You’ve hit many of my favorites already, particularly the Anchor Porter – but don’t forget Sierra Nevada Porter and Stout; these made a deep impression upon me when I first got into brewing.
Generally I prefer aged
dark beers, though before they go stale when the hop bitterness is just about gone.
Years ago we (as in people of my ilk) would seek out Thomas Hardy ’92 and ’96 – the years of their original bottling. TH fell out of production for a spell, but the name/rights were purchased and brewing was resurrected albeit in a completely different location; in my mind – it was not the same as the older stuff that was mythical and epic.
I also enjoy many Baltic Porters – except for Baltica; I just cain’t get my head around Russian Porters that are more closely aligned with Russian Imperial Stout. Sinebrychoff, Zywiec, Carnegie, even Black Boss are all excellent when aged.
Though not a porter or Stout, Moretti (Italian) makes a lovely dark Doppel that shouldn’t be ignored.
Of Brown porters, Fuller's London Porter and Samuel Smith Taddy Porter are two of my imported favs. If you ever come to Seattle I suggest dropping into Black Raven
in Redmond which sports a delicious sultry Brown Ale that could easily pass for a Brown Porter.
The very best dark elixir though probably has to go to U Fleků
, Prague, in the Czech Republic… bar none. The line is long, so go early. The "oldest brewpub" in Europe makes just one – and only one beer, and it is AWESOME!
BTW – a fun book and great yarn to read is Tim Power’s Drawing of the Dark
– Del Rey 1999, ISBN-10: 0345430816.
But to properly tell the story of Stout, one must first look at the origin of Porter – and the rise of drum-roasted malts without the “smokey” artifacts in the late 17th century. Without drum-roasting we wouldn’t have Pale Ales, Red Beer, Ambers, Browns, or Barleywines. No – before that we just had murky beer and stale ale. Porters though were “invented” in 1721 as a single batch of beer that was previously a blend of “three threads”. The beer style was very popular and in a short time diversified into many substyles – including a “stout porter” derivative that eventually dropped the “porter” part of the name to become just “stout”.
If one follows the BJCP naming conventions, there are 3 types of Porter: Brown, Robust, and Baltic. There are 6 types of Stouts: Dry (like Guinness on nitro-tap), Sweet (also called “Milk” cos of the infusion of Lactose or Invert sugar), Oatmeal, American (as opposed to every other style), Foreign Stout (Guinness Export in a green bottle – typically to Barbados and Bahamas), and then Russian Imperial Stout.
But did you know that the origin of Baltic Porter owes itself to Napoleon? Brits had a hold on the Porter market, but during the Napoleonic War years there was an active embargo against the island, so enterprising brewers on the Continent tried to recreate the style using local food stuffs. Baltic Porter was born: In the north, around Norway and Sweden it resembles malty Strong Scotch Ale in color and composition. As we move closer to Poland it becomes more aligned with debittered and chocolaty Schwarzbier. Towards Russia – very bitter and roasty like a RIS.
I just find beer and history fascinating! You can’t hardly talk about one without the other, and in that manner – for me at least – I appreciate the styles and substyles all that more. So in the case of U Fleků, a beer that has its’ origins long before drum roasting – we get to peek into recipes of very old dark beers made the traditional way – in the heart of pale bright pilsner country!
BTW – the largest draft-only brewery in North America is located right here in little ol’ Redmond, Washington in the industrial section next to Marymoor Park: Mac & Jack's Brewery
makes a stupendous Black Cat Porter that is rich and creamy and chocolaty coffee-like ~ yum! Another “local” favorite is Alaskan Smoked Porter
– with oysters! Or Elysian Dragontooth Stout
~ OMG good!! And Rogue makes a Shakespeare Stout
that is highly commendable.
You know – it’s been so warm and humid up here this summer that I’ve been focusing on pilsners, blonds, and goldens… but now – thinking about all these dark beers, I’m jonesing for a U Fleků! Guess I better make a reservation.
Na zdraví! KF