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[Photograph: Sarah Postma]

Robust Porter is what I like to call an "Americanized" version of the classic English Brown Porter style. When I say Americanized, I mean the flavors are bolder, the alcohol content is a little higher and the hop character is more assertive. Robust Porters have a balance of chocolate and coffee flavors originating from the dark malts used. There may also be a bit of toffee or caramel flavor. The alcohol content is between 5% and 6.5% ABV, and there is a lot of flexibility with the hop character and bitterness with this style. The hops can range from mild to heavy and can either be English or American varieties.

It's a great style for a new homebrewer to tackle. First of all, a darker beer can hide some of the common mistakes that you may make when you first start brewing. Also, Robust Porter lends itself to creativity, since you can change the hop variety and intensity and still stay within the style guidelines.

The recipe I recommend is actually a slight adaptation of a classic Robust Porter homebrew recipe by Jamil Zainasheff, co-author of Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew. I substitute a more citrus-flavored American hop for Jamil's recommended English hops, and I've increased the bitterness by just a bit.

Over the next few days, this Robust Porter will serve as a visual lesson in fermentation. We'll be taking a day-by-day look at this beer as it develops. I will post periodic photographs of the fermentation process so you can get an idea of what you should expect when you brew it on your own.

Check back here tomorrow to watch this beer's progress!

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