Monday, 21 January 2008

Porter grists ca. 1845

Porter, Porter, Porter. When will I get bored of it as a topic? Probably never. Porter grists - sounds a fun topic.

Below are six Porter grists taken from "The Theory and Practice of Brewing Illustrated" by William Littell Tizard, 1846, pages 499 - 501.

Quite varied, I think you'll agree. Why are they so many and who used them? Let's hear what Tizard himself has to say.

First off, grist number 1:

"With those who brew the low-priced shabby article above alluded to, a grist something like No. 1 is used, producing a flavour which would lead a stranger to conclude that liquorice had been engaged in its production, so much like it is the flavour of porter brewed of pale and black malt only, whatever be their relative proportions. Any fulness which this porter may have, principally depends upon the gum-like portions and properties of the black malt, which, unlike the mucilage of the paler malts, does not submit to the process of saccharisation, either in the mash-tun or in the fermenting tun, and consequently does not contribute to the formation of alcohol: if, however, such an article be strong, and not attenuated too low, but vatted six or ten months, its objectionable flavour is in a great measure dissipated, and a new one is acquired, which renders the potation tolerable, and sometimes really good. Thus porter, made by an excessive use of black malt, is much more mucilaginous than that which is brewed from lower-dried materials."

Not exactly a resounding endorsement for just pale and black malt. The bit about it producing a liquorice taste grabbed my attention. How many modern Stouts have that flavour?

"No. 2 in the above table produces porter of an ordinary kind only, and with a lower flavour than the first, though much superior to it; but its quality greatly depends on attendant circumstances."
This one a bit confusing. I think what he means is that the flavour is less intense, but more pleasant, than that of grist No. 1.

"No. 3 is much improved in consequence of the introduction of one-tenth of amber and a small quantity of brown, or of the deceptive blown malt. "
Tizard evidently approves of the use of amber malt.

"No. 4, which perhaps is much more general in the provinces, is preferable to No. 3; and, if used without any counterfeit matter, gives general satisfaction where the brewer is provided with the necessary plant, proper vats, and a sufficiency of knowledge ; but the great misfortune with many of the less experienced country brewers is, that they imagine that porter cannot be brewed from malt, hops, and water, without some other ingredient; and hence they often spoil the flavour of a really good beverage by contamination with liquorice or other alien matter: a fact which, as it demands condemnation, must be admitted with regret. Besides this, country porter is often prepared of a greater gravity than the common London tipple, and is consequently of a higher and ranker flavour, arising from the concentration of its carbonised matter. "
This section points out some interesting differences between London and country Porter. I surprised that he's still complaining about the use of adulterants. The use of any ingredients other than malt, hops, yeast and water was illegal at the time.

"Country brewers would find their pecuniary advantage secured, and their beer at the same time improved, were they to use newer and better hops than they usually do, and were they to adopt the grist now in use by those whose produce is so much admired by the public, namely, No. 5, and still more so by the exclusive employment of No. 6."
Tizard's final judgement is unexpected. Not the grist with the greatest proportion of brown malt, but one with neither pale nor brown wins his approval.

So far the theory. What about the practice? Well I just happen to have the grists of several London breweries for about the same period.

Who shall we look at first? What about Whitbread?

This was during Whitbread's "one recipe for everything" period. Doesn't resemble any of Tizard's grists. None of his are just pale and brown malt. I wonder if they were using some other additional source of colour? Strikes me that combination of malts wouldn't produce that dark a beer.

Let's try Truman next:

Again, just brown and pale malt used. Remarkably similar to Whitbread.

Maybe Reid's will show more variety:

This is the closest we've got yet to one of the examples. It's like No. 2, except with a lot less brown malt. Note the first appearance of black malt. I would have expected all the London brewers (which these all are) to be using it by the 1840's.

Finally, my beloved Barclay Perkins:
That's more like it. Finally some amber malt. The Stouts (BSt, EI and IBSt) all have a touch of amber. The Porters (TT and Hhd) do not. This is about the closest match we've had. IBSt (Imperial Brown Stout - what later became Courage Russian Stout) is somewhere between grists No. 3 and No. 4.

Personal aside
I can only think of one example of a beer brewed with just amber and black malt. A Dark Mild I once brewed. Confusion over the Dutch names had me but amber instead of pale malt. It turned out to be a really tasty, chewy Porter. About the only decent beer I ever brewed.

What does this exercise tell us? Don't believe everything you read in books. Well, not totally. Tizard does warn us:

"It would be difficult to define by words the exact flavour, colour, and constitution, produced by the various combinations of black, brown, amber, and pale, or perhaps to confine the shades of separate malts within these four terms ; for the scales of admixture are nearly equal in number with the practitioners themselves. The shades of amber malt, in particular, are so many, and so much difference of colour is imparted by black, that frequent trifling variations are made in the proportions of each by persons who draw out a standard scale for their individual guidance, in endeavouring to arrive at uniformity in colour and flavour, be they such as they may; but by an experienced brewer, this is done with admirable accuracy."
So pretty much every brewers used different combinations and even these were modified to cope with the vagaries of different batches. A warning to anyone wanting to recreate beers of this period, too. If there was so much variation in malts then, what chance of matching them perfectly today?


Lachlan said...

Those Whitbread and Truman recipes do seem quite unusual. The Durden Park book gives the recipe for Whitbread Porter from 1850 and it's roughly 80% pale, 15% brown, 5% black. That would represent a serious change in colour, so I would think they would have to have used some kind of colourant. Could they still have been using essentia bina (or whatever it was called) this late?

Ron Pattinson said...

Tizard talks about mashing black malt separately and keeping the highly coloured wort to add to different brews.

Very long boils I've seen mentioned as another way of colouring wort. Though I'm pretty sure the ones in question weren't longer than 2 hours.

The rules about what you could use were pretty strict. Writing slightly earlier, Accum list prosecutions of brewers for breaking various rules, mostly concerned with the use of adulterants. But he also says that tehre had only been one prosecution of any of the large London Porter brewers. That suggest to me that Whitbread and Truman were sticking to the rules. So no essentia bina or even caramel.

Lachlan said...

Tizard talks about mashing black malt separately and keeping the highly coloured wort to add to different brews.

Yeah, that seems likely but wouldn't it have been included in the logs?

Ron Pattinson said...

Yes, there probably would be a mention in the logs. Somewhere. I need to take a closer look.

I have also found a reference from the mid-1800's where they complain about the unnatural black colour of Porter. So maybe it was much paler at one point.