2005 | REVIEWS | BLIND BEER TASTINGS
CBN Porter Blind Tastings
CBN Blind Tasting Panel
• Jay R. Brooks, Tasting Panel Director, CBN
• Bob Coleman, Reporter, CBN
• Tom Dalldorf, Editor / Publisher, CBN
• Paul Marshall, Beer Judge
• R.J. Trent, Beer Retailer / Former Brewer
• Special thanks to Mike Long, BTP Tasting coordinator/head
The precise beginnings of a beer style are rarely as well
known as the origin of porters. In 1722, one of the most popular
beers was a mix of three different beers in equal proportions:
pale ale, new brown ale and aged (or stale) brown ale. As
this was a time-consuming process for the bartender to draw
from three separate taps, brewer Ralph Harwood decided to
brew a single beer that incorporated the characteristics of
the "three threads," which is what porter's predecessor
was then called. When Mr. Harwood began serving his new beer
at the Bell Brewhouse in Shoreditch, London, he called it
"entire" (or sometimes "entire butt")
to convey that its flavors included all three of the beer
"threads." But, according to legend, everyone else
called it porter since it was most popular among the working-class
porters who worked in Mr. Harwood's East London neighborhood.
Not everyone, of course, believes this neat, all-encompassing
story, coming from John Bickerdyke's Curiosities of Ale and
Beer, published in the 1870s. According to Terry Foster, this
beer may simply have developed as a result of efforts to cut
Regardless of porter’s origins, it remains a popular
style today. It all but died out in the 1970s, but a few British
breweries began reviving the style around 1978, and it slowly
continued to grow in popularity. It finally returned to its
birthplace in London when the Orange Brewery, a brewpub in
the Pimlico district, began brewing it in 1984. Eventually
it became a common beer at small craft breweries throughout
the United States and the world during the 1980s.
There are two main types of porters: brown and robust. In
addition, Baltic porter is a relatively uncommon and distinct
style. Brown porters are, of course, brown in color with hints
of red, while robust porters are dark brown to black with
tints of dark red and violet. Brown porters tend to be slightly
less hoppy (20–30 IBUs vs. 25¬40). Neither should
have roasted or burnt flavors, but robust porters may have
black malt bitterness. Also, brown porters are slightly lower
in alcohol (4.5–6% abv vs. 5–6.5%). Baltic porters
are, by contrast, very dark, almost black, lagers that are
smooth and do have roasted malt character with slight smokiness.
They are also higher in alcohol (6.5–9% abv) and low
in hopping (22–35 IBUs).
Smoked Porter 2004
Alaskan Brewing Co., Alaska
Very strong smoked alder wood aroma. Dark black-brown color
and a pillowy tan head with great Brussels lace. Sweet, smoky
and complex flavors with excellent malt character. Creamy
goodness, well-balanced. The perfect beer to pair with smoked
Anchor Brewing Co., California
Sweet, estery malt nose, only slightly roasted. Black color
and a thick tan head. Dry, sweet roasted coffee flavors and
a big bitter finish.
Creek Organic Porter
Butte Creek Brewing Co., California
Chocolate, coffee and biscuity nose with peppery hints. Dark
amber color. Sweet malt flavors with creaminess up front and
a good mouthfeel. Finishes with a sweet malt and tart combination.
Coast Range Brewing Co., California
Strong nose, thick with the scents of coffee and chocolate.
Black in color with a very thick tan head. Creamy milk chocolate
and enveloping malt flavors with great complexity and balance.
With portlike richness, a near-perfect robust porter.
Enders Dark Porter
Anderson Valley Brewing Co., California
Dry-roasted nose with dark brown–black color and a thick
tan head. Dry-roasted malt up front with strong coffee notes.
Big but balanced long, tart finish.
River Porter - Certified Organic
Eel River Brewing Co., California
Mild, roasted-malt nose and deep, dark mahogany color with
a rich tan head. Creamy goodness with a complex malt bite
of chocolate and coffee flavors. Excellent balance with a
soft, dry finish.
Privatbrauerei Hoepfner, Germany
Nutty, herbal nose with hints of dark pumpernickel. Deep black
color and a tan head. Creamy and smooth with rich, fat malt
character. A very complex beer with beautiful conditioning
and a tart finish.
Marin Brewing Co., California
Rich, robust nose of roasty-toasty aromas. Deep black color.
Creamy with a huge malt blast of rich coffee and chocolate.
A major strong porter with great conditioning, sweet malt
and a tart finish.
Mad River Brewing Co., California
Soft malt nose with herbal notes. Black color with a thick
tan head. Creamy and sweet up front with great complexity
of flavors and nice balance. A double IPA refugee with a long.
Stone Brewing Co., California
Light smoke aroma, dark brown–black color and a thick,
rich tan head. Creamy, with light smoked character and soft,
tart roasted flavors. Good complexity and a clean finish.
Baltika Brewing Co., Russia
Big, roasty herbal nose, black-brown color and a tan head.
Big and balanced, with rich roasted malt that’s surprisingly
soft on the palate. Slightly sweet, with a long, dry finish.
Deschutes Brewing Co., Oregon
Roasted malt nose with hints of chocolate. Dark brown–black
color with violet hues and a good tan head. Great toasted
malt flavors with subtle hints of cherries and chocolate lurking
under the surface. This classic version of the American style
is well-balanced, with great conditioning and a clean finish.
Redhook Ale Brewery, Washington
Lightly sweet malt nose, dark black color and a tan head.
Soft, rich black malt flavor with strong coffee notes and
good balance. The finish is long, soft and clean.
T. D. Ridley & Sons Limited, England
Light, malty nose, dark brown color and a thick tan head.
Slightly sweet and creamy, with a good mouthfeel and a long,
Smith Taddy Porter
The Old Brewery at Tadcaster, England
Aromas of coffee and vanilla. Dark black color and a very
thick, rich tan head. Creamy, with robust black malt and nutty
undertones. Good balance and a clean finish.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., California
Soft, roasty nose with dark brown–black color and a
thick, light tan head. Lightly sweet, with soft malt character
and great balance.
Six Rivers Brewing Co., California
Black patent nose with rich, roasty notes. Deep black color
under a pillowy, thick tan head. Strong and robust flavors
with creamy smooth malt and silky lactic notes.
Otter Creek Brewing Co., Vermont
Black malt nose with a hint of smokiness. Dark black color.
Big malt flavors with good balance, a hint of smoked flavor
and a long, robust finish.
Springs Coffee Porter
Iron Springs Brewing Co., California
Complex nose of coffee notes, peppery spices and buttery apples.
Black color and a thick tan head. Rich coffee flavors, slightly
lactic, with hints of sweet peppers and Maduro tobacco.
Springs Smoked Porter
Iron Springs Brewing Co., California
A hint of smoke in the nose. Black color and a tan head. Subtle
smoked flavor with decent balance. Nicely tart and slightly
Malt Shovel Brewery, Australia
Lightly roasted nose, dark brown–black color and a tan
head. Roasted malt character with soft, tart notes and a good
Darwin Brewery, England
Sweet and sour aromas with hints of herbs and nuts. Dark mahogany
color with a tan head. Sweet malt flavors with just a hint
of hazelnut and licorice.
Utenos Brewery, Lithuania
Sweet, malty nose with hints of caramel. Brown color. Thick,
lactic, malty flavors in the manner of a strong ale, with
nutty esters and a clean finish.
Weber’s Brown Porter
Valley Brewing Co., California
Light malt nose, dark brown color and a tan head. Rich roasty
notes with some nuttiness and creaminess in a well-balanced
package. Malt-forward, followed by a long, lingering hop finish.