Table I: Strengths of Selected American Porters
    Original Gravity Final Gravity  
Year Brand (S.G.) (°Plato) (S.G.) (°Plato) Sources
1887 unknown 1.073 17.97 1.027 6.7 (1)
1899 unknown 1.055 13.25 1.018 4.19 (1)
1937 unknown 1.061 15 1.023 4.9 (2)
1960 Narragansett 1.052 13 1.011 2.7 (3)
1982 Sierra Nevada 1.057 14.1 1.012 3.0 (3)
1989 Anchor 1.066 16.2 1.018 4.6 (3)
1996 Yuengling 1.048 12 1.010 2.5 (4)
1996 Stegmaier (Lion) 1.060 14.7 1.014 3.5 (5)
(1)  Robert Wahl and Max Henius, American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades, 3rd Ed. (Wahl-Henius Institute, Chicago, 1908).
(2)  A.L. Nugey, Brewers Manual (Jersey Printing Co., Bayonne, New Jersey, 1937).
(3)  Christine P. Rhodes, ed., Encyclopedia of Beer (Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1995).
(4)  Personal communication, Ray Norbert, D.G. Yuengling & Son.
(5)  Personal communication, Leo Orlandini, The Lion Brewery.

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What exactly is Porterine? According to Bernard Black of Mangel, Scheuermann & Oeters, Inc. (Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania), Porterine "is a trade name of a caramel color derived strictly from corn syrup. This product was originally formulated by The U.S. Malt Company to provide colloidal compatibility with malt beverage protein." Mangel, Scheuermann & Oeters is the current trademark holder and continues to supply Porterine to the brewing industry. Porterine's function today is still to convert regular beer into porter. Some brewpubs and microbreweries use the product to make color adjustments to their beers as well. Porterine has a dark brown color (878 °L) and a specific gravity of 1.386.

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Porter Style Guidelines

Currently, two recognized categories exist for the porter style - brown and robust - according to the style guidelines promulgated by the Association of Brewers (Boulder, Colorado). Both brown and robust porters have identical original and terminal gravities (1.045-1.060 and 1.008-1.016, respectively), but they differ in bitterness, flavor, body, and color. The full-bodied, full-flavor robust porters have 25-40 IBUs and are 30+ °SRM; brown porters are lighter in body and mouthfeel, have 20-30 IBUs, and are 20-30 °SRM.

I propose a reclassified system that recognizes the use of lager yeast strains, brown malt, and dry hopping. My unofficial, proposed classification system follows:

Pennsylvania porter: Pennsylvania porter is the classic American porter of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a bottom-fermented, ester-free beer with fair-to-medium mouthfeel that will dry toward the end of the taste and may also include slight diacetyl and burnt malt components. Typically, malt and hops are balanced (O.G. 1.049-1.053; IBUs 20-25), and the hops are characteristically American. It is brown/black in color with red tints or a mahogany cast in the glass.

Certain regional homebrew competitions already recognize what is termed "East Coast Porter." Based on the research presented in this article, this variant could be incorporated into the Pennsylvania porter style.

Prosperity porter: Prosperity porter can be bottom or top fermented and has a chewy dextrin mouthfeel that gives way to malt, caramel, biscuit, and some burnt notes. In keeping with its heritage as a keeping beer, prosperity porter's original gravities are in the 1.070-1.080 range - substantially higher than in the current robust porter guidelines. IBUs are 35-50, with dry-hopping acceptable; hops are noticeable in the nose and taste. Esters are not preferred, although this beer will develop sherrylike qualities with aging. It is brownish-black in color with tints of red in the glass.

Micro porter: A tribute to modern craft brewers and their penchant for experimentation, micro porter holds the greatest amount of latitude for gravities (1.048-1.070) and bittering (30-??). The beer is top fermented and highly hopped with maximum alpha-acids, possibly dry-hopped, and may have esters. It has medium mouthfeel and body. Caramel notes together with burnt notes are typical; biscuit or toasty notes are acceptable. It has a deep brown/black color that may be opaque or have reddish highlights.

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Classic American Porter Recipes

Ben Franklin Porter
(Courtesy of Lou Farrell, Thunder Bay Brewing Co.)
Makes 5 gallons

    9 lb Two-row malt
    1/2 lb Chocolate malt
    1/2 lb Crystal 80
    6 oz Dark blackstrap (no sulfur) molasses
    2 oz Black malt
    3/4 oz Bullion at beginning of boil
    3/4oz B.C. Kent Goldings at beginning of boil
    Wyeast Irish (#1084) or European (#1338) ale yeasts
    O.G. 1.057
    F.G. 1.014

Mash malt at 154 °F (68 °C) for 70 minutes, sparge, and add one charge of hops at the beginning of the boil. Add molasses to the kettle 30 minutes before the end of the boil. Cool to cellar temperature, pitch yeast, and rack after primary fermentation. Store for two weeks, fine with isinglass, and serve.

Pennsylvania Porter
Makes 5 gallons

    9 lb Six-row malt
    1 lb Flaked maize
    3/4 lb Crystal 60L
    4 oz Black malt
    2/3 oz Cluster hops (boil 60 minutes)
    3/4 oz Styrian Golding or Willamette hops (boil for 45 minutes)
    1/4 oz Brewers' licorice (optional)
    Wyeast New Ulm or St. Louis American lager yeasts
    O.G. 1.050
    F.G. 1.012

Dough in malt and maize at 100 °F (38 °C), then protein rest at 122 °F (50 °C) for 20 minutes, then to 156 °F (69 °C) for 40 minutes and sparge. Boil for 60 minutes with hop additions at the beginning. Fifteen minutes into the boil, add licorice (optional) and allow it to boil for the remaining 45 minutes. Cool to 50 °F (10 °C), pitch yeast, rack after seven days, then store for three weeks at cellar temperature.

Happy Valley
Makes 5 gallons

    7 lb Two- or six-row malt
    5 lb Mild ale, Munich, or Victory malt
    1 lb Crystal 60L
    1/2 lb Cara-Munich malt
    4 oz Chocolate malt
    4 oz Black malt
    1 oz Perle hops (boil 60 minutes)
    1 oz Liberty or Mt. Hood hops (boil 45 minutes)
    Wyeast California Common (#2112) lager yeast
    O.G. 1.064
    F.G. 1.016
Dough in malt at 100 °F (38 °C), then protein rest at 122 °F (50 °C) for 20 minutes, followed by step infusions at 144 and 156 °F (62 and 69 °C) for 30 minutes each, and then sparge. Caramelize a small portion of the wort (1 L) in the kettle for 10 minutes, then boil the remainder of wort for 60 minutes with hop additions at the beginning and 15 minutes into the boil. Cool to 52 °F (11 °C), pitch yeast, rack after seven days, then store for three or more weeks at cellar temperature.

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