Thursday, September 25, 2008

Porter...This Is Your Life

Oh Porter, let me count the ways. As a style I give you a 10. The BJCP went as so far to give you a 12. (Categories 12A, 12B, & 12C that is) I'm going to start doing little write ups on things that I find interesting about each beer style. I am going to keep them in order with my homebrew clubs "Style Night" meetings. Our first club "Style Night" is going to be Porter so I am doing what my wise cousin does when she wants to solidify information in the ol' noggin. Write it down, and then write it down even neater and OCD-like, and then high-lite the ever-so-important parts. Well, actually I'm just going to do some research, take some sloppy notes, then blog it out here. First off, let me state that if you are a homebrewer and you are looking for a book that will truly make you a better homebrewer, I highly recommend picking up "Designing Great Beer" by Ray Daniels. I went nuts on Amazon a while back and I bought every book that was respectable by the homebrew community and when I received my box in the mail full of beer know-how I was so excited until I opened this book and I realized, I don't know shit about beer. I thought I was going to sit down and just read through this book front to back and oi la, brewmaster. Not the case. Instead I would just pull this book out from time to time and go to the index and see what it had to say about certain beer styles. Well now this book is probably my favorite book to read that gets me ready to brew. It really breaks down beer styles so you understand where/how they came about, how do other people brew them successfully, what do you need to do to get your beer NHC worthy. I'm going to be using this book for all of my clubs style nights to get more familiar with some of the historical aspects of particular styles as well as how the styles have evolved into today's commercial and homebrewed examples.

Some interesting things about Porter:
  • "Porter was truly the first "industrial" beer. Rather than being a natural product of the brewing ingredients, it was "engineered" to meet specific consumer needs. (quote from "Designing Great Beers" by Ray Daniels)
  • Multiple accounts agree that the year 1722 was the first year that Porter was brewed. George Harwood of Shoreditch Brewery is credited with first brewing Porter by some but it is more likely that multiple brewers started brewing it in the same year.
  • Porter came about by patrons requesting the publicans for a blend of different beers. Usually a Mild (young) beer and stale beer mixed or any but not limited to the following combinations. Ale, mild beer, and stale blended. /Half-and half (half ale and half two pennys), /Three threads (Ale, beer, and two pennys),/ Mixture of two brown beers, one stale, one mild. /Three threads pale ale, new brown ale, and stale brown ale./ Four threads and six threads (constituents not given).
  • The Labouring people, Porters, etc. experienced its wholesomeness and utility, they assumed to themselves the use thereof, from whence it was called Porter or Entire Butt.
  • Original Porter was made exclusively with Brown malt which was kilned over an open fire so one could imagine that there was probably an underlying smokey flavor to these beers. Brown malt was sometimes referred to as "Porter malt".
  • Once Porter was established as a style in the 18th century there was a higher demand for it which lead to breweries building large vats for storage and aging of the beer. These vessels where so big that you could hold a dinner dance accommodating 200 people inside of them. (for real, they used to have dinner dances in these motha's)
  • October 16, 1822: a vat of Porter ruptured, releasing a jet of porter that first wiped out an adjacent tank and then ravaged the surrounding neighborhood in a five-block radius. At least eight people (including women and children were killed immediately, and a dozen others succumbed to injuries or were crushed by the crowds seeking to consume the fine Porter that was running in the streets.
  • Once industrialized, Porter was blended with 1/3 volume of stale porter that was always kept on hand to help bring young porter forward in flavor.
  • Taxation put economic pressure on brewers to reduce the amount of malt in their beers. This had an affect on the color of the beer so brewers would used burnt amounts of sugar or molasses to compensate.
  • Brewers looked to find other ingredients to use in their beer that would have a stimulating or narcotizing effect that would give the consumer the impression of alcoholic potency. Some of these ingredients that were use are: Cocculus indicus (violent poison that was used to stupefy fish), Opium, Indian Hemp, Strychnine, tobacco, darnel seed, logwood, and salts of zinc, lead, and alum.
  • Less than 100 years after the birth of Porter, brown malt had already lost its place as the styles predominant grain.
I obtained this information from "Designing Great Beer" by Ray Daniels.

What does the BJCP say about Porter?

12A. Brown Porter

Aroma: Malt aroma with mild roastiness should be evident, and may have a chocolaty quality. May also show some non-roasted malt character in support (caramelly, grainy, bready, nutty, toffee-like and/or sweet). English hop aroma moderate to none. Fruity esters moderate to none. Diacetyl low to none.

Appearance: Light brown to dark brown in color, often with ruby highlights when held up to light. Good clarity, although may approach being opaque. Moderate off-white to light tan head with good to fair retention.

Flavor: Malt flavor includes a mild to moderate roastiness (frequently with a chocolate character) and often a significant caramel, nutty, and/or toffee character. May have other secondary flavors such as coffee, licorice, biscuits or toast in support. Should not have a significant black malt character (acrid, burnt, or harsh roasted flavors), although small amounts may contribute a bitter chocolate complexity. English hop flavor moderate to none. Medium-low to medium hop bitterness will vary the balance from slightly malty to slightly bitter. Usually fairly well attenuated, although somewhat sweet versions exist. Diacetyl should be moderately low to none. Moderate to low fruity esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderately low to moderately high carbonation.

Overall Impression: A fairly substantial English dark ale with restrained roasty characteristics.

Comments: Differs from a robust porter in that it usually has softer, sweeter and more caramelly flavors, lower gravities, and usually less alcohol. More substance and roast than a brown ale. Higher in gravity than a dark mild. Some versions are fermented with lager yeast. Balance tends toward malt more than hops. Usually has an “English” character. Historical versions with Brettanomyces, sourness, or smokiness should be entered in the Specialty Beer category (23).

History: Originating in England, porter evolved from a blend of beers or gyles known as “Entire.” A precursor to stout. Said to have been favored by porters and other physical laborers.

Ingredients: English ingredients are most common. May contain several malts, including chocolate and/or other dark roasted malts and caramel-type malts. Historical versions would use a significant amount of brown malt. Usually does not contain large amounts of black patent malt or roasted barley. English hops are most common, but are usually subdued. London or Dublin-type water (moderate carbonate hardness) is traditional. English or Irish ale yeast, or occasionally lager yeast, is used. May contain a moderate amount of adjuncts (sugars, maize, molasses, treacle, etc.).

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.040 – 1.052
IBUs: 18 – 35 FG: 1.008 – 1.014
SRM: 20 – 30 ABV: 4 – 5.4%

Commercial Examples: Fuller's London Porter, Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, Burton Bridge Burton Porter, RCH Old Slug Porter, Nethergate Old Growler Porter, Hambleton Nightmare Porter, Harvey’s Tom Paine Original Old Porter, Salopian Entire Butt English Porter, St. Peters Old-Style Porter, Shepherd Neame Original Porter, Flag Porter, Wasatch Polygamy Porter

12B. Robust Porter

Aroma: Roasty aroma (often with a lightly burnt, black malt character) should be noticeable and may be moderately strong. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet). Hop aroma low to high (US or UK varieties). Some American versions may be dry-hopped. Fruity esters are moderate to none. Diacetyl low to none.

Appearance: Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights. Can approach black in color. Clarity may be difficult to discern in such a dark beer, but when not opaque will be clear (particularly when held up to the light). Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.

Flavor: Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt, black malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of roasty dryness in the finish. Overall flavor may finish from dry to medium-sweet, depending on grist composition, hop bittering level, and attenuation. May have a sharp character from dark roasted grains, although should not be overly acrid, burnt or harsh. Medium to high bitterness, which can be accentuated by the roasted malt. Hop flavor can vary from low to moderately high (US or UK varieties, typically), and balances the roasted malt flavors. Diacetyl low to none. Fruity esters moderate to none.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. Moderately low to moderately high carbonation. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth. May have a slight astringency from roasted grains, although this character should not be strong.

Overall Impression: A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex and flavorful roasty character.

Comments: Although a rather broad style open to brewer interpretation, it may be distinguished from Stout as lacking a strong roasted barley character. It differs from a brown porter in that a black patent or roasted grain character is usually present, and it can be stronger in alcohol. Roast intensity and malt flavors can also vary significantly. May or may not have a strong hop character, and may or may not have significant fermentation by-products; thus may seem to have an “American” or “English” character.

History: Stronger, hoppier and/or roastier version of porter designed as either a historical throwback or an American interpretation of the style. Traditional versions will have a more subtle hop character (often English), while modern versions may be considerably more aggressive. Both types are equally valid.

Ingredients: May contain several malts, prominently dark roasted malts and grains, which often include black patent malt (chocolate malt and/or roasted barley may also be used in some versions). Hops are used for bittering, flavor and/or aroma, and are frequently UK or US varieties. Water with moderate to high carbonate hardness is typical. Ale yeast can either be clean US versions or characterful English varieties.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.048 – 1.065
IBUs: 25 – 50 FG: 1.012 – 1.016
SRM: 22 – 35 ABV: 4.8 – 6.5%

Commercial Examples: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Meantime London Porter, Anchor Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter, Avery New World Porter, Bell’s Porter, Great Divide Saint Bridget’s Porter

12C. Baltic Porter

Aroma: Rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes. Complex alcohol and ester profile of moderate strength, and reminiscent of plums, prunes, raisins, cherries or currants, occasionally with a vinous Port-like quality. Some darker malt character that is deep chocolate, coffee or molasses but never burnt. No hops. No sourness. Very smooth.

Appearance: Dark reddish copper to opaque dark brown (not black). Thick, persistent tan-colored head. Clear, although darker versions can be opaque.

Flavor: As with aroma, has a rich malty sweetness with a complex blend of deep malt, dried fruit esters, and alcohol. Has a prominent yet smooth schwarzbier-like roasted flavor that stops short of burnt. Mouth-filling and very smooth. Clean lager character; no diacetyl. Starts sweet but darker malt flavors quickly dominates and persists through finish. Just a touch dry with a hint of roast coffee or licorice in the finish. Malt can have a caramel, toffee, nutty, molasses and/or licorice complexity. Light hints of black currant and dark fruits. Medium-low to medium bitterness from malt and hops, just to provide balance. Hop flavor from slightly spicy hops (Lublin or Saaz types) ranges from none to medium-low.

Mouthfeel: Generally quite full-bodied and smooth, with a well-aged alcohol warmth (although the rarer lower gravity Carnegie-style versions will have a medium body and less warmth). Medium to medium-high carbonation, making it seem even more mouth-filling. Not heavy on the tongue due to carbonation level. Most versions are in the 7-8.5% ABV range.

Overall Impression: A Baltic Porter often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English brown porter and the restrained roast of a schwarzbier, but with a higher OG and alcohol content than either. Very complex, with multi-layered flavors.

Comments: May also be described as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions should be entered as either Imperial Stouts (13F) or Specialty Beers (23).

History: Traditional beer from countries bordering the Baltic Sea. Derived from English porters but influenced by Russian Imperial Stouts.

Ingredients: Generally lager yeast (cold fermented if using ale yeast). Debittered chocolate or black malt. Munich or Vienna base malt. Continental hops. May contain crystal malts and/or adjuncts. Brown or amber malt common in historical recipes.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.060 – 1.090
IBUs: 20 – 40 FG: 1.016 – 1.024
SRM: 17 – 30 ABV: 5.5 – 9.5%

Commercial Examples: Sinebrychoff Porter (Finland), Okocim Porter (Poland), Zywiec Porter (Poland), Baltika #6 Porter (Russia), Carnegie Stark Porter (Sweden), Aldaris Porteris (Latvia), Utenos Porter (Lithuania), Stepan Razin Porter (Russia), Nøgne ø porter (Norway), Neuzeller Kloster-Bräu Neuzeller Porter (Germany), Southampton Imperial Baltic Porter

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