Session #109: Loving Porter

For our 109th Session, our host is Mark Lindner, who is the Bend Beer Librarian, and writes the By the Barrel in Bend, Oregon. For his topic, he’s chosen the beer style Porter, and wants us to explore what he calls a “highly variable style.” Jon goes on to explain what he means by that in his announcement for the March Session:



“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).

I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.

There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on.

With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate.

I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.


One of Mark’s suggestions was to “[c]onstruct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages,” so I figured the easiest thing to do this month was actually that. I chose Robust Porter for no better reason than I like them.


Robust Porter

robust-porter Robust Porter is part of a family of beer, Porters, for which I have a personal bias. My son is named Porter. But it’s also a favorite style because I love the chocolate and sometime coffee notes that are usually smoother and less harsh than stouts. Deschutes Black Butte Porter was probably the one that really helped me love the style, but Anchor Porter and St. Bridget’s Porter from Great Divide are also early favorites.

What follows is information about robust porter, collected from a variety of sources. If you know of any additional resources about this type of beer, please let me know.


A stronger, more aggressive version of pre-prohibition porters and/or English porters developed in the modern craft beer era. Historical versions existed, particularly on the US East Coast, some of which are still being produced. This style describes the modern craft version. Note: This is the history for “American Porter,” which in 2015 replaced “Robust Porter.”

Origin: unitedkingdom


A Comparison of Style Ranges

Source SRM ABV O.G. F.G. IBU
BJCP1 (20A) American 22-40 5-6.5% Varies 1.008-1.016 25-50
Brewery DB 20-30 6.3-7.5% Varies 1.018-1.024 25-40
GABF2 (83) Robust 20-35 4.4-6% 1.045-1.060 1.008-1.016 25-40
Periodic Table7 (48) 30-40 4.8-6% 1.050-1.065 1.012-1.016 25-45
WBC6 (75) Robust 30+ 5.1-6.6% 1.045-1.1060 1.008-1.016 25-40



BJCP Description: 20A. American Porter1

Overall Impression: A substantial, malty dark beer with a complex and flavorful dark malt character.

Aroma: Medium-light to medium-strong dark malt aroma, often with a lightly burnt character. 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, often with a resiny, earthy, or floral character. May be dry-hopped. Fruity esters are moderate to none.

Color Range


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.

Flavor: Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of grainy, dark malt dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet. May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, but should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. Medium to high bitterness, which can be accentuated by the dark malt. Hop flavor can vary from low to high with a resiny, earthy, or floral character, and balances the dark malt flavors. The dark malt and hops should not clash. Dry-hopped versions may have a resiny flavor. 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 dark malts, although this character should not be strong.

Comments: Although a rather broad style open to brewer interpretation. Dark malt intensity and flavor can vary significantly. May or may not have a strong hop character, and may or may not have significant fermentation by-products; thus may seem to have an “American” or “British” character.

Characteristic Ingredients: May contain several malts, prominently dark malts, which often include black malt (chocolate malt is also often used). American hops typically used for bittering, but US or UK finishing hops can be used; a clashing citrus quality is generally undesirable. Ale yeast can either be clean US versions or characterful English varieties.

Style Comparison: More bitter and often stronger with more dark malt qualities and dryness than English Porters or Pre-Prohibition Porters. Less strong and assertive than American Stouts. Description


GABF/World Beer Cup Description

75. Robust Porter
Robust Porters are very dark to black. Hop aroma is very low to medium. They have a roast malt flavor, often reminiscent of cocoa, but no roast barley flavor. Caramel and other malty sweetness is in harmony with a sharp bitterness of black malt without a highly burnt/charcoal flavor. Hop flavor is very low to medium. Hop bitterness is medium to high. Diacetyl should not be perceived. Fruity esters should be evident, balanced with all other characters. Body is medium to full.

Online Descriptions

Beer Advocate
Inspired from the now wavering English Porter, the American Porter is the ingenuous creation from that. Thankfully with lots of innovation and originality American brewers have taken this style to a new level. Whether it is highly hopping the brew, using smoked malts, or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the burnt flavor associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced. Many are just easy drinking session porters as well.
Rate Beer
Black or chocolate malt gives the porter its dark brown color. Porters are often well hopped and somewhat heavily malted. This is a medium-bodied beer and may show some sweetness usually from the light caramel to light molasses range. Hoppiness can range from bitter to mild. Porters, in relation to stouts of the same region, are typically more mild and less aggressively hopped.



pint-glass becker-pint nonic-pint tumbler seidel stein-ceramic
Pint Glass (or Becker, Nonic, Tumbler), Mug (or Seidel, Stein)3
Nonic Pint5

Food Pairing

bbq cheese-variety chocolate steak_meat prosciutto meatloaf scallops shepherds-pie souffle venison boar
Cuisine (Barbecue) Cheese (buttery; Brie, Gouda, Havarti, Swiss) General (Chocolate, Dessert) Meat (Beef, Smoked Meat, Grilled Meat)3
Aged Ham (prosciutto, Serrano, Bayonne), Meatloaf, Seared Scallops, Shepherd’s Pie, Soufflé, Steak, Venison, Wild Boar4
Roasted or Grilled Meats, Gruyere, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies5

Seasonality & Temperature

45-50° F
40-45° F*
Beer 101:


Links About Porter

Further Reading


Commercial Examples of Robust Porter

Anchor Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Founders Porter, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter1
Iron Hill Pig Iron Porter, Rock Bottom Moonlight Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter5

Edmund Fitzgerald Bully Porter Bottle Label

Top 10 Examples

Beer Advocate

  1. Funky Buddha Morning Wood
  2. Hill Farmstead Everett Porter
  3. Perrin No Rules
  4. Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Coffee Porter
  5. Kane Sunday Brunch
  6. Funky Buddha Last Snow
  7. Jackie O’s Bourbon Barrel Black Maple
  8. Kane Mexican Brunch
  9. Hill Farmstead Birth Of Tragedy
  10. Ballast Point Victory At Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter


Rate Beer

  1. Smuttynose Robust Porter
  2. Cigar City Puppy’s Breath Robust Porter
  3. Greenbush Distorter Robust Porter
  4. AleSmith Robust Porter
  5. Reuben’s Robust Porter
  6. Ballast Point Homework Series Batch #6 – Robust Porter
  7. Big Sky Bobo’s Robust Porter
  8. Birbant Double Robust Porter
  9. Wisconsin #006 Porter Joe
  10. Cheshire Valley Robust Porter


Key to Sources

1 = BJCP 2015
2 = GABF 2015
3 = Beer Advocate
4 = Garrett Oliver’s Brewmaster’s Table
5 = Brewers Association /
6 = World Beer Cup Guidelines 2016
7 = The Periodic Table of Beer Styles 2001
8 =


* = Not recommended for extended aging, unless ABV exceeds average range


  1. says

    Thanks for your contribution to The Session #109. Wasn’t trying to “shame” you into doing a Typology ahead of schedule, but I do sincerely appreciate it.


  1. […] Jay Brooks of Brookston Beer Bulletin gives us “Session #109: Loving Porter.” Please tell me that you are aware of Jay Brooks’ more recent undertaking, Typology Tuesday! It takes place on the last Tuesday of the month, and addresses where he prefers that The Session itself had stayed centered. As he says, “So I want to make more of a concerted effort to explore the nature of different kinds of beers, how they can, or should, be organized, divided, dissected and shuffled around, preferably with one in my hand.” There’s a tad bit more to it if you need a better explanation but see that Typology Tuesday page. In January we did Barley Wine; February was Bock [Sadly I was unable to find one and was unable to participate.]; March will be Irish-Style Dry Stout, for which I have already secured a couple; and April will be Saison. Please consider joining Jay and others and let’s get this look at styles off the ground and running. […]

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