Into The Dark: The 15 Best American Porters
There is little more enticing than the sweet, chocolate, roasted aroma of a freshly poured porter. Porters, which are a close sibling of stouts, are typically slightly lighter in color, lighter in mouth feel (like lower viscosity oil), and lower in alcohol content than stouts. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but these beers are usually more sessionable than their fellow dark beers. Contrary to their appearance, porters don’t taste of scorched earth and cooled basaltic lava. Rather, their flavor is more akin to a milkshake, or an espresso drink. We love porters as dessert beers, and think they contrast well with all of the dinner and daytime beers we also love.
Originating in England in the 1700’s, porters were exceedingly popular for roughly 100 years. In time, their intricate brewing process became more costly than their demand justified. For the next century or more, the style floated uncomfortably close to extinction. In the late 1900s, however, the style received a much-welcomed revival. A significant portion of modern breweries offer some form of porter as one of their flagship beers. The style is now brewed with chocolate, with coffee, and in barrels of various liquors – all of which are equally delicious. Join us as we explore the 15 best porters on the market.
Stone Smoked Porter
At the forefront of many beer styles, Stone is usually present or closely adjacent. Their smoked porter is no different. Always inventive, in 2012 Stone held a vote to determine if fans preferred their Vanilla Bean or Chipotle Pepper variations on their porter. The Vanilla Bean won, but we got our hands and soon-to-be-burning lips on some of the Chipotle Pepper version, and it was quite intense.
Maui Coconut Porter
Maybe it’s their high-priced cans or obscure styles, but we think that Maui Brewing is quite underrated when it comes to craft breweries in America. Their coconut porter, one of the breweries four flagship beers, may be our favorite of what Maui Brewing has to offer. The coconut flavor in this beer is subtle enough for people who aren’t in love with coconuts. Still, the flavor is noticeable enough for those who love coconuts. Combined with traditional porter flavors, coconut is a fantastic accent.
Wingman P-51 Porter
Just 30 miles south of Seattle, a burgeoning beer giant, is the city of Tacoma, and home of Wingman Brewing. P-51 Porter is one of Wingman’s flagship brews, and is one of the best straight forward porters available on the West Coast. Straight forward doesn’t mean uncreative, however. Wingman has been known to brew their porter with anything from peanuts to devil’s food cake.
Caldera Mogli Porter
This oak-aged porter is brewed with chocolate, and chocolate is present on the palate from aroma to taste. This beer has a higher alcohol content than is typical in porters (8.5 percent), and also carries a higher price tag. These days, we’re never sticker shocked by special beers, but between the price point and alcohol content, Mogli is hardly “crushable.” After a nice meal however, we love tipping back a Mogli in place of any traditional dessert.
In a similar vain to what Stone Brewing is on the West Coast, Michigan-based Founders Brewing finds their beers atop several lists of great beers from a variety of styles. Founders Porter is a great example of the blurred lines between porters and stouts. This porter has a body, alcohol content, and hop profile that are more common in stouts, but the name says porter.
Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Not every porter is wild and crazy. Not every porter has to be aged on some special kind of wood. Not every porter needs to be infused with some sort of sweetener or spice. Everything that is a standard porter is represented by Black Butte, and Black Butte checks every box needed to be a porter. Black Butte is a phenomenal entry-level porter, full of flavor, but not so nuanced to intimidate a novice. Black Butte was one of our first porters, and it’s a great, affordable porter for those in its distribution radius.
Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
One of the preeminent breweries in the midwest themselves. Edmund Fitzgerald porter ranks high on the list of Great Lakes Brewing’s beer. Along with a hearty porter, Edmund Fitzgerald offers a history lesson. The beer was named after a freighter that sunk in Lake Superior nearly 40 years ago.
Ballast Point Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter
One commonality among many of the best porters, is that they stray quite substantially from the standard definition of a porter. Victory at Sea is very high in alcohol (10.0 percent), and pours dark black with a fruity nose that isn’t common among porters. The nose gives way to big coffee and vanilla flavors along with deep chocolate.
Highland Oatmeal Porter
Nestled in North Carolina, Highland Oatmeal Porter offers many of the flavors one would expect with a traditional porter. In addition to traditional flavors, this porter offers an earthiness from the infusion of oatmeal while mashing. It’s more common to find oatmeal infused in stouts, and finding one a porter infused with oatmeal is quite unique.
Almanac Bourbon Sour Porter
We are the first ones to admit – sour beers are not for everyone. Though dark in color, this sour porter provides surprising tartness. While very different than red wine, sour beers may function similarly on the palate to a dry red wine, with subtle sweetness and complexity running parallel to tartness akin to stone fruits.
Yuengling Porter is something like a Toyota Tercel. Yuengling Porter won’t win any races but at 4.7 percent alcohol by volume and domestic beer price, we get a lot of mileage out of this beer. Yuengling Porter isn’t dynamic in any one flavor category, but for the first-time porter drinker it functions like bumpers for the first-time bowler. It will keep them out of the gutter, and out of the poor house.
It’s pretty rare for a brewery that is more than 100 years old to remain in good standing with the craft beer community. Anchor Brewing has several unique offerings, but Anchor Porter is the best they have to offer. Anchor Porter is also quite affordable, which isn’t always true of high-quality porters.
Kona Pipeline Porter
Owned by conglomerate Craft Brewers Alliance, Kona Brewing hasn’t subtracted any nuance from Pipeline Porter at all. Brewed with Kona coffee beans, Pipeline Porter may have the deepest coffee flavor of most low-priced porters. Pipeline Porter is widely available, but remains a solid option during all seasons.
Alaskan Smoked Porter
Best known for their Amber, Alaskan Brewing Company has tried to shake that stigma, making great IPAs and porters for several years now. Some recommend cellaring Alaskan’s smoked porter, as smoked beers often mellow out over time.
Flyers Pacemaker Porter
One of Flyers Brewing’s flagship beers, Pacemaker Porter is under-appreciated among porters. With assertive roasted flavor, noticeable sweetness, and hop bitterness to reset the drinker’s palate, Pacemaker is a great porter for beer novices and seasoned veteran beer drinkers.
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