American Porter

When the frost starts to coat the Pumpkin, it’s a clear sign that the Hefeweizens, Witbiers, and Pilseners of summer need to be cleared out of the fridge to make room for the more robust beers of Fall and Winter.  A great style we’d recommend to kick off your November will be the American Porter 

Back in the 80’s, Don Henley even sang a song about his Fall love affair with the American Porter – “I can see you, your brown tone shining in the sun, you got your cap pulled back, and your… full tan head o-on.  I can tell you, my love will still be strong… After the beers of, summer have gone.”  Pretty cool beer geek, that Don Henley. 

Below is the Gateway Beers profile of the typical characteristics you’ll find in an American Porter (on a 1-5 bar scale):


While there is no officially sanctioned style description of the American Porter (unless you consider Beer Advocate to be “official”), here is a formal description of a “Robust Porter” from the Beer Judge Certification Program’s Style Guide.  It’s very similar to the qualities you’ll find in your typical American Porters today.   Appearance:Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color. Clarity may be difficult to discern in such a dark beer, but when not opaque will be clear (particularly when held up to the light). Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.  

Aroma:Roasty aroma (often with a lightly burnt, black malt character) should be noticeable and may be moderately strong. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high (US or UK varieties).  Some American versions may be dry-hopped.  Fruity esters are moderate to none.  Diacetyl low to none.

Flavor:Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt, black malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of roasty dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet, depending on grist composition, hop bittering level, and attenuation. May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, although should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. Medium to high bitterness, which can be accentuated by the roasted malt. Hop flavor can vary from low to moderately high (US or UK varieties, typically), and balances the roasted malt flavors.  Diacetyl low to none.  Fruity esters moderate to none.   

Mouthfeel:Medium to medium-full body. Moderately low to moderately high carbonation. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from roasted grains, although this character should not be strong.

Overall Impression:A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex and flavorful roasty character. 

Food Pairings

Look to pair your American Porter with foods that are rich, aromatic, spicy, charred or smoky – think dishes with gravy, stews, stronger cheeses, oysters, and grilled meats like steaks, burgers, and smoked sausage.  Desserts also go very well: try it with pecan pie, brownies, Reece’s peanut butter cups, or coconut-rich desserts.  Because of its smokey qualities, many people prefer to enjoy one with a good cigar as a night cap.  


Serving & Glassware

The American Porter is best served at 45-50 degrees, and it sits well in either a nonic pint glass or mug.

What to Buy:

There are over 60 varieties of American Porters that you can find here in Southeastern PA, with the following 3 being both well-rated, and pretty readily available across your better bottle shops and distributors in the area.  

         Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald, 5.8% ABV (Cleveland, OH) 

         Founders Porter, 6.5% ABV  (Grand Rapids, MI) 

         Anchor Porter, 5.6% ABV (San Francisco, CA) 

For additional options, check out our American Porter page, or just connect with us on FACEBOOK for daily recommendations this week… and Leave a Reply below to let us know what you think about the style!  

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