorful journey through the styles of porter beers:

English Porter

Ah, the English Porter, a traditional beer style that takes you back to 18th-century London. Picture this: rich brown ale malt flavors dancing on your taste buds, with a toffee sweetness that’ll make you weak in the knees. This dark beer is a true gem, brewed with a variety of malts, including caramel and roasted barley, giving it a depth of flavor reminiscent of a classic brown ale that you won't find anywhere else. And let's not forget about the hops, balancing out the sweetness of the brown ale with just the right amount of bitterness. With an ABV range of 4-5%, this beauty is perfect for sipping and savoring.

American Porter

Alright folks, let's dive into the world of American Porter, the rebellious cousin of the traditional English porter style. This bad boy takes the classic brew and adds an American twist to it. You'll find a more pronounced hop bitterness and aroma that will make your taste buds dance with joy.

But wait, there's more! American Porters like to experiment with flavors, so don't be surprised if you come across some wacky additions like chocolate, coffee, or even spices. These adjuncts add an extra layer of complexity to the already dark and delicious brew.

Speaking of darkness, American Porters boast rich flavors of dark chocolate and roasted malt. It's like sipping on a decadent dessert in beer form. And don't fret, it's not too heavy on the alcohol content, typically ranging from 5-7%.

Baltic Porter

Ah, the mighty Baltic Porter and schwarzbier hybrid. Originating in the frosty Baltic region, particularly Russia and Poland, this robust porter draws its inspiration from the vast Baltic Sea. It packs a punch with its higher alcohol content, usually soaring above 7% ABV. But don't let that intimidate you, my daring beer enthusiasts! This smooth and full-bodied brew, reminiscent of a schwarzbier, offers a decadent molasses-tinged mouthfeel that will leave you longing for more. Picture yourself savoring the rich malt flavors, layered with hints of dark fruit and licorice, dancing on your taste buds. And guess what? The magic happens thanks to the lager yeast used for fermentation.

Robust Porter

Robust Porter, you say? Now we're talking about a beer that takes the classic American porter style and cranks up the malt flavors to eleven! This dark beer is all about the roasted malt, chocolate, and coffee notes. It's like a rich, indulgent dessert in a glass. But don't let that fool you, it still maintains a balanced bitterness and a medium body. Plus, it can have a slightly higher ABV than other porter beestyles, so you know it means business. Robust Porter is a versatile brew that pairs well with a variety of foods. Whether you're enjoying a juicy burger or a decadent chocolate cake, this beer has got your back.

Smoked Porter

Let me introduce you to the fascinating world of Smoked Porter. This unique style takes your taste buds on a wild adventure by incorporating smoked malt into the brewing process. Picture yourself sitting around a campfire or indulging in a mouth-watering barbecue - that's the distinct smoky aroma and flavor you can expect from a Smoked Porter.

Brewed with dark malts, this beer is all about depth and complexity. From subtle hints of smoke to bold and pronounced flavors, it varies in intensity, making each sip a delightful surprise. And if you're a fan of grilled or smoked meats, then this beer is for you.

Vanilla Porter

Indulge in the delightful world of Vanilla Porter, where the sweet and creamy flavors of vanilla take center stage. This smooth and decadent brew offers a velvety mouthfeel that will leave you craving for more. Its rich malt character perfectly complements the infusion of vanilla, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. From subtle hints to prominent notes, the level of sweetness in Vanilla Porter can vary, adding a touch of versatility to this delicious beer. Whether enjoyed on its own or used as a base for creative dessert-inspired beer cocktails, Vanilla Porter is bound to satisfy your cravings.

What is the difference between a stout and a porter beer?

Stouts and porters have distinct characteristics. Stouts tend to be darker and stronger, with a thick and creamy mouthfeel. Porters, on the other hand, offer more diverse flavors and styles. Historically, the terms were used interchangeably, but today they are recognized as separate beer styles.

What is a dark ale vs stout vs porter?

Dark ales, stouts, and porters are all dark beers with rich flavors. While dark ales can encompass stouts and porters, stouts are typically stronger and more robust. Porters have a wider range of flavors and styles compared to stouts.

Best Brands of Porter Beer

When it comes to the best brands of porter beer in the market, there are a few that stand out:

  1. Founders Porter - ABV: Around 6.5-7.5%
  2. Deschutes Black Butte Porter - ABV: Around 5.2-5.5%
  3. Taddy Porter by Samuel Smith's Brewery - ABV: Around 5%
  4. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter by Great Lakes Brewing Co. - ABV: Around 6%
  5. London Porter by Fuller's Brewery - ABV: Around 5.4%
  6. Anchor Porter by Anchor Brewing Company - ABV: Around 5.6%

Please note that these ABV (Alcohol By Volume) ranges are approximate and can vary slightly from batch to batch. For the most accurate and current information, I recommend visiting the official websites of these breweries or checking with local beer retailers.


In conclusion, porter beer is a versatile and flavorful beverage that has a rich history and a wide range of styles to choose from. Whether you prefer the traditional English porter or the bold and robust American porter, there is a porters beer out there for everyone and every type of budget. So why not expand your beer horizons and give porter a try? Pair it with hearty dishes like roasted meats, chocolate desserts, or even a cheese platter for a truly satisfying experience. Don't be afraid to explore the world of porter beers or even gluten-free beers and discover your new favorite brew.