Porter (beer)

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Porter is a dark-coloured style of beer. The history and development of stout and porter are intertwined.[1] The name was first used in the 18th century from its popularity with the street and river porters of London. It is generally brewed with dark malts. The name "stout" for a dark beer is believed to have come about because a strong porter may be called "Extra Porter" or "Double Porter" or "Stout Porter". The term "Stout Porter" would later be shortened to just "Stout". For example, Guinness Extra Stout was originally called "Extra Superior Porter" and was only given the name Extra Stout in 1840.[2]




In 1802, a writer named John Feltham wrote a version of the history of porter that has been used as the basis for most writings on the topic. However, very little of Feltham's story is backed up by contemporary evidence. His account is based upon a letter written by Obadiah Poundage (who had worked for decades in the London brewing trade) in the 1760s. Unfortunately, Feltham badly misinterpreted parts of the text, mainly due to his unfamiliarity with 18th century brewing terminology. Feltham claimed that in 18th century London a popular beverage called "three threads" was made consisting of a third of a pint each of ale, beer and twopenny (the strongest beer, costing tuppence a quart). About 1730, Feltham said, a brewer called Harwood made a single beer called Entire which recreated the flavour of "three threads", and which became known as "porter".[3]

Porter is actually mentioned as early as 1721, but no writer before Feltham says it was made to replicate "three threads". Instead, it seems to be a more-aged development of the brown beers already being made in London.[citation needed] Before 1700, London brewers sent out their beer very young and any aging was either performed by the publican or a dealer. Porter was the first beer to be aged at the brewery and despatched in a condition fit to be drunk immediately. It was the first beer that could be made on any large scale, and the London porter brewers, such as Whitbread, Truman, Parsons and Thrale, achieved great success financially.

Early London Porters were strong beers by modern standards. Early trials with the hydrometer in the 1770s recorded Porter as having an OG (original gravity) of 1.071° and 6.6% ABV.[4] Increased taxation during the Napoleonic Wars pushed its gravity down to around 1.055°, where it remained for the rest of the 19th century. The huge popularity of the style prompted brewers to produce Porters in a wide variety of strengths. These started with Single Stout Porter at around 1.066°, Double Stout Porter (such as Guinness) at 1.072°, Triple Stout Porter at 1.078° and Imperial Stout Porter at 1.095° and more. As the 19th century progressed the Porter suffix was gradually dropped. British brewers, however, continued to use Porter as the generic term for both Porters and Stouts.[citation needed]

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