Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Porter 1815 - 1850

I haven't posted much about Porter recently. I was going to say "haven't written much about Porter". But that wouldn't be true. I've been writing about it a lot. Just not making any of it public.

I've just noticed that Tizard lists "tasting of empyreum" as a fault in one of the quotes below. Whereas Hitchcock says "a fine empyreumatic flavour" is a necessary characteristic. Great having sources that agree so precisely. I really need to dive into "Malts and Malting" to see if that has any answers. It only has 600 or so pages.

Thanks for all the comments about empyreumatic. I guess "burnt" is closer than "smoky".

The nature of Porter was still very dynamic and diverse. The move away from brown malt had changed its character. "This liquor is different both in colour and flavour from all other extracts of malt and hops, yet, like them, has been subject to a variety of changes, owing to the capriciousness of the public taste;" (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 46.)

Hitchcock gives one of the few precise descriptions of Porter found in old brewing texts:

"The qualities of the porter at present admired are, perfect brilliancy, a dark brown colour approaching to black, considerable bitterness, with a fine empyreumatic flavour, and a close creamy head. Without these requisites, porter is little valued." (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 46.)

It seems some Porter was even deliberately oaked:

"One brewer (Thrale), imagining it [Porter] had the smell of oak, in which he was not mistaken, and knowing that newly manufactured oak timber imparted a brown tinge from the tannin which it contained, had his store vats made of this material" (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 484.)

Early London Porters were strong beers by modern standards. Early trials with the hydrometer in the 1770's recorded Porter as having an OG of 1071° and 6.6% ABV. Increased taxation during the Napoleonic War pushed its gravity down to around 1050-55°. For the rest of the 19th century it remained in the range 1055-60º.

The huge popularity of the style prompted brewers to produce Porters in a wide variety of strengths. These started with Single Stout Porter at around 1070°, Double Stout Porter at 1085°, Triple Stout Porter at 1095° and Imperial Stout Porter at 1100° and more. As the 19th century progressed the Porter suffix was gradually dropped. British brewers, however, continued to use Porter as the generic term for both Porters and Stouts.

The move from brown to pale malt continued. London Porter grists of this period contained between 70 and 85% pale malt and just 10 or 15% brown malt. The small proportion of brown malt was possible because of the introduction of black patent malt. Though the speed of its adoption had varied from brewery to brewery, by the second half of the 19th century all large Porter brewers in London were using it. Some also used a portion of amber malt, especially in stronger Stouts.

Tizard espoused on the diverse nature of Porter:

"even in London a practised connoisseur can truly discover, without hesitation and by mere taste, the characterisctic flavour that distinguishes the management of each of the principal or neighbouring breweries; and a more striking difference is still discernible amont some of the Dublin houses, none of which yield a flavour like country-brewed porters, many of which are shockingly bad, being sometimes blinked, oftem tasting of empyreum, some black, some musty, some muddy, some barmy, and some having the predominant taste of Spanish juice, which is a not uncommon ingredient, and generally speaks for itself when taken upon a delicate stomach. This diversity is caused by a variety of circumstances, known and unknown, as some of them are profoundly veiled in secrecy; but at present as much from the colours and proportions of the grists brewed, as from any other cause." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 484.)

Here are some example grists provided by Tizard:

Porter grists according to Tizard 1846 :

grist 1____9_____0______0___91___100
grist 2____6____34______0___60___100
grist 3____2____30_____10___58___100
grist 4____3____25 _____15___57___100
grist 5____4____24_____24___48___100
grist 6____5_____0_____95____0___100
"The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 499.

Variations in colour of, in particular, amber and black malt meant that brewers often had to adjust the proportions of each used to maintain a constant colour and flavour in the finished beer. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 499.)

Grist 1 was the cheapskate's favourite and produced a beer with the taste of liquorice. Grist 2 made an ordinary Porter, though better in quality than from grist 1. Grist 3, with a portion of amber, was better. Grist 4 was better still and in common use outside London. Grist 5 was excellent, but best of all was grist 6. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 499-501.) By when Tizard was writing in the 1840's, London Porter breweries were mostly using around 80% pale malt in their grists.


Kristen England said...

Re: empyreumatic...I wouldn't say smokey nor burnt directly. At the distillery I worked it we used the term and it meant 'scorched'. Meaning you have a liquid solution that becomes overheated and the sugars are scorched meaning they are partly caramelized very quickly at high temperatures. You get this character a lot poorly made whiskeys and more so in home brewed beers that use a lot of liquid malt extract. It i was to use the term 'burnt' it would be burnt sugars specifically. Like when people try to make caramel and end up just burning the sugar. You get that acrid smell that only comes from the pyrolysis of sugars.

As for porter, grist #6 specifically, I have never seen any log that gives the use of amber malt at that high a level in a porter. Do you have any idea of where it comes from?

Ron Pattinson said...

kristen, empyreumatic is a great word. If I just leave it like that, without translation, am I being more precise? My spell checker keep flagging it.

I once brewed a Porter about like that, when I misunderstood the Dutch labelling on malts and got amber instead of pale. Best beer I ever brewed.

Never seen a log with a grist anything like it. Doesn't mean that it didn't happen. The author seems to have be a professional. I have seen grists like some of those on the list.

Barry M said...

Regarding grist #6 and your own brew, it goes to show that sometimes the simplest recipes give the best results. Just wondering though, would those grists apply to any particular class of porter, or could they apply across the board (single, double, triple etc...)?

What exactly is Spanish juice though? :D

Anonymous said...

There's been a fair amount of discussion about brown malt, but what about amber malt? I realize that we're talking about malts from 150+ years ago, but is there a modern equivalent for amber malt? Perhaps like a Munich or Vienna malt, or would it be darker, like an aromatic malt? I have no idea, but I'd love to hear more about it if you can shed more light on it (prior to reading the 400 page malt and malting book).

Great info though. I'm really enjoying all of these. It's really fascinating stuff.

Barry M said...

I bought Amber malt from a Belgian supplier a couple of years ago. Probably not the same as 150+ years ago, but called Amber at least :) Tempted to get more now!

Kristen England said...

Belgian 'amber' malt, spelled ambre is not amber malt at all. Its aromatic malt (ambre 45-50). It is the highest colored of the 'pale malts'. It does only have about 40 deg lintner but can convert itself.

Just FWI b/c people get this confused a lot. UK amber malt and aromatic malt smell, taste and act very differently.

Barry M said...

Interesting. However, from the same supplier I had also bought "Aroma Malt" which was 150 EBC compared to the 50 of what they called Amber (their spelling, not mine), both classed as base malts by them at least. I'm not 100% sure that it necessarily means it's Belgian Ambre because the dealer is Belgian, and from what you describe, would what they term "Aroma" equate to what you call Ambre? I don't want to get the wrong stuff for a 95% portion of the grist now, do I? :)

I suppose the best way would be to get some numbers and compare them to some suppliers in the UK. Can't rememeber now if I bought Amber from the UK before :\

Kristen England said...

So I just got off the phone with one of the malt houses I work with and got a lot of good info.

UK and belgian amber malts are stopped short of full germination which leaves a lot of the starches not converted. Its then kilned to a higher level than pale malt. The flavors you get out of it are from toasted starch, not the toasted sugars.

Both UK and Belgian 'Amber' malts have about 1/5 of the conversion power of pale malt but can still convert themselves partly. My dude was saying he figures you'd get maybe half the conversion if you used either amber alone (e.g. 50% of the mash efficiency ~35-40%)

Now comes the confusing part. Amber, ambre and aromatic can all mean the same thing depending on the maltster. They can also mean completely different things.

One very specific malt is called 'Special Aromatic' and is made by the Franco-Belges malt house. This is right between vienna and light munich in color (~12ebc). My dude said that this can be used at a much higher level but wouldn't go over 50%. It has about half of the dp that pale malts do.

He said the Special aromatic would definitely be more like the historic amber malts that had the ability to be used at quite a high level. They still arent as diastatic as the historic versions.

Check the data out here:

Barry M said...

"Now comes the confusing part. Amber, ambre and aromatic can all mean the same thing depending on the maltster. They can also mean completely different things."

I love that. Aren't standards great? :D

Thanks for the info!

Boak said...

Yes, what is Spanish juice? Sherry?

We once made a whole batch with "amber" malt and it failed completely. It's not the first time we've been caught out on malt types.

Zak Avery said...

I can't stop reading this bloody blog, damn you Pattinson.

Not that it's a primary source or anything, but this evening I've been reading about the use of brown malt on

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Kristen (and others).

Anonymous said...

"Yes, what is Spanish juice? Sherry?"
The 1913 Webster's Dictionary available online defines it as licorice

Ron Pattinson said...

bill, good question about amber malt. I'm finding fewer details on that. Though I have found warnings about its great variation in colour. I've also found a reference in Tizard saying some lacked diastatic power.

I'm pretty sure Spanish juice is some form of liquorice.

Anonymous said...

My old mum used to refer to liquorice as 'Spanish' (1950s & 60s in London). It came in the form of raw 'twigs' for want of a better descrption, rather than the processed candy version we're now used to seeing in sweet shops. Probably dried liquorice root, I'd say.

Anonymous said...

Any idea what Tizard means by 'blinked' when he's talking about country porters? ('...many of which are shockingly bad, being sometimes blinked...')

Oblivious said...

Spanish juice is a reduction of licorice root boiled in water I believe, Zymurgy did a review of of its as part of American porters a while back

Anonymous said...

Nearly a year late, but "blinked" means "turned sour," I'd imagine.

The London and Country Brewer of 1743 has the following helpful phrase: "They are apt to blink or give a little sourish Taste to their Drink."