Porters has been created as an answer to the lighter pale ales. It became very popular among porters who worked at docks and streets of England and quickly turned into the beer of the working men in the 18th century. In the 1800’s the invention of the roaster opened wide opportunities for brewers to increase complexity and create new tastes. Since then Porter is continuously developing in terms of ingredients, technology and of course drinkers taste. Nevertheless – just like a few other styles – Porters disappeared after WWII and have been also ascended with the start of the craft beer era. These days craft brewers create many new interesting – and sometimes crazy – Porter style beers, that makes sometimes the lines between certain Stouts and Porters blurred. This time we would like to bring you back to the traditional roots and give you an overview about the 3 main types of Porter: Brown Porter, Robust Porter and Baltic Porter.

Brown Porter originates in England somewhere in the early 1700’s, also called English Porter. Most historians claim that the style evolved from a mixture of 3 various beers (pale ale, mild and stale), known as “Entire”, while others say it’s simply a darkening evolution of English Ales. This type is the lightest one, easy to drink, has the lowest ABV and bitterness in the group. Provides a creamy mouthfeel with sweet and caramel-like flavours. Although it is considered as the precursor to stout, strong, burnt roasted malt character should not be present. Some old versions of this beer even used Brettanomyces to add a funky character to the beer. The grain bill consists of numerous varieties, including various crystal malts, chocolate and also a small amount of darker black malts.

Robust Porter is the stronger, longer-aged, more complex and roasty big brother of Brown Porter. The style has recent origins, evolved in the modern craft beer ages from less bold English variants to full-bodied American ones. This is why nowadays it is often referred as American Porter too. This style is the more aggressive and hoppier version of Brown (English) Porters, so the examples we drink today significantly differs from the traditional ones. These Porters should always have an intensive roasted character with hints of coffee and chocolate, that is well balanced with the creamy and malty sweetness of crystal malts. Roasted barley flavour isn’t typical in this style either, that distinguish it from Stouts. The tastiest versions may expand the malt character with bready and biscuit-like flavours and aromas.

Baltic Porter Porter was the first internationally distributed beer. When England started beer export to the Baltics, people quickly fell in love with the style. As in these colder countries German lager brewing dominated, a bottom-fermented variant emerged. Those creative brewers not only adapted the traditional ale style to the lager version, but also began to create stronger and more complex types of the English Porter, formed what today is known as Baltic Porter. It can be also described as a lager-style Imperial Stout and in fact it has a large influence by its ale brother, therefor it’s often referred as Imperial Porter. Among these Porters this is the heaviest one, imparts a huge load of roasty character, reminiscent of chocolate, coffee and some fruitiness.

Investment fund ‘het Zeeuws Participatiefonds (ZPF), specialized on innovation investments in the region of Zeeland, recently agreed to participate in the growth investment of The Swaen B.V. together with its current shareholders. The Swaen B.V. with its production facility and offices in Kloosterzande, is a malthouse specialized in the production of craft malts such as caramelized or roasted malts for the beer and food industry. The Swaen plans to invest in the production plant to enhance energy efficiency and increase the capacity.

“With the large network within Zeeland and the clear focus on our region, the ZPf is the best possible partner for the next steps The Swaen is going to take”, said Maximilian Dohse, CEO of The Swaen B.V. “we are delighted to have Impuls Zeeland on board to support”.

Investment manager Ralph Veerhoek from Impuls Zeeland, where the ZPf is part of, commented: “Being a substantial infrastructure to Zeelands agriculture, The Swaen is a perfect fit to our participation fund that stimulates and facilitates innovation, growth potential and impact in the region”. Edwin van Houte, head of Impuls Zeeland Innovation Financing Hub completed: “The Swaen’s ambitious digitalisation plans for their industry, show that Zeeland is strongly working on innovation.”

The Swaen investeert in groei voor de toekomst

Investeringsfonds het Zeeuws Participatiefonds (ZPf), onderdeel van Impuls Zeeland, investeert in de groei-investering van The Swaen B.V. The Swaen is een speciaal-mouterij gelegen in Kloosterzande. De mouterij is gespecialiseerd in de productie van ambachtelijke mouten zoals gekarameliseerde en geroosterde mouten voor de bier- en voedingsindustrie. The Swaen is van plan te investeren in de productiefaciliteit om de energie-efficiëntie te verbeteren en de capaciteit te vergroten. “Met een groot netwerk in Zeeland en een duidelijke focus op onze regio, is Impuls Zeeland de beste partner voor de volgende stappen die The Swaen gaat zetten. We zijn enorm blij dat Impuls Zeeland, door een participatie van het Zeeuws Participatiefonds (ZPF), ons kan versterken”, aldus Maximilian Dohse, CEO The Swaen B.V.

Investment manager Ralph Veerhoek, Impuls Zeeland: “Mede door hun grote toegevoegde waarde voor de Zeeuwse agrosector, is The Swaen een perfecte match met het ZPf, dat innovatie, groeipotentieel en impact stimuleert en faciliteert. Edwin van Houte, hoofd Innovatiefinanciering Impuls Zeeland: “De ambitieuze plannen van The Swaen om te groeien en verduurzamen met daarbij de grote impact voor de regio, laten zien dat in Zeeland hard gewerkt wordt aan innovatie’.

The very original brown malt had still enzymatic power in order to convert the sugars as the malt was used in a very high percentage in the grist bill of Porters. This is not the case anymore with the current brown malt. To understand this we have to go back in time. Kilns in malthouses were direct fired and hand laboured. The green malt was spread out in a thin layer (much thinner then for Ale malt production) and half way its withering process the green malt was exposed very fast at higher temperature for a “short” while. This made the grain popped or blown. Some conversion must have happened, also some saccharification of the green malt although the malt was not caramelised. This process must have been difficult and expensive. For the boost in temperature straw or hardwood was used. Straw was better as it did not give smoky taste. Porters made with hardwood stayed much longer on casks and during that time the smoky taste somewhat disappeared. But also a lot of the green malt did not undergo all those changes (kilning is a static process – grain is not moving enough), nevertheless the stirring, many kernels just got a higher colour like Ale malt, making the total batch in average sufficient diastatic in order to convert most of the starch and polysaccharides.

Today brown malt is made on a roaster. At The Swaen we still use green malt (no ready base malt) in a very dynamic environment whereas every kernel in the roaster is moving continuously. No saccharification and caramelisation is allowed but we raise the product temperature up to the level some coffee notes are distinguished. We avoid having burnt notes. For that effect we have our Chocolate and Black malts. With our new Porter Brown we are as close as possible to the original idea of a Brown malt for every Porter.

Porter originated in London around 3 centuries ago, so it has a quite long history. Where does the name come from? Well, it became very popular among the porters, who worked at the local markets and delivered those products to the pubs. According to beer-historians the style evolved from Brown ales, that were widespread back in those days. Since then Porter is continuously developing, in terms of ingredients, technology and of course drinkers taste. As many other styles, Porters disappeared after the world wars and a they have been also ascended with the start of the craft beer era.

Back in the 19th century Porters were widely-exported, first in Europe and later to the US. The English version – that is usually soft, sweet and caramelly – hasn’t changed much, unlike its foreign variants. The American Porter is stronger, has higher gravity and not surprisingly it’s also hoppier. In the Baltic countries, where German lager brewing dominated, it became a bottom-fermented, high ABV, dark beer, the Baltic Porter. And the story of the Russian version is related to the import to St. Petersburg, supplying the needs of the British diplomatic community, especially after daughter of Queen Victoria married to the Czar. That style is known today as “Imperial Stout”. In those days Porter and Stout has no prominent difference, and both expression were used interchangeably. If you want to know more about that topic, check out our other article.

Grain bill:
My preference as base of the grist is our Ale malt, with some addition of Munich for the fuller rich malt character. Special malt varieties are essential for this style. Crystal malts will help in addition of caramel flavors and residual sweetness, which is required to balance the bitterness of the roasted grains and hops. A mid-color crystal malt should work well. As for darker grains I’m pleased to introduce our brand new product, the PlatinumSwaen©BrownPorter. Historically Porters were brewed from brown malt, which is a very dark base malt. We also kilned this product in our roaster, at lower temperature, in order to avoid burnt flavours, so technically it’s not roasted. You can increase its ratio vs roasted varieties, in order to have a smoother result. A single step mash for 60 minutes in the middle should work well (67⁰C / 153⁰F).

The Swaen malts
Quantity: 4,0 kg – 8,8 lb
Colour: 7 EBC- 2,6 lov
Ratio: 70%

Swaen©Munich Light
Quantity:0,7 kg – 1,5 lb
Colour: 14 EBC – 5,3 lov
Ratio: 12%

GoldSwaen©Munich Light
Quantity: 0,4 kg – 0,88 lb
Colour: 100 EBC – 38 lov
Ratio: 7%

Quantity: 0,3 kg – 0,66 lb
Colour: 425 EBC – 160 lov
Ratio: 5%

BlackSwaen©Chocolate B
Quantity: 0,2 kg – 0,44 lb
Colour: 900 EBC – 339 lov
Ratio: 4%

BlackSwaen©Black Extra
Quantity: 0,1 kg – 0,22 lb
Colour: 1300 EBC – 490 lov
Ratio: 2%

Hops: As in Porters the focus is more on malt flavours, you don’t need to think a lot about what to add. I would recommend traditional English varieties, like Fuggles, EKG, Northern Brewer or as you see in the recipe, Challenger. For an American version feel free to switch to local hops. They can be allocated evenly for bittering and aroma purpose. Please note your hops need to have enough character to compete with bitter flavours of roasted malt.

Variety: Challenger
Quantity: 28 g – 1 oz
Lenght: 60 min
Alpha acid: 9%
IBU: 27

Variety: Challenger
Quantity: 28 g – 1 oz
Lenght: 10 min
Alpha acid: 9%
IBU: 10

Yeast: Any typical English or American-style ale yeast should work well in a porter. For a fuller body we would recommend to use a lower attenuative strain. To have the best result, ferment at 20°C / 68°F. As for many other styles, the higher is your ABV, the longer aging is required.

Fermentis Safale S-04
Mangrove Jack M36 Liberty Bell Ale

WLP002 English Ale
Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Batch size: 23 l (6 gallon)
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1,055
FG: 1,012
ABV: 5,6%
Bitterness: 37 IBU
Colour: 29 SRM
Carbonation: 2,2
pH: 5,0

Appearance: Deep brown colour, creamy foam

Taste: PlatinumSwaen©BrownPorter, paired with other specialties definitely brings you what you need for a Porter – an intense range of chocolate, coffee and caramel flavours, but without the burnt, roasty aroma.

Food pairing: Beef dishes, BBQ

Porter goes back to the early 1700’s when it started to be popular in pubs for the “common” drinker. Someone’s claim it would have been made by blending 3 different beers, also partially for tax reasons. Thanks to its increasing popularity the Porter was made somewhat later as one beer out of mainly brown malt. During its whole history the grist bill composition of Porter has been changed tremendously: using 60 to 100% “diastatic” (popped/blown) brown malt to the use of non-diastatic malt at smaller percentages in the grist bill with even colours between 130 up to 900 EBC and with addition of Chocolate malt(800-1000EBC and Chrystal malt (some 170-200EBC). For the second types one needed a base malt for conversion of the sugars. In the beginning that was Ale malt, much later Lager and partially Munich and Ale malt. At last extra use of sirops (molasses) and other ingredients as roasted barley and malted rye. This variation in production has created obviously a variation of porters today.

It is not clear when exactly the Stout made its entrance in the brewing world. Generally Stout is seen as a kind of porter with in the early days a 1-2% higher alcohol content. Porters are generally lighter in colour and alcohol than Stouts with a range of chocolate, coffee and caramel flavours, but without the burnt, roasty qualities usually reserved for Stouts. Just see that as a general comment: there are many Porters using some dark roasted malts and the biggest Stout producer uses a lot of roasted barley.

Stay tuned for the next blog about brown malt…

Throughout history, beers that have higher alcohol content and richness has been enjoyed during the winter holidays. Many breweries produce unique seasonal drinks – they may be darker, stronger, spiced and more complex than their normal beers. Spiced versions came from America and Belgium, as English or German breweries traditionally do not use any spices in their recipes.

Winter Seasonal Beers assume cold weather and the Christmas holiday time. What makes them special? They usually include seasonal spices, special sugars and any other ingredient that reminds you of holiday confections. From brewing aspect these kind of beers are generally stronger and darker, they also have a rich body and warming finish to heat you up in the cold winter season. For appearance, taste and aroma many interpretations are possible, therefore the style has no certain specifications. But one for sure, Christmas beers are clear, sweet and complex, and coming from the darker side.

Grain bill: The majority of your grist should be an Ale style malt, with a possilbe addition of a darker base, e.g. Munich malt for some extra body. In this style I like to have the sweetness of our Melany malt, complemented by a darker crystal malt, but feel free to use a mid-dark crystal malt instead of them. For the color and roasty taste I usually add some roasted barley. A single step mash at the higher end (70⁰C / 178⁰F) what I recommend in order to have some residual sugars. Many brewers add flavorful sugars as well – you have various choices, like honey, molasses, candy sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup…

Hops and spices: Hops are primarily for bittering, you can skip aroma addition. I would use traditional English varieties or noble ones. There is no Christmas beer without seasonal spices, most often allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger or orange peels, but any mixture is possible. Feel free to experiment as per your taste. Addition is recommended before 5-10 minutes of flame out.

Yeast: Although some dark strong lagers exist in this style, the fruity, sweet aromas and spices are much stronger enhanced by an ale yeast. We would recommend to use a Belgian style yeast, but you can take your base recipe as a guideline, when choosing the proper strain. In order to increase estery fruitiness, keep temperature above 22°C / 72°F. Stronger beers may need to be aged for months or even years.

Batch size: 19 l (5 gallon)
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1,072
FG: 1,015
ABV: 7,5%
Bitterness: 26 IBU
Colour: 26 SRM
Carbonation: 2,4
pH: 5,1

Appearance: Deep brown colour, creamy foam
Taste: Sweet maltiness, seasonal spices
Food pairing: desserts or spicy meals