Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Ease into the fall chill with a porter

October 09. 2018 10:08PM


Summer is trying to hold on, but more often than not there is a chill in the air now. I’ve started taking out fall clothing and even contemplated bringing a jacket to work. So we need to think about something that matches the weather, and in this case that is porter.

Porter reportedly originated in England, evolving from a blend of beers, and historically, is considered a precursor of Stout.

It was rumored to have been favored by “porters” and other laborers, hence the name. The term “porter” refers to the day laborers of England’s 18th-century, meant for hire in store houses and public markets carrying produce, fish and dry goods on their backs.

Needless to say they were thirsty after a long day’s work. And, porter, though centered around London, was a beer that was available in the American colonies. They imported from London initially, but from about the 1760s, as things were beginning to get a bit acrimonious with the mother country, porter breweries sprung up on the East Coast.

Porter stood the test of time for many years, though around 1850 it started to be nudged out in popularity by lagers.

Porters continued to be enormously popular in London, though, and is considered one of the world’s first mass produced beers. It was popular in Ireland, too, where it was referred to as “plain porter.” Even now, if you are in an Irish pub and ask for a pint of plain, you will be served a brown porter.

Porters tend to be dark and deep, heavy beers, and one variety of them, brown porters, are in the traditional style of England.

They tend to range from light brown to dark brown in color, and to be rich in malt aromas and flavors. Brown porters tend to be a bit sweeter than their cousins known as robust porters, and often a bit lower and alcohol.

Here are a few brown porters to try:

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, England. The beer is very dark brown. If you hold it up to the light you can get some hints of brown, but it is opaque. It has a huge tan head. Malt comes through right away on the nose and then explodes on the palate. The flavors of roast, hints of caramel and a little bit of coffee character, are also present. There is a bit of chocolate in the background as well. It is a medium-bodied beer, very smooth and pleasing all the way to the finish. Perfect for a cold New Hampshire night.

Berkshire Brewing Company’s Drayman’s Porter, South Deerfield, Mass. Also dark brown, with a tan head. The label on the bottle describes it as “slightly sweet with notes of chocolate malt and coffee as well as some hops.” We’re still in the ballpark of the brown porter. This one is 6.3 percent alcohol by volume. Rich malt nose, although there are some hops peeking through. Chocolate starts coming through fairly soon. There is good development here. The palate is rich and creamy, well-balanced, and the flavor profile includes rich mulch, coffee, bitter chocolate, and a long finish that holds all of these flavors as they emerge and reemerge. A good heavy steak on the grill in the middle of winter comes to mind.

As for price, I got two shiny copper pennies back from my $10 bill when I bought these two beers. You do the math.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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