Porter for the Geography of Beer

  • Martyn CornellEmail author


Early in the eighteenth century the Brown Beer brewers of London, responding to market forces that threatened their predominance in the capital, began to instigate changes in their production methods that would result in the development of a strong, dark brew that became known as porter, after its first big customers, the street and river porters. The new drink turned out to be suitable for production on a much larger scale than had been possible, enabling the leading porter brewers to grow to a size never seen before, and it was also remarkably stable and long-lasting, meaning that as, the eighteenth century continued, the London porter brewers were able to sell their beer to wider and wider circles of customers, and become the first to extensively penetrate not just markets in Britain beyond the capital, but overseas markets, including the Baltic, North America and the East Indies, and eventually Africa and Australasia. Thus porter became the first “world” beer, drunk on every continent. Local brewers reacted to the appearance of this popular rival brew from London by making porter themselves: in Ireland from 1740, in North America from 1762, in Sweden from 1789, in Russia from 1790, in Germany from at least 1822, in South Africa, in India, in Australia and New Zealand, so that porter became the first beer to be brewed around the world as well. But by the end of the nineteenth century porter was in retreat in its country of origin, and declining in popularity abroad. It vanished entirely in Britain in the Second World War, and from Ireland in 1973, holding on only in a few overseas markets, such as Sweden and Poland. However, the “craft beer revolution” that began in the mid-1970s saw brewers turn to reviving old styles of beer, and porter has since seen a renaissance, with more brewers making porter now than for many years.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LondonUK

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