Porter – Back from the Brink to Fashionable Drink

beer and chips
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For many years, porter was Britain’s national drink, before a tragic accident led to this dark beer all but disappearing from the menu. But now porter is experiencing a renaissance worldwide.

For a long time, porter was regarded as an extinct beer type, And could only be found flowing through the occasional tap in some of England’s pubs. However, thanks to the craft beer movement, porter is experiencing a worldwide resurgence with creative brewers dreaming up their own interpretations. Porter was supposedly first brewed towards the end of the 18th century, when British maltsters came up with a special process for producing roasted malt, which remains a characteristic feature of this type of beer. Even founding father George Washington was said to be a fan of the flavor, having gallons and gallons of porter delivered to the US in order to quench his thirst. Thanks to the high hopping rate during the brewing process, the British beer kept relatively well considering the conditions at the time, and was able to last the long journey by sea without a problem. Indeed, this dark beer took its name from the fact that it was mainly drunk by dock workers and porters as they went about their job.

Porter remained the most popular type of beer in England well into the 19th century, until one day – October 17, 1814 to be precise – a tragic accident took place. According to the legend, several large vats containing more than a million liters of finest beer exploded at the “Meux and Company” brewery. The porter flooded the streets in the slums of St. Giles and the resulting wave of beer destroyed buildings, filled up cellars, and even caused several people to drown. From that point onward, porter consumption began to fall drastically.

Nonetheless, it continued to be brewed. At the end of the 19th century, Great Britain was home to many varieties and strengths of porter. The stronger brews were known as stout porter, which later became a style of beer in its own right, now known simply as “stout”. It was also not uncommon for unusual ingredients such as liquorice, linseed, ginger or other spices to be thrown into the brewing kettle. Porter is essentially characterized by roasted notes with nuances of coffee and chocolate. The first sip is mostly characterized by a malty sweetness which is then replaced by bitterness and the acerbity of the hops. There are often aromas of dark berries and dried fruits such as prunes and apricots in the mix, too.

Today, this type of beer tends to be served as an accompaniment to fine dishes or more substantial plates. Porter is ideally suited to meat dishes such as steak or game, and this dark, aromatic beer also tastes great with desserts or mature cheese. You can find out more at the next drinktec in the place2beer area. Innovative and renowned brewers alike will be presenting their specialties here, and you can also learn more about fashionable styles of beer and trends such as “women and beer” or “beer and cheese”. Of course, visitors can also try a range of beers from around the world – including some porters – all free of charge.


Mareike Hasenbeck

Mareike Hasenbeck is a freelance journalist with her own craft beer blog (Feiner Hopfen), she is also a beer sommelier and an international expert for beer sensory certified by the DLG (German Agricultural Society).