Porters date back to early 18th century England, when a London brewer named Ralph Hardwood blended 3 different beers together: an ale, a beer, and a strong beer, which were known as the “Three threads.” And so, the porter was born. Due to the length of time it took to age porters, they were among the first styles of beer to be made by breweries, instead of being created in the bars. The name “porter” was derived from the porters who carried goods around the cities, since they favored this style of beer.
The invention of the malt roaster in 1817 created what was to become the porters of today. This roaster allowed the malts to essentially blacken, giving way to porter’s darker, more roasty finish. Guinness started brewing porters back in 1776, and after almost a century, became the largest brewery in the world. Their last production of porters was in 1974, when they transitioned to nothing but stout production.
The porter made its debut in America in the late 1700’s by way of the British. Porters remained one of the prominent styles of beer here until WW1, when they virtually disappeared. It wasn’t until 1972 that a brewery from San Francisco revived the porter style again. Anchor Brewing became the first American craft brewery to produce a porter after Prohibition. Many craft breweries followed suit, and today, there are literally thousands of different styles of porters around the world, giving off a vast array of notes. Although they might not be as popular as some other styles, they are an easy style to drink, no matter what time of year.
So next time you pour yourself a porter, thank Ralph for going out on a limb. Without his creativity and ambition, we likely wouldn’t be enjoying this delicious brew today.