Isley Porter Brews

by Marty Nopper, Tastemaker in Residence

Welcome Marty to our Spirited Table®

A very good friend of mine (you know who you are, Lisa) recently saw several posts from me "checking in" at breweries around the country and sampling the local flavors. Having a long history of my shenanigans, exceptional prose and beer drinking skills, she mentioned that maybe I should combine these skills and write about my adventures in a brief blog…let’s try.

First, let's keep in mind that this isn't my full-time gig; I’m just a guy who likes to quaff a couple pops when I'm out and about exploring the underbelly of many cities I venture to. Today, I'm at Isley Brewing Company in Richmond, Va. Founded in 2013, Isley is the true definition of a microbrewery here (Stone Brewing Co just opened up an east coast center here earlier this year). On tap tonite is Choosy Mother, an unbelievably smooth Peanut Butter Porter. I know, I know, I've already started on the wrong foot with you guys. But wait. Surely I might disappoint you but this beverage won’t.  Never in a million years would I have ever conceived of ordering such a juvenile oriented concoction but after reading too many ultra-positive YELP reviews, I had to try it. To put this in context, I am only a recent convert to Porters and Stouts as I just started drinking coffee (I know, another sin)...after ordering, I admired the medium darkness and slight headiness that the pour produced. I gulped, and, wait for it, waittttttt, thought it was one of the best beers that had ever crossed my ever increasingly discerning palate (alright, I’m a Bud guy…). Wow, that was good so I had to gulp some more just to be sure...yep, that was awesome.  So, now I'm on my third one and finally notice that the place is getting a little warmer...the barkeep politely asks me if I want some water (doesn't beer have water in it?) and I am cognizant enough to realize the fact that the Uber call is near. The 6.6% ABU is well masked and the 20 IBU rating makes it most sippable to even the most dedicated Corona neophytes (sorry, my bad…fruit does belong in beer).  I ask for the tab and ask how this delectable nectar came to be. Seems they took their best-selling and benchmark product, The Bribe Oatmeal Porter, and added Peanut Butter as a change of taste, so to speak. Bam! Containing roasted Barley and Chocolate Malts, this ambrosia produces a mild chocolate flavor with a hint of roast. The oats give it nice body while producing a very drinkable, slightly lighter meal than is typical of some other Porters. For those wondering if the Peanut Butter(PB) flavor overpowers the Porter aspects, don't. It is a very mellow PB flavor but enough to want you craving more. Who the hell wouldn't drink this, I wonder?!? Somebody who hasn't been to Richmond....enjoy responsibly, my friends.

Now for your worries, there won't be a test. According to Wikipedia, 'Porter is a dark style of beer developed in London from well-hopped beers made from brown malt. The name was first recorded in the 18th century, and is thought to come from its popularity with street and river porters. The history and development of stout and porter are intertwined.’.

According to All About Beer Magazine, 'The birth of porter in the early 18th century is among the most significant brewing events of the past 300 years. At a time when England was leading the Industrial Revolution, this deep brown ale drove a revolution in brewing. Porter became the first beer style to gain wide popularity—it was enjoyed all across Britain, and was even George Washington’s favorite beer.

Before porter, beer brewing was a small-scale activity limited to homes and small pub breweries. The alehouses in London stocked different types of beer: freshly brewed beer, aged beer and strong beer. Pub customers often ordered blends of these beers, to suit their taste and their budget: one such blend was known as “three threads.”

One common account of the origin of porter is charming, but probably incorrect. It claims that pub owners, tired of mixing the different beers to order, found a way to brew a single beer with the characteristics of three threads, and that became porter.

It is more likely that London brewers of brown beer, facing competition for customers, improved the quality of their beers. The new, “improved” brown beers—well brewed, with more hops and aged longer—came to be known as porter. The name “porter” was adopted for these beers because of the new brew’s immense popularity with the porters who carried goods around the city.’