Friday, September 13, 2013

Exploring the BJCP: Robust Porter (12B)

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 12B: Robust Porters!  Here is the link to the BJCP page on Category 12B.  Enjoy!

Category 12 in the BJCP are porters, and they are divided into 3 subcategories:
  • 12A: Brown Porter
  • 12B: Robust Porter
  • 12C: Baltic Porter
Robust porters tend to have more of a burnt malt flavor in the aroma and flavor, and will usually have a greater degree of roastiness than brown porters.  They will be darker in color than brown porters, some robust porters even being close to black.  American versions of the robust porter may have more hop character than English versions.  Typically you will see the % ABV of robust porters in the 4.8 - 6.5% range.

In the commercial examples of the robust porter, all are from American breweries, except for London Porter from Meantime Brewing.  I wouldn't mind seeing some more overseas examples of robust porters, especially since the BJCP specifically states that both American and English versions are both equally valid examples.  Either way, let's check these beers out.

Great Lakes Brewing Edmund Fitzgerald
5.8% ABV

Great Lakes Brewing, out of Cleveland, Ohio, makes a robust porter named Edmund Fitzgerald.  It is named after the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a freight ship that transported taconite iron ore to ports along the Great Lakes.  A severe winter storm took the SS Edmund Fitzgerald down in 1975, sinking the ship in Lake Superior.  Everyone on board was lost.  With that said, let's check out the beer from Great Lakes Brewing that pays tribute.

Appearance:  Black with a bit of red around the perimeter of the beer when held up to the light.  Finger width off white, fluffy head
Aroma:  Roasted malt, bitter, rich coffee
Flavor:  Same as aroma, light chocolate flavor
Mouthfeel: Medium mouthfeel, medium carbonation
Overall:  Great beer.  Very smooth, tons of flavor.
Great Lakes Brewing Edmund Fitzgerald
Great Lakes Brewing Edmund Fitzgerald

Anchor Porter
5.6% ABV

Anchor Porter is more than likely one of the earliest porters brewed in America post-prohibition.  At least, according to this article on the Anchor website.  Anchor first bottled their porter in 1974.  I can't imagine there was a large market for porter in the early 1970s, aside from the Americans who had been overseas and drank porters, stouts, dunkel and black lagers in other countries.  It must have worked though, because it has remained in Anchor's lineup to this day, recently celebrating its 40th anniversary!

Appearance:  Pours black, but more brown around the perimeter of the beer, two finger width tan head
Aroma:  Smells like a dessert, that's for sure.  Quite a smooth aroma, cocoa, maybe a lightly roasted coffee.
Flavor:  Still fairly smooth, akin to milk chocolate, with a little bit of lightly roasted coffee.
Mouthfeel:  Medium body, average carbonation.
Overall:  Very good.  Different from the Edmund Fitzgerald by being smoother with more pronounced chocolate presence.

Meantime London Porter
6.5% ABV

Meantime Brewing is relatively new to the brewing industry compared to Anchor and Great Lakes Brewing.  Located in London, England, Meantime Brewing started up in the year 2000.  They have been making a steady name for themselves since then.  In 2010 they completed a move/expansion to a new brewery, and have opened a brewpub, named The Old Brewery, at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.  Let's check out their London Porter.

Appearance:  Dark brown, a bit of light shines through the beer, allowing it to appear red when held up in the light.  A finger width off white head, which dissipates in two or three minutes.
Aroma:  Right out of the fridge, only subdued roast character, and minor chocolate/coffee mix.  But as it warms, a lovely chocolate aroma takes over.
Flavor:  Mainly roasted malt and a light chocolate flavor, light bitterness in the finish
Mouthfeel:  Between medium/medium-full body, average carbonation
Overall:  A good representative of the style.  Not very unique, but still tasty.
Meantime London Porter
Meantime London Porter

That does it for category 12B of the BJCP.  There will be one more section on porters, category 12C, and it will concentrate on Baltic Porters.

Check out my other Exploring the BJCP posts!
Strong Scotch Ales (9E)
Brown Porters (12A)


  1. The research and development for these posts seem really "hard!"

    Looking forward to tagging along for it.

    1. Yea, tell me about it!

      In all honesty, when looking at beers that are all prime examples of a certain style, it can seem I'm describing the same beer three different times. The differences among them are quite subtle, and harder to judge when they are being enjoyed sometimes a week or two apart from each other.

      For the next round, Baltic Porters, I am going to try and drink them all within 48-72 hours of each other.

      Any more comments, suggestions, gripes are exceedingly welcomed!

  2. Really cool series.

    I am in the middle of brewing at least one all-grain version of each of the 23 beer Categories (not every style ... just one per Category). Category 12 is one of the 3 I have left to brew. I'll have to remember to come back here when I go to actually brew it.

    For what it is worth, I also need to do a Category 15 (which is probably be a Dunkelweizen) and a Category 19.

    1. Thanks! I noticed you've been working on brewing all the styles according to BJCP. Now THAT is awesome, makes me feel lazy!