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Recently, I traveled to Denver, CO, and though I didn't go for beer-specific purposes, I took advantage of a few breweries (and taphouses) that were conveniently close to my hotel.

The one I was most excited about was Great Divide, mostly because I had discovered their Saint Bridget's Porter years beforehand. I did not keep track of this beer, however, and was disappointed to find that they no longer produced it.

The bartender informed me that this was because "porters don't do well in the marketplace."

Is this a common opinion among brewers? Could it just be regional to Denver? What might the reasoning be behind this?

  • I did, however, very much enjoy their other beers. "I Believe" in Yeti. – Ryan Kinal Jan 30 '14 at 21:07
  • Non-answer, opinion-based: Stouts seem to be the thing in the "dark" beer category, esp. your flavored and imperial stouts, since a base stout is just a little bit bigger than a porter. I would guess that porters are considered "pedestrian", or perhaps just retreading the stout category. That said, there are some great porters out there, so don't give up on them! :) – object88 Jan 30 '14 at 21:13
  • Since there's no real difference between stouts and porters, do you know if this bartender was trying to say that this style of beer does not do well, or that it's something about the name "porter" itself? (My one friend thought that all porters tasted like coffee for a long time, because he'd only ever had coffee porters.) – hunse Jan 30 '14 at 22:41
  • We didn't get that far into the discussion, him being a bartender and it being a Friday night. – Ryan Kinal Jan 31 '14 at 14:42
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    IMHO, there's quite a difference between stout and porter. A Stout is usually fairly smooth, sweet and roasty, chocolatey, even vanilla. A porter is usually a more acrid bitterness, less sweetness - more focus on the roasted qualities without the sweetness. – mdma Feb 4 '14 at 9:12
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TL;DR: Yes, but they're growing.

Beer style sales chart

This chart shows, for craft beer sold in 2012, the relative portion of the market each style made up, with IPA being the most popular (a relatively new occurrence). Porters do not even show up.

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Here's another for 2011 showing porters as quite low on the list.

enter image description here

This chart shows the year-over-year increase in sales by style. You'll note here that, at least in 2011, porters weren't growing very fast either.

More recent data was a little hard to come by, but it seems that the overall sales numbers are unlikely to change that much in a couple years: IPAs, Pale ales, Ambers and Amber Lagers are probably still topping the charts. So it's not that porters don't sell at all, but they're certainly not top earners.

Drifting into conjecture, I would say that the people interested in 'big beers' will take a stout over a porter, and those interested in a more subtle beer will go for a brown or an amber, leaving porters in a bit of a no-man's-land in the middle.

  • Wow. Toaster did some research. Great answer. – Ryan Kinal Jan 31 '14 at 14:42

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