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Porter: The toilet bowl of all beer styles.

Here is my latest diatribe about homebrewing pushing the limits.

Normally, experimentation is a great thing.  Hell, I make a living off of experimentation everyday.  But there comes a point where as homebrewers, you’ve got to ask yourself: “Can I really make a great experimental beer, if I haven’t mastered the basics.”

I find that Porter has bared the brunt of many a homebrewers foiled experimentation with flavorings.  Don’t believe me… when was the last time you saw someone post a Porter recipe that didn’t include, chocolate, fruits, hazelnut, coffee, bourbon, whiskey, mint, sage, vanilla, grass or tooth-paste as a special additive? (That’s a trick question, see here.)

The point is whenever someone says; “Hey I want to add some Root Beer extract to a beer to make a Root Beer flavored beer, any idea what style I should use as a base???” The answer is inevitably poor old Porter.

Is this a just fate for what may actually be one of the grandfather styles of all English Beers?  Porter signifies a major change over in the production of coke fired malting plants and roasting techniques that took much of the smoke wood fired nature out of brewing.  Black Patent malt and Porter are significant milestones in the production of modern industrialized brewing.  This first step brings us cleaner tasting malts and true paler ales!

I challenge anyone who follows along with us here to spread the word:  If you have a Porter on your recipe “to do” list this year please, put down the cherry extract, the twigs of spruce or the basket of figs.  Just focus on the roasty blackness and simplicity that should be Porter.



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  1. Ryan Tenney

    Funny you should mention this… I just kegged a porter of mine, that while I had initially intended to make it a Coffee Porter, I chose instead to aim for a more historically accurate London Porter. It came out a little under attenuated, but otherwise great! I recently had a Samuel Smith Taddy Porter and a Fullers Porter to become better acquainted with the style, and I’m very pleased with how similar it is to those reference beers.

  2. CHEERS! to a naked Porter!
    Good work Ryan.

    BREW ON!

  3. Aaron

    I love porters, and I agree entirely with this… there’s nothing wrong with adding stuff to a porter, but you should have a real good porter underneath it, too.

  4. Hopshead

    Too late, I brewed a vanilla bourbon porter and it is bottled and yummy. I agree with the overall premise however, all the extras only cloud the beer and won’t make it any better unless there is a good solid porter base.

  5. I’ve never bastardized a porter (intentionally). The only thing I have done is changed the hops.Yes, I used cascade hops in a porter once. This was by necessity. They were the only hops I had and I needed to brew.

  6. When I saw the title in my reader, I came here looking for a fight, but you’ve already said everything I would’ve. To be fair, stouts are used a lot for the same purpose, I think because people like the combination of hteir chosen flavorings with roastiness. Still, if you’re going to try flavoring beer, why not use an amber ale? With its mild maltiness and hop character, it’s a much better ‘blank slate’ beer to try your flavorings out on, with just enough character so you know it’s still a beer. Peak Organic in Maine made an espresso amber, and after Peche Mortel it’s probably my second favorite coffee beer out there.

  7. Stinky

    or, why not just mind ya own damn business and let people do what they want with their own beer instead of getting all up your own ass with this preachy, “keep the beer historically accurate” bull roar? No one is making you drink our beer so keep yer head in yer own brewery.

    Dang fools.

  8. Hi, my name’s Dave, and I’ve bastardized a porter. It all started with wanting to put together a spiced beer, specifically cinnamon, and porter became the base of choice. Long story short, due to the fact that we were slightly inebriated when we added the cinnamon, we added about 4x the amount that we initially intended, making a beer that smelled of Close up Toothpaste and tasted of drinking a porter while chewing Big Red gum.

    It was made a year ago. I still have a couple six packs. I’m sure I’ll make some kickin’ applesauce with it at some point.

    Cheers to the Naked Porter.

  9. Cheers Stinky. We welcome healthy discourse on the site and we thank you for your point of view.

    We do not welcome name calling of any sort…but coming from a person named Stinky, it’s sorta disarming.

    Clearly, you should brew what you want. Just don’t share it with Mike.

  10. Stinky:
    Hey man, I am a live and let live type of guy. The spirit of my post was to showcase that I never hear of to many people brewing plain Porters. They seem to always get doctored and I wondered why. As others have commented. Brewing a good Porter first should be the order of the day, then you can add what ever you like to it.

    I liken this doctored Porter issue to most coffee drinkers I know. Less than 1% of the people I know who drink coffee actually like coffee. What I observe is a lot of people that like sugar, milk, flavorings (hazelnut, creme, blueberry) mixed together and warmed up with a little coffee. Come’on! drink some coffee!!!!

    Thanks for the rousing debate!

    BREW ON!

  11. Tony:
    “When I saw the title in my reader, I came here looking for a fight, but you’ve already said everything I would’ve.”
    So was I, I think! And I think Stinky delivered!

    But thanks for the support.

    BREW ON!

  12. Keith

    It’s nice to hear someone champion standard old porter. It seems many of the classics have gone to the wayside for flavored, oaked/spiked versions, or hopped up IPAs. Not knocking the creativity, but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics.

    I brewed a brown porter I’ve been working on for 3 or 4 versions now for my first keg. Sadly, I missed again as it over-attenuated and came out more like a roasty, not malty, brown ale. Anyone have a great all-grain brown porter recipe?

  13. John P.

    It’s good for experimentation because there is lots of room for error. If you want to be risky, try experimenting with a lager or pilsner. They have such a light flavor that any mistake is noticeable. Porters are more heavy-handed and can adapt to more variation without it ruining the entire batch.

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