Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Exploring the BJCP: Brown Porter (12A)

Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by.  This is a post in a series of posts I am doing entitled "Exploring the BJCP," which highlights the different sections of the Beer Judge Certification Program, in no particular order.  Today, we look at Category 12A: Brown Porters!  Here is the link to the BJCP page on Category 12A.  Enjoy!

Category 12 in the BJCP are porters, and they are divided into 3 subcategories:
  • 12A: Brown Porter
  • 12B: Robust Porter
  • 12C: Baltic Porter
In America, the robust porter is the most common of the porter style available.  The robust porter generally displays strong roasted flavor, along with touches of bitter coffee and/or milk or dark chocolate.  Less common in America is the more subtle brown porter.  From the brown porter you can expect a beer that is somewhere between a brown ale and a robust porter.  Brown porters tend to be fairly smooth beers, with a subtle roasted character.  There may also be some sweetness to them.  However, the flavors won't be too intense or in your face.  Like I said before, the brown porter is more subtle.

The % ABV of the brown porter is usually a bit less than their robust porter brothers.  The range, according to the BJCP, is 4 - 5.4% ABV.

As usual, I tried out 3 of the many commercial examples of brown porters, as given by the BJCP.

St. Peter's Brewery Old-Style Porter
5.1% ABV

It's hard not to admire the oval shaped bottles of the St. Peter's brewery.  Since opening in 1996 in Suffolk County, England, St. Peter's has made it a priority to deliver high quality British style ales throughout the world.  Their Old-Style Porter is brewed in a rather classical fashion, which involves blending an old ale with a more amber style beer.  Let's take a look at my tasting notes on this brown porter.

Appearance:  Dark brown, not quite black.  Red shines through when held up to the light.  There is a small light tan head, which diminishes quickly and leaves a layer of head on the beer surface
Aroma:  Light roast coffee, milk chocolate.
Flavor:  Very similar to the aroma.  Tastes of lightly roasted coffee, milk chocolate.  Some roasted quality as well.
Mouthfeel:  lots of carbonation in this one, very fizzy. medium body, not chewy at all.
Overall:  A very laid back beer, easy to drink.  Nothing about it overpowers your palate, which is exactly the brewer's intention.  I would love to try this on cask, but probably will have to go to Suffolk for that one.

St Peter's Old Style Porter
St Peter's Old Style Porter

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter
5.00% ABV

Samuel Smith, nicknamed The Old Brewery, has been around since 1758.  Pretty incredible if you consider that is prior to America gaining independence from England!  Perusing Samuel Smith's website, I learned that they are the exclusive beer supplier to around 200 pubs in England.  This sounds like a tied house situation.  Taddy Porter is still brewed in stone Yorkshire squares, which they prominently display on the back label of each bottle.  This beer's a classic, but I can't remember the last time I had one.  I can only tell you it was pre-Untappd, because when I logged the beer, it was my first check-in of it!  Let's check out my tasting notes on Taddy Porter.

Appearance:  Large tan head, dark brown body with hints of red coming through
Aroma:  smooth chocolate, caramel
Flavor:  A bit of chocolate, light roast quality, a touch of caramel
Mouthfeel:  Thin body, easy drinking, average carbonation, sweet finish
Overall: Definitely a classic porter.  Drinks incredibly smooth.  Like the St Peter's Old Style Porter, I would love to see this beer in a keg or on cask!

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter
Samuel Smith Taddy Porter

Fuller's London Porter
5.4% ABV

Beer has been brewed at Fuller's location in Chiswick, West London since at least the 1600s.  The beer became known as Fuller's beer in the 1800s, when Fuller, Smith and Turner was formed.  Nowadays, they brew well known brands such as ESB, London Pride, and the topic of this section, London Porter. According to their website, they run almost 400 pubs, bars, hotels and inns throughout England.  Let's dig into this one!    

Appearance:  Very dark brown, almost black, with some red coming through.  Finger width light tan head
Aroma:  Smooth chocolate, light roasted malt.  Quite similar to a sweet stout.  Some coffee comes through in the nose as it warms up.
Flavor:  Roasted malt up front, smooth chocolate in the finish, with a light bitterness in the aftertaste
Mouthfeel:  creamy, medium body, medium amount of carbonation
Overall:  My favorite of these 3 porters.  Goes down incredibly smooth, and full of such great flavors.  A real pleasure to drink.

Fuller's London Porter
Fuller's London Porter

That'll do for Category 12A!  What do you think of these brown porters?  Do you have a favorite brown porter?  Let me know in the comments!

Feel free to check out my other posts Exploring the BJCP: Strong Scotch Ales (9E)


  1. Never heard of the brown porter category (still reading the Lager section of the BJCP style guide) before but I have definitely had Taddy and London Porter, good stuff!

    1. Sure is! Are you reading the BJCP for fun, or are you planning on taking the exam? Or both!