I was going to write about the history of beer… honest I was. But I found myself in the beer aisle of Whole Foods and wondered what porter tasted like, and how was it different from your typical American mainstream lager.
So I used my debit card and picked up four different Porters… Perseus Porter (pictured) from Elysian Brewery, Steam Train Porter, brewed by Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company, The Famous Taddy Porter by Samuel Smith Old Bewery, and finally a Smoked Porter from the Alaskan Brewery. I bought some cheese and meats to go along with the taste and hustled home in Sebastian (my Mini Cooper). I felt very British.
But what is Porter? According to the The Guinness Drinking Companion by Leslie Dunkling (via the Beer FAQ), it was common in the early 18th century to call for a pint of “Three threads”, meaning a third of a pint each of ale, beer, and twopenny (the strongest beer, costing twopence a quart). A brewer had the idea of brewing a beer that united the flavors of all three. He called this beer “Entire”.
Entire was highly hopped, strong, and dark. It was brewed with soft rather than hard water. Within a few years Entire was also being referred to as “Porter” (short for porter’s ale) because the porters of the London street markets were especially fond of it. Porter that was extra strong was known as “Stout Porter”, and eventually “Stout”. If you are a big fan of Guiness, you owe a great deal to Porter.
Porter is a dark beer, of this there is no doubt. But it’s not as bitter as one would think. In sampling the Perseus Porter, I found it to be hoppy and malty, as mentioned above, but also smokey and a little chocolately. I found that it went perfectly with Roast Beef and a little smoked duck. But you can also serve it with grilled beef and hamburgers, and even chicken or pork. The smokiness of the porter compliments the grill quite well. If you find yourself with a very sweet porter, you could also match it up quite nicely with BBQ.
The chocolate undertones of the porter also match very well with mexican moles and most every mild chocolate dessert. Porter is very adaptable.
So am I now a Porter fan? It’s certainly a rich beer, and one I can appreciate. So yes, it has its time and place. But it’s not something I would drink by itself. It needs food to compliment it for me to appreciate it.
And yes, I know I need proper beer glasses.