American Porter vs English Porter

Porter Wars: American vs. English – Which One Will Win Your Hear

Reading Time: around 12 min

When you think about Porter, you’re diving into a world where the dark and robust rule the roost. Now, imagine yourself in a showdown between two heavyweights. The English Porter and the American Porter. 

The English contender is like that refined chap with timeless style. Think classic, balanced, and smooth. It’s the kind of brew that whispers tales of London’s working-class heroes from the 1700s who craved a pint after a long day.

On the flip side, the American Porter enters the ring with boldness, that go-big-or-go-home spirit. It’s like the cool cousin from the States who isn’t afraid to crank up the hops and bring big, brash flavors to the party. 

You’re not just sipping on a beer here.

You’re taking a swig of the American craft beer revolution.

Where more is more when it comes to malts, hops, and attitude.

Now, don’t get it twisted, both versions pack a punch with dark malts that lay down a smoky, caramelly canvas. But the U.S. version might just surprise you with unexpected notes. Think hints of coffee, chocolate, or even some exotic smokiness. 

So, grab your favorite pint glass.

And get ready to test your taste buds on a transatlantic flavor trip.

Where only one can reign supreme in your personal beer hall of fame.

Key Takeaways

  • English Porter is traditional and balanced, while American Porter is bold and innovative.
  • American Porters often ramp up the hop and malt profiles for a distinctive taste.
  • Both styles feature dark malts with potential notes of coffee, chocolate, or smokiness.


Historical Hijinks of Porters

Dive into the quirky past of your favorite dark brew. Expect tales of invention, transformation, and how a pint of Porter staked its claim on both sides of the pond.

From London Streets to American Eats

Picture this: 18th-century London, cobbled streets, and a beer revolution brewing. Enter the London Porter, the beer choice of the working class. It was hearty, robust, and the talk of the taverns. 

Brewers hopped on the bandwagon faster than gentlemen in wigs could raise their tankards in a toast. 

And just as you might switch your phone for the latest model, the Americans developed a taste and tweaked British Porters to their liking, introducing more hoppy notes.

Now, your pint of American Porter sits bolder, with a swagger of caramel malts and a handshake of chocolate flavors. Think of it as the long-lost cousin that worked out and got all the attention at family gatherings.

Taddy Porter and the Invention of Siblings

Ralph Harwood, the OG brewmaster, concocted the “entire butt,” and Taddy Porter followed with a swing. It was so good it made siblings out of different brews. Stouts claimed to be the stronger brother, flexing higher original gravity muscles.

But it wasn’t all sibling rivalry. 

The Baltic Porter sailed across to Russia clad in higher alcohol like it was out to impress the tsars. Arthur Guinness sent ripples from Ireland with the Stout. But your loyal Porter stayed put as the tavern favorite, navigating mischief like Prohibition in the US.

Where it played hide-and-seek with breweries until it made a roaring comeback.

No matter how you pour it…

…the tales of Porters are as rich and complex as their malty depths.

Diving into the Dark: Color and Clarity

When you peek into a pint of English Porter or American Porter, you’re not just looking at a beer. You’re gazing into a universe of deep, rich hues that tell the tale of their malty makeup.

More than Meets the Eye

You think you know dark beers?

Let’s paint a clearer picture. 

The color of your Porter swings on a spectrum from deep brown to pitch black. Now, don’t just rely on your eyes here. Color affects flavor. The darker the beer, the more you can expect those roasted, toasty. 

And sometimes chocolaty notes to dance on your palate. 

What’s the secret behind these dark wonders? Malts, my friend. Specifically, combinations of caramel and chocolate malts. They’re like the paint on an artist’s palette, bringing depth to your dark beer experience.

Malts to look for:

  • Chocolate Malt: Adds a dark, roasty edge.
  • Caramel Malt: Offers sweetness and deep ruby to mahogany tones.
Porter Beer Ingredients

SRM (Standard Reference Method), which is beer lingo for color intensity, ranks these beauties from around 20 to 40. Where the higher numbers mean you’re inching closer to black. Yes, black like the shirt you wore to that moody indie concert.

A Spectrum of Dark Delights

Not all Porters are created equal. Styles vary from one side of the pond to the other. Your English Porter is often more restrained in darkness, like a mahogany desk where you’d pen a heartfelt sonnet. It’s all about subtle hints of chocolate without stepping into burnt territory.

English Porter Characteristics:

  • Color: Lighter brown to deep brown
  • Clarity: Generally clear, but darker shades can be opaque


Take a leap across the Atlantic, and American Porters throw subtlety out the window. These are bolder, like that friend who laughs loudest at parties. Expect a color that’s darker than your ex’s heart and clarity like the best nights out.

Not always transparent.

American Porter Characteristics:

  • Color: Deeper brown to black
  • Clarity: Can range from slightly hazy to opaque


Remember, whether English or American, you’re in for a treat darker than the punchlines of your favorite comedian. Just make sure to pour with a gentle hand. Unless you want more head on that beer than at a foam party 😉

What’s Brewing? Ingredients and Process

Ready to dive into the heart of the brew? You’ve got to know your ingredients and process like the back of your hand. Whether you’re on Team English Porter or waving the American Porter flag, the devil’s in the details, my friend.

Malt Mastery

Choosing your malts is like picking your favorite guitar riff. It sets the tone. For the English Porter, think of a medley of pale malt, brown malt, and that ever-so-crucial black malt. This trio brings forth flavors from simple breadiness to rich coffee notes. 

Your English Porter will often have a more mild profile.

Charming your palate without a kerfuffle.

On the flip side, the American Porter cranks up the volume with its grain bill. It’s not uncommon to see a dab of roasted barley in the mix. Offering a robust encore that’s as impressive as the guitar solo in your favorite rock anthem. 

This brew doesn’t shy away from a bolder, more complex malt character.

And you’re here for it!

Hops and Bitterness Banter

Hops are the life of the party. They add zest and zeal. The English Porter is your old-school rock band that doesn’t need to be loud to be heard. You’ll find the hop bitterness humming in the background.

With IBUs (International Bitterness Units) usually lounging around the 20-30 range.

It’s all about the mild bitterness matching the malts like a finely tuned bass line.

Now, let your taste buds rock out with the American Porter. It’s the new-age band that’s not afraid to let the hops hit the high notes. Bringing a hop bitterness that’s turned up a notch or two, with IBUs marching from moderate 25 up to respectable 50.

It’s like a riff that makes you pull that stank face because you know it’s good!

But in essence it’s like a rock band vs. the orchestra.

Both epic, just different flavors of awesome.

Let’s start with the American Porter, the bold cousin who’s not afraid to crank the hops up to eleven. Think of Cascade hops, bursting with grapefruit zest and floral notes. For your star-spangled brew, toss in 1 ounce of Cascade at the 60-minute mark.

Just to lay down a bitterness that’s as assertive as an eagle’s screech.

Now, with 15 minutes left on the clock, it’s time for a hop encore. Add another half-ounce of Cascade for an aroma that struts around like it owns the place. This is the hop that gives your American Porter its signature swagger.

Like a cowboy walking into a saloon.

Switching gears to the English Porter, the dignified gent across the pond with a stiff upper lip. Here, we’re all about subtlety and tradition. Fuggle hops are your best mate, offering an earthy embrace that’s as comforting as a cuppa tea by the fire. 

Add 1 ounce of Fuggle at the start of the boil for a genteel bitterness…

…that nods politely to the malt’s rich character.

As the end of the boil nears, with 15 minutes to go, let’s introduce a half-ounce of Fuggle to the mix. This second act is like adding a dash of spice to your favorite stew. It’s not in your face, but you’d miss it if it wasn’t there.

Yeast – The Unsung Hero

Ever heard of ale yeast and lager yeast? Well, in the world of Porters, ale yeast is your faithful drummer keeping a sturdy beat. English Porters cozy up with traditional strains that ferment at cooler temperatures, giving you that classic, fruity ester profile.

The one that makes your English ancestors nod in approval.

Over in the American band, the ale yeast gets funky, often playing around with more aggressive fermentation that slaps your taste buds awake. This leads to an American Porter with an attitude, pushing the boundaries of traditional fermentation.

Think of it as a wild improvisation that somehow works perfectly.

So, whether you’re rooting for the balanced choreography of an English classic or the bold improvisations of an American brew, grab your glass and let’s make beer that rocks your world! 

Remember, the right ingredients and processes won’t just make your beer.

They’ll make your day.

American and English Porter

Taste Test: Sipping the Styles

Don your beer goggles, my friend.

Because you’re about to sip your way through a tale of two Porters.

American Porter: Bold and Brash

Crack open an American Porter and brace yourself for the beer equivalent of a flavor rodeo. You’re not just tasting this brew; you’re getting drop-kicked by it. 

First up, the malts. They come at you with bold chocolate and caramel punches, while swirling licks of vanilla and a whisper of smoke to keep things interesting. Very often coffee too.

And hops? They’re not just here for bitterness.

They bring piney or floral notes to throw a party on your palate.

  • Taste: A robust cavalcade of toffee, molasses, and maybe a sneaky hint of licorice.
  • ABV: Typically higher, because go big or go home, right? ABV of around 4.8% to 6.5%
  • Recommended Malts: Think dark and toasty, like chocolate malt or Munich malt.
  • Recommended Hops: Cascade or Centennial for that American kick.


English Porter: Subtle and Sophisticated

Now, let’s go across the pond where the English Porter reclines in its leather-bound library of flavors. Its sophistication is not about the noise. It’s about nuance. 

Here, the chocolate and toffee are more like a firm handshake than a double-fisted punch. You’ll also get that nutty and bready undertone with fruity esters hum quietly in the background.

Courtesy of a more reserved yeast strain.

  • Taste: Gentle with a balanced act of malty sweetness and a touch of earthy bitterness.
  • ABV: A moderate stroll in the alcohol department keeps things traditional and oh-so-drinkable. ABV of around 4% to 5.4%
  • Recommended Malts: Maris Otter or Brown malt for that authentic British vibe.
  • Recommended Hops: Fuggle or East Kent Goldings to keep it real. Real tasty.


The Sensory Smackdown

Imagine a boxing match between flavors that you’ve just been invited to referee. 

The American Porter might be the heavyweight bruiser, swinging with flavors so complex, you might need a flavor map. 

English Porter? More like the wily middleweight, balanced and cunning, hitting you with malty jabs that are smooth, never stale.

Thirsty yet? 

You’ll find both these contenders have a depth only true beer lovers can appreciate. 

Let the tasting begin!

Culture and Pairings: More than a Pint

Grab your pint glass, my friend. You’re about to become the life of the party, not just the guy holding a dark brew. This ain’t just about sipping. It’s about pairing that bold Porter with eats that make your taste buds do backflips. 

You’ll be swigging with sophistication.

Craft Beer Connoisseurship

Let’s kick things off by geeking out over your pint. 

Knowing your English Porters from your American Porters is your ticket to beer nerd paradise. When you’re gripping that classic nonic pint glass, you’ve likely got an English Porter kissing your lips. Whispering sweet notes of mild roasted grains and bittersweet chocolate. 

Its carbonation? Gentle enough to nudge but won’t push your tongue around. 

The American cousin? Bold as a brass band, with a hoppy attitude and a caramel-smooth talk. That’s the one that lounges in your glass with a creamy head, boasting higher alcohol to give you just a bit of cheeky warmth.


English Porter

American Porter


Light to medium

Medium to full



Moderate to high


Roasted malt, chocolate

More hops, caramel


Gastronomy Meets Guttural Delights

Now, you’ve got the beer, but what about the grub? 

Pairing these dark suds with food is an art. Start off with a cheeseboard; an English Porter sidles up nicely to some sharp cheddar or stinky blue. But if you’re tangoing with an American Porter, you might want to date a smoked gouda.

Imagine that delish smokiness doing a tango with your bold brew!

Feel that growl in your belly? Let’s talk more food. 

A classic Porter plays nice with barbecue ribs or a thick, juicy burger. Yep, the ones with all the fixings piled high. Planning a fancy shindig? Go gourmet with a Porter-infused beef stew that’ll make your guests jealous of your mad cooking skills.

  • Snacks: Pretzels, mixed nuts, popcorn with a dash of smoked paprika
  • Entrees: Grilled steak, mushroom risotto, vegan chili
  • Desserts: Dark chocolate brownies, espresso-flavored ice cream


Cheers to your soon-to-be legendary pairing prowess!

Picture of Damian


A lifelong learner, hop enthusiast and a lover of the state of extreme exhaustion.

Finance Analyst in the Investment Bank and co-founder of