Like wheat beers, porter is a beer style enjoying a renaissance. After years of being in the shadow of stout – its drier, more bitter and opaque ale cousin, porter is finding favour with those looking for a slightly sweeter, dark malt-driven, drinkable alternative.

Porter can be ‘London’ in style, infused with honey, blessed with coffee and chocolate notes, heavily hopped (rare) or brewed using smoked malts. Porter oiled the wheels of the industrial revolution and was the thirst-quenching beers of the masses. With a mouse and powerpoint presentations the only things we struggle with these days, we’re not quite as parched but, fear not, for porter has the sophistication and intrigue to take pride of place at the dinner table.

Rupert Ponsonby Co-founder of the Beer Academy which currently runs a number of educational and entertaining courses on matching beer with food “Porters are mood-friendly brews. They are deep, they are dark and they are supremely dangerous.

“The word ‘moreish’ was invented for them.

They are a witch’s brew, combining wickedness and sensuality, with their velvety smoothness, their creamy texture, and their taste of the past.

“But they are also, gastronomically, a taste of the future – and I split them into two camps: the vinous, slightly soured brews; and those more modern brews with coffee overtones.

“The vinous, old-fashioned porters are the ones I like best, reminiscent of the sourness picked up historically in their long barrel ageing. And they are the most food-versatile creatures, hinting at sweet chocolate and balsamic vinegar, with elements of waxy oats. And they are so very versatile, even with starters, especially those with some sweetness or with sensuous, sultry flavours. So mushroom or spinach pates are a big hit, as are pork pies and spicy terrines. But they also hit the spot with oysters and soda bread, or with the delicate sweetness and caramel flavours of seared scallops.

“Vinous porters are great with grilled fish of the waxier varieties (halibut/turbot) and stand head to head with venison stews, mutton with onion and capers, or with fattier cuts of beef. In short, sweeter, bigger fish and meats. For my taste, they should be served only very delicately chilled so as to allow their sensuality to come to the fore; but for those who dislike the aromas of hops, they should certainly be chilled further, the only danger being a metallic edge that can develop if you chill too far.

“As to the more coffee’d porters, such as the excellent Fullers London Porter, these seem more destined to match with puddings, be they chocolate puddings, cakes or trifles. Or just for drinking in a wood in the dark. Hubble bubble, toil and trouble, fire burn and caldron bubble.” Bruce Paton “Beer chef” based in San Francisco who works in close association with the leading players on America’s thriving craft brewing scene. His website is “Porter is a great food beer for many reasons mostly to do with the roasted malt flavours. Even most seasoned beer drinkers do not realise that there is nothing better to quench ones thirst on a hot summer day than a properly chilled porter.

“The typically low alcohol content makes perfect match for grilling outside when you would like to enjoy more than one brew and the flavours match up with grilled meats just as well. The dark brown crust on a grilled steak matches up perfectly with the dark roast flavour in the beer and I have successfully paired porter with grilled pork chops many times.

“Porter also makes a fine addition to your marinade recipe both to add flavour and tenderness to grilled meats. If you are not predisposed towards meat then assertive flavoured fish like salmon or sea trout are also good pairings with the porter style.

Maybe you want to start the festivities with a cool smoked fish salad and again porter is just the thing as the slightly smoky flavour of the beer compliments smoked sturgeon, salmon or scallops perfectly.

“Ready for dessert, well don’t put this beer away yet. This fine ale compliments most any chocolate dessert and the chocolate notes in the beer will be heightened by almost any summer berry based dessert. So start planning your event and stock up on some good quality porter ale.” Fiona Beckett An award-winning food and drinks journalist and co-author of Appetite for Ale – Hundreds of delicious ways to enjoy beer with food “The colour of porter immediately disposes you to think of robust, hearty, wintry food but oddly some of the most successful matches are with seafood. Personally, I don’t think a porter is quite as good with oysters as an Irish stout but it’s cracking with scallops and bacon, a sweet, salty, savoury combination that turns a regular porter into a velvety, mellow mouthful. Add black pudding and you’re in heaven.

“I love porter with boiled ham too. Especially a London porter like Meantime’s. Boiled ham with pease pudding or mushy peas and maybe a few chips – now that’s a real treat.

“Smoked porters are more challenging. Do you go with something that is smoky itself such as barbecued ribs or is that a palate overload?

Not for me it isn’t!” “The great thing about beer, which isn’t true of wine, is that you can mirror the flavours in a dish without knocking the flavour out of the beer or the food. A powerful oak-matured shiraz can be too much with a sweet, spicy barbecue marinade. A full-on smoked porter like Alaskan’s is spot on.” Henry Dimbleby A leading London restaurateur and chef who co-owns Leon, a string of terrifically healthy and tasty, good-food venues. Check out “When you’re looking to match food with drink, the tendency is to try and contrast or complement the two.

“But with porter, a devilishly dextrous beer style, you can do both. Dark, viscous Dickensian beers oozing with smoke, chocolate, toffee, roast and toast and with a gentle yet not overpowering alcohol warmth, porters make a fine dessert beer – especially those tinged with honey such a St Peter’s or the incredible Smoked Porter from the Alaskan Brewing Company. Chocolate’s good, not too bitter or dark, but fruit is better and sweet-toothed tipplers can venture towards a more indulgently rich pudding.

“Still working as a foil to the food, porters are traditionally paired with oysters and you can see why. With a similarly smooth and creamy mouth-feel, the earthy malt-driven sweetness takes the edge of any acidity and the two sing hymns going down.

But where porter really shines again is with similarly bombastic dishes. The sweetness, the dry finish and the deliciously roomy texture lends itself gallantly to foods with plenty of spice and oomph.

“Curries fired by chilli and the caramelised flavours of braised red meat are far better suited to porter than bland faux Indian lagers while porter can also step into the shoes of Mole sauce in Mexican dishes – the smoky, dark chocolate tones and piquancy of Meantime’s Chocolate porter is one to look out for in this vein.”

Categories: Beer & Food