27A. Historical Beer: Pre-Prohibition Porter

Overall Impression

A historical American adaptation of English Porter by German immigrants using American ingredients, including adjuncts.


Medium to dark brown, though some examples can be nearly black in color, with ruby or mahogany highlights. Relatively clear. Light to medium tan head, persistent.


Grainy malt aroma with low levels of chocolate, caramel, biscuit, burnt sugar, licorice, or slightly burnt malt. Low hop aroma. Low to moderate low levels of corn or DMS acceptable. No to very low esters. Diacetyl low to none. Clean lager fermentation profile acceptable.


Moderate grainy-bready malt flavor, with low levels of chocolate, burnt malt, burnt sugar, caramel, biscuit, licorice, molasses, or toast. Corn or DMS flavor acceptable at low to moderate levels. Medium-low to moderate bitterness. Low floral, spicy, or earthy hop flavor optional. Balance is typically even between malt and hops, with a moderately dry finish. Clean fermentation profile, but faint esters are allowable.


Medium-light to medium body. Moderate carbonation. Low to moderate creaminess. May have a slight dark malt astringency.


Also sometimes known as Pennsylvania Porter or East Coast Porter. This style does not describe colonial-era products.


Commercially brewed in Philadelphia during the revolutionary period as an adaptation of English beer. Evolved later as German immigrants applied lager brewing methods during the second half of the 1800s. Prohibition ended most porter brewing in the US, except in a few regional Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states where it was most popular.

Characteristic Ingredients

Two row or six row malt. Low percentages of dark malts including black, chocolate, and brown malt (roasted barley is not typically used). Adjuncts are acceptable, including corn, brewers licorice, molasses, and porterine. More historical versions will have up to twenty percent adjuncts. Lager or ale yeast. Historical or traditional American bittering hops, American or German finishing hops.

Style Comparison

Smoother and less hoppy-bitter than a (modern) American Porter. Less caramelly and smoother than an English Porter with more of an adjunct or lager character. More bitterness and roast than an International Dark Lager.

Vital Statistics


20 - 30


20 - 30


1.046 - 1.060


1.010 - 1.016


4.5% - 6%

Commercial Examples

Stegmaier Porter, Yuengling Porter.