Tuesday 10 July 2007

The difference between Porter and Stout

I had a dream
Today is a momentous day. The first outing in this blog of two of my obsessions. Can you guess which two?

I have my faults. Impatience is one. Flatulence is another. No, I meant fatuousness. Jungian slip there. Anger. Aggression. Conceit. Fat belly. I'll stop now, not because I've run out of faults - I have pages more - but because I'm meant to be discussing Porter.

My faults are always on display when Porter is the topic. Too close to my heart, that's the problem. It starts with a dream. Sometime in the 1970s. Reading Michael Jackson in a Porter-free England, his description of the style left a deep impression on me. Not just my conscious mind. Oh no. It went much deeper than that.

When I said a dream, I was talking literally, not metaphorically. I've had many great dreams. The when-you're-asleep-sort-of-thing type, I mean. The Porter dream changed my life.

Most of my beer-related dreams are connected with last orders and my inability to find a decent pub in the 10 minutes left before the bell sounds. A typical anxiety dream, but with a peculiarly British twist. The Porter dream belongs to that much smaller group, where wishes are fulfilled rather than frustrated. I was in a pub with handpulled Porter. And I got to taste it. (I told you it wasn't a frustration dream.) That taste has stayed with me ever since.

I've already admitted to being a hippy. Now I'm going to come across like a right new-age twat. My thinking about the nature of Porter was defined by that dream. Irrational and Illogical? Yes. But it's no worse a starting point that that of many others. And at least I've assembled a few facts to back up my belief.

Porter was one of my early beer obsessions. Followed by Geuze, Gose and Grodziskie. The letter H will have its turn soon.

Porter and Stout
What's the difference between Porter and Stout? It's a question that crops up regularly on beer forums. The (it's hard even to write these four letters, the true mark of the devil, the incarnation of evil itself) BJCP and its imaginative style descriptions have provided little clarification.

Working the wrong way around - looking at modern versions and extrapolating backwards - isn't a very useful technique. The biggest problem is that few breweries made both a Porter and Stout 30 years ago when the first attempts at defining the styles more precisely were made. Take a Porter from Sweden and a Stout from Ireland and compare the two. Simple. Except that this approach inevitably results in complete bollocks.

A more effective method - though one requiring real research - is to look back to the heyday of Porter. That's what I'll be doing today. Specifically, I'll be looking at Whitbread brewing logs for 1805 and 1844.

Like all the London breweries of the day, Whitbread produced a Porter and several Stouts - Single, Double and Triple. Let's take a look at the 1805 recipes first.

Whitbread have the most standardised recipes I've seen. Every brew had exactly the same ingredients - 216 quarters of malt (approximately 66,000 pounds) and 2,250 pounds of hops. For the Porter and Single Stout, the malt bill consisted of 160 quarters of pale malt and 56 quarters of brown malt. Only the Double Stout varied slightly with 136 quarters of pale, and 40 each of amber and brown malt. The only other difference was the quantity of beer produced - 798 barrels of Porter, 720 of Single Stout and 580 barrels of Double Stout.

By 1844 the standardisation had gone even further. Every brew contained 152 quartters of pale malt, 47 quarters of brown malt and 2,280 pounds of hops. From these ingredients 5 beers were brewed - Porter, KP (Keeping Porter), Single Stout, Double Stout and Triple Stout. The Stouts were rarely brewed by themselves, almost always being party-gyled with one of the Porters.

So what was the difference between Porter and Stout for Whitbread? The amount of water used.

Source: documents LMA_4453_D_09_001 and LMA_4453_D_09_38 in the London Metropolitan Archive.

My two obsessions
"What are they?" Bum. I was hoping you had forgotten about that. Like I said at the start, you guess. I'm not here to provide answers, just to be annoying.

OK then, one clue. I define Porter the 1830 way.


GenX at 40 said...

If I ever get CAMWA up and going, research and other general stuff like that is definitely going to be within the scope of funding. You have my word.


A Good Beer Blog

Anonymous said...

Great post -- you can't beat stats! We (Boak and me) were talking about this topic a couple of nights ago and came up with this answer: the body. It seems childishly obvious, but we thought that a stout needs to seem, somehow, heavier, even if it's no stronger, no more bitter or no more full-flavoured than a similar porter.

Tabellion said...

Excellent post, Patto, hugely informative as usual, just one (literally) tiny point - at my age I can't read 6pt tgrey type on a purple background any more, so mI have to copy and paste your blogs into word to be able to read them ...

Incidentally, if you want to check my new blog out, it's at http://zythophile.wordpress.com/

Ron Pattinson said...

Tabellion - get your point about the colour scheme. I do plan getting my son to change it again soon. I hope he'll come up with something easier on the eyes.