Two classics of the style, compared by Millie and Ken Carman…
Sierra Nevada vs. Anchor Porter
From Sierra Nevada’s site…
alcohol content 5.6% by volume yeast Top-fermenting Ale Yeast
beginning gravity 14.5 Plato bittering hops Goldings
ending gravity 3.8 Plato finishing hops Willamette
bitterness units 40 malts Two-row Pale, Munich, Chocolate & Caramel
Anchor’s site was less specific, but here are some of the specifics from a clone recipe.
Note: all this information was accessed after the reviewers compared the two Porters.
Millie found the aroma for Sierra to be toasty/toffee or bready. Low hops with a slight burnt sense. We both felt the Anchor and the Sierra needed more “nose.” The Anchor, to Millie, had a bit less bread to the nose with some chocolate and coffee. I thought the Anchor actually had more of a nose hop-wise. Considering the rest of the review I suspect that the Anchor has more finishing hops for the aroma, less for the taste.
Of course the lower gravity-sense to the Nevada may account for this. The hops would naturally pop out more to the taste rather than aroma. We both felt the Nevada was probably a lower gravity product. The Anchor on the other hand seemed a far more complex beverage, grain-wise. Millie felt the Anchor had layers of complexity in comparison, and I would agree. I thought the Anchor clung to the roof of the mouth in a pleasant; not astringent, way. Millie thought it might be slightly astringent. I suspect this is probably more a difference in how much “astringency” one likes, or prefers, in a Robust Porter before one considers it actually astringent.
Neither had much carbonation in the mouthfeel. I felt the hops in the Anchor product seemed more citrusy to the nose, and what little could be sensed in the taste. As it warmed the hops seemed a little more present, but still slight. The Anchor product does seem to emphasize grain over hops, and the Sierra hops over body… and to a lesser extent: grain. The darker grains were there, just with less intensity.
Color to both: nice dark ruby highlights, yet clear. Unlike a few Porters, a light will shine through either… somewhat. Both had a nice; foam-laced, pillow head.
Personally we both preferred the Anchor.
Note: I seem to remember reading that Anchor changed it’s recipe a while ago to compete with Sierra Nevada. I seem to remember it being even more complex and dense grain-wise than this. If so, what a shame. If my memory is right, Anchor may have had it right to begin with.