One of the more significant events in brewing history is the introduction of the Porter. A hand in hand partnership with the rapidly growing English Industrial Revolution allowed this style to gain some serious momentum.
Porters were slowly developed by the continuous improvement of the more traditional Brown Ales being brewed at the time. Focus on quality and satisfaction, as well as the fight for customers, allowed the beer to develop.
The name “Porter” was adopted for these beers because of the immense popularity with the porters who carried goods around the city. The growing popularity of this style, along with the continued industrial revolution, began to change the brewing industry from small neighborhood style brewpubs to the true commercial breweries that we know of today.
Large commercial breweries were built and took advantage of the improving trade routes throughout the British Isles, resulting in Irish and Scottish breweries leaning towards bankruptcy. Their only solution was to brew their own Porters. Arthur Guinness began brewing Porters in the 18th century while following the path of continuous improvement, eventually becoming known for his “stout porter.” He eventually built, at the time, the largest brewery in the world.
The maturation of the beer drinkers palate, and the introduction of lighter and (often known as) “finer” beers to the market such as Pilsners and Pale Ales, put the Porter on a downward trend. Industry restrictions and rationing over the course of two world wars did not help the style, and by the 1940’s a porter was difficult to find. With the birth and excessive growth of the craft beer industry throughout the world, the porter has been considered the most versatile style allowing for experimentation and true to its history, continuous improvement.
“Studying the history of Porter is like staring into the multidimensional universe of theoretical cosmology, with multiple shifting parallel worlds constantly warping and shifting with the flow of time. The more you try to pin it down, the more it wriggles free and becomes something unexpectedly different.” – Randy Mosher