In a season of big Russian imperial stout releases, the humble porter can sometimes get short shrift. And that’s a bummer. Roasty, dry and drinkable, porters are an excellent go-to for the vast majority of drinking occasions when a 12-percent booze bomb isn’t quite appropriate. Porters’ invention came out of pub culture, and drinking a few with friends in the middle of winter still just feels… right.
We cracked open a fresh crop of these cool-weather favorites, and came away with some choice flavored versions—and a new appreciation for an plain ol’ robust porter. Vanilla, chocolate, coffee: These added flavors can compliment porters’ characteristic roasted, malt character. But there’s also something to be said for the restraint and balance of an unflavored porter that allows roasted malt bitterness and secondary flavors like caramel, toffee or biscuit to shine. Want the best of both worlds? Here are six porters to pick up this season:
Tin Man Cafe Leche Porter
Combining my two favorite beverages—coffee and beer—is a fast way to my heart. Tin Man exercises a light hand with the espresso flavors, braiding them with the malt rather than overwhelming it. A touch of lactic sweetness and a pleasantly full mouthfeel cement this as a solid post-meal porter.
Dry Dock Vanilla Porter
Like Nilla Wafers? Then beeline for this ultra-vanilla-y robust porter that’s only one step past the flavors of Vanilla Coke. Big, zingy bubbles add to the cola association, while notes of milk chocolate punctuate the swallow.
Hops & Grain Porter Culture
This Baltic porter begs for a spot on the sweets table with aromas of coffee, peanuts and bready malts. The initial sip is all coffee notes that melt into milk chocolate and peanut butter, with a slick enough texture to justify drinking this as dessert.
Reuben’s Brews Robust Porter
Once my palate became muddied by all of the chocolate, vanilla, orange and other flavored porters I’d sipped, this beer was the one I poured to recalibrate my taste buds. Classic caramel, coffee and cocoa powder flavors make this the little black dress of porters.
Portland Brewing Blackwatch Cream Porter
Though its name would imply a thicker texture, this porter opens with lively, cola-like sweetness, transitioning into chocolate and roasted peanuts at the finish. Subdued creaminess and a 5.3% ABV mean you could put back a few of these in an afternoon.
SanTan Sex Panther Double Chocolate Porter
It’s all malted-milk-ball sweetness on this 6.9% Baltic porter, with subtle chocolate that just peaks out from around the Whopperlike flavors. Pair this with a movie and pretend you just hit the theater’s concession stand.