The section on Porter and Stout in "Food and its adulterations" (by Arthur Hill Hassall, 1855) is very revealing of the real world characteristics of Porter. As you've probably noticed, much of what I write is based on brewing records. Which should, in theory, give a true picture of 19th century beer. If it weren't for the fact that publicans were wont to tamper with beer once they got their hands on it.
The book has a fascinating table of analyses of Porter and Stout. Some samples were obtained at the brewery, some at the brewery tap and others from publicans. Let's take a look at Stout first:
The samples from a brewery of brewery tap range from 1063 to 1081. Those from publicans from 1041 to 1076. 1041? That's way too weak, even for Porter. For Stout, it's a total joke. Of the 11 samples, only the top four seem reasonable.
Now let's move on to Porter. First the brewery/brewery tap samples:
Even some of these look wrong. Having seen plenty of Porter brewing logs of this period, I'm pretty sure anything under 1050 has been tampered with. Of the beers from brewery taps, only the Truman and Meux Porters look about right.
Not very good. Until you look at the publican samples:
Of course, we don't know which breweries the samples come from. But there's still not a one of them that's right. All the Porter brewing logs I've seen for this period show gravities of 1055-1065. (See table below.) Some of the publican samples must have had almost as much water as Porter in them. I was shocked to see OG's below 1040.
"This diminution of strength in the beer purchased of publicans is only to be satisfactorily explained by the addition in many cases of water, this addition being no doubt sometimes practised by the publicans and other retailers of malt liquors."
"Food and its adulterations" by Arthur Hill Hassall, 1855, page 631
Couldn't have put it better myself. Someone was watering the beer.
More tomorrow on Porter, its adulteration and its flavour.