Friday 1 May 2009

Porter: the style that never died

Last night I was drinking some of my home brewed porter. It was based on the recipe for Ringwood XXXX porter in Graham Wheeler's Brew Your Own British Real Ale At Home. Ringwood porter is one of my favourite beers but as I didn't managed to find any in the pub this year I thought I'd have a go at making my own. It's great being able to make your own beer.

Porter is often described as a once popular beer style that died out completely before being revived in recent years by microbreweries. When friends have asked me what porter is I've answered "like stout, but weaker". But even as I was saying this I'd think is this really true? Draught Guinness has an ABV of 4.1% so were historical porters weaker than this? Not at all, for most of the time they were brewed porters would have been stronger, and stout porters stronger still.  

So did porters contain different ingredients to stouts? No to that one too.

Another beer blogger has summed up well the difference between porters and stouts: none, except that historically stout was stronger. 

So what did happen to porter? Looking at the ABV of draught Guinness it can hardly be called 'stout' compared to the other beers on the bar. So in historical terms Guinness is in fact a porter, and it's Guinness Export Stout at 8% ABV that has a genuine claim to being a stout. 

Porter never died it just changed its name to stout. I blame the marketing department.

When I made my home brew based on the Ringwood beer I parti-gyled, taking the first runnings of strong wort off to make a stout and using the rest of my wort to make the porter. The same beer in two strengths, so porter and stout in the old fashioned sense.

The colour of the porter was dark brown but not opaque, with slightly brown creamy head, a malty smell, chocolatey dark grain taste. 

I haven't been able to compare it to the Ringwood beer it's based on but my version is a little dryer than I remember the original being.


  1. From reading the home brew myths online you could draw a line that Stout consists of pale malt, torrified wheat and roast barley, while portsre is brewed from pale, crystal and black patent malts. Not historically accurate, but good enough for me.

  2. I know what you mean, I would also expect a stout to have a harsher taste than porter due to roast barley.

    But there's no historical justification for this and looking at zythophiles comparsion of Good beer guide tasting notes I'm not really sure if it works as a modern definition either.

  3. Sorry about the lack of recipe, I'll post it up when I find out where I put my brewery log book.