Wednesday 3 September 2008

Porter 1815 to 1850

I'm still making good progress with my book. I must be. I've got to the middle of the 19th century. Which is about where I live, in my mind. "Would you like to live in the 1950's?" I asked Dolores yesterday while we were watching Miss Marple. "Not really. It sounds boring. No computers and hardly any television." "What about for a holiday, then?"

Myself, I'd like to retire to the 1920's. Nice and cheap, plus a good variety of draught beers in your average pub. Not so happy about the lack of antibiotics. Might have to take a supply of those with me.

Sorry. Getting distracted yet again. This is supposed to be about early 19th century Porter.

In case you're thinking "Hey, all I have to do is nail his blog posts together and I won't need to buy the book", I should point out that these are only excerpts. The book will contain much, much more.

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 it 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.

As for the idea that Stout was roastier than Porter, you can see that the Stronger Reid Stouts, SS and SSS, used a smaller proportion of black malt than their Porters. That theory can be crumpled into a ball and hurled nonchalantly into the wastepaper basket of history. It just doesn't stand up to the evidence.

In general, there was little difference between the Porter and Stout grists in any particular brewery. At Whitbread, which party-gyled its Porter and Stouts, they were identical. Barclay Perkins had basically two grists. One for the standard strength Porter that was 12% brown, 3% black and the rest pale malt. Their Stouts had rather more brown malt - 18% - and 10% amber malt.

You can see that Barclay Perkins Porters (TT, EI, Hhd) contained a higher proportion of black malt than their Stouts (BSt, IBSt).

One of the last London brewers to adopt the use of black malt was Whitbread. As you can see in the table above, they were still using just pale and brown malt in 1844.


Whorst said...

Mr. P, nowhere in your article does it mention the use of blackstrap molasses as a traditional ingredient in porter. Is this just a lack of journalistic skill on your part, or are you just trying to piss off people like myself who are technicians when it comes to actual styles??

Kristen England said...


FWIW, in all of the old brewing logs Ive seen I have never seen the mention of blackstrap nor any other form of molasses. They do get very specific about the amounts of why types of sugar they use, the amounts, percentage of extract pounds, etc.

In the older logs there is no mention of the exact sugar but just the amounts. Nothing to give the impression of molasses.

Having said that, its very hard to get brewing logs from places like the caribbean, malta, etc that may have used such things as molasses. I was in Jamaica last year and got a little information on Dragon stouts original recipe. it would suggest that they did use some sort of molasses product in it. Today they use brewers caramel and regular sugar instead.

I know here in the US, in the colonial days, they used quite a bit of molasses (lots of mentions in the old texts that mention brewing of that period) and anything else they could get cheaply. Seriously some of the things they put in beer. I think it was b/c the sugar cane industry was so close adn important and molasses was a very cheap way to get fermentables.

Ron Pattinson said...

wurst, there's a very simple reason for that. It was illegal to use blackstrap in commercially brewed Porter in the period 1815 to 1850.

Anonymous said...

Wurst, that was a good question. There so many misconceptions about what went into various types of beer (let alone the very nature of "beer styles") at certain points in history. Received wisdom tends to leave us with an oversimplied version of what porters were, what IPAs were, etc. At present, there's really no other way to get to the bottom of these issues but the dusty research Ron and others have been willing to do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks as usual Ron. Was lying in bed last night thinking about Porter grists (as you do when you're a reader of this blog), and thinking also about the last bottle of fullers london porter i drank which says it contains chocolate and crystal malts (and brown too, and presumably pale). anyway, one thing that occurs to me from reading your blog and also books like Amber, Gold and Black, is that there is very little mention of when chocolate and crystal malts came into widespread use, and exactly how they got used.

are they comparatively modern inventions? like, once patent malt was invented, someone thought maybe about not roasting it so far? or was it more a case of choc malt being a form of overdone brown malt? and as for is in so many beers these days and in such large quantities, and yet I never see mention of it in the 19th century grist that you discuss. Just curious. Any info about that - or any mileage in something for your book in that topic? Quite interested in 'the age of adjuncts' or whatever that chapter is to be called, too!

forgive the ignorance - no doubt there are some obvious answers to these questions if i googled around, but i'm at work so i'm not going to.
Wellington, NZ

Whorst said...

Then perhaps the use of blackstrap molasses is prior to 1815? Charlie Papazian claims that blackstrap molasses was a traditional ingredient in porter. Is there info available from the mid to late 1700's. I've used it and it really adds a deep, rich character to the beer.

Anonymous said...


do you have Ray Daniels's Designing Great Beers? He cites an English source from the 1860s calling for burning sugar in an iron pan. He also cites some late-twentieth-century homebrewing books on molasses, not as helpful. That's note 31 of his Porter chapter. Unfortunately, that's all I have on hand.

Anonymous said...


On the stouts-not-roastier-than-porters issue, I think basing your assertion solely on proportions of the grist is somewhat misleading.

To approach it from an absolute standpoint, Reid's stouts contain higher proportions of black malt and black+brown malts per volume of wort. So on that basis they are roastier.

From your data, just multiplying the grist percentages by the OG, you get a rough index of absolute roast malt content. (Higher numbers mean higher content.)

Rg 2.4 (black), 10.7 (brown+black)
Crs 2.6, 11.3
Com. Sea 2.6, 11.6
S 2.9, 13.1
S Crs 3.1, 14.0
SS 2.9, 12.3
SS Crs 2.9, 12.4
SSS 3.2, 15.9

By this basis, SSS is clearly the "roastiest".

Not making a claim either way wrt how roasty any of these beers tasted, just pointing out that the numbers don't necessarily lead to your assertion.

Whorst said...

I had the book, but cannot find it. I'm also trying to find my ancient copy of Papazian's book, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, where he claims blackstrap was a traditional ingredient. Both Meantime and Fuller's London Porter, although different are both killer. Meantime tastes like it may have some sort of sugar adjunct in it. I believe the recipe is supposedly old?? Anyone know?

Kristen England said...

London porter is brown, crystal and chocolate. Meantime uses something like 9 malts of which brown, black and chocolate give the roasty qualities.

As for papazians writings, Im hard pressed to believe any of it as the references are rarely cited at best.

Anonymous said...

(Not that I consider him reliable, but...) Surely Papazian is saying blackstrap molasses is traditional in American porter brewing, not British?

Oblivious said...


Crystal malt I believe was not developed until the later half of 19th century and was not really taken up by brewers till the end of the 19th century.

Not sure about chocolate, maybe it did not be developed until a scientific colour rateing system was developed?

Kristen England said...

Crystal malt was being well used in the late 19th century. By 1885 its mentioned frequently in malting trades publications with comments along the lines of, 'it was originally subject to a patent but that has long since expired.'

Whorst said...

America was pretty English back in those days. Did America just stumble upon blackstrap, or was it used in English brewing prior?

Ron Pattinson said...

You have to be very careful when looking at old recipes to distinguish between those intended for commercial and private brewers.

Sugar was not allowed in commercial beers 1816 to 1862. It was also illegal for most of the 18th century. Blackstrap was used in domestically brewed Porter, I've seen recipes that include it. But I'm writing about commercial brewing.

Meantime Porter claims to be based on a recipe from 1750. But includes a long list of malts that didn't exist in the 18th century. It's a good enough beer, but scarcely authentic. Whereas Fullers London Porter does look like it's based on a late 19th century recipe.

Anonymous said...

Love this stuff Ron, very interesting.

While it would not be listed as an ingredient in a recipe, how much (if any) of a brett character would the mid-18th century porters have had? And how long were they typically vatted before being consumed?

Ron Pattinson said...

Brett character. Right, when they isolated brett and put it into a Stout, they got the "aged" taste of a British Stout. So I would say, brett, yes. That was what was driving the pleasant aged flavour.

How long Porter was vatted varied. Initially, it was under 6 months. Never more than 12 months for anything but the strong Stouts. But I haven't really got past 1750 on that bit yet, so don't quote me. That statement was for amusement purposes only.

Anonymous said...

Ron, I think I'm having trouble interpretting your sarcasm. Damn internet...

My assumptions are that beers of that time were unsuspectingly "infected" with brett. The brett character would need enough time to develop, so I was curious what your research might have uncovered.

Brett was likely not isolated at that time (again, you would likely know this better than I), but if it was indeed present, and the beer was aged long enough for it's character to develop, then it clearly plays an important factor in how the beer of that time would have tasted.

Ron Pattinson said...

mark, no sarcasm intended. Just warning I wasn't 100% sure of the facts.

There were two sources of brett: mixed with the primary fermentation yeast; embedded in the wood of vats.

Not just Stout, but all aged beers probably had brett. In Mild and Running Beer it wouldn't have time to develop, even if it were in the primary yeast. Mixed strains were the norm. Even in 1940, hardly any British breweries used single strains.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying.

I have read that most aged ales of the time would have had a brett character. Yet when I see "modern" recipes which attempt to mimic or replicate historical ales, they rarely make mention of aging with the addition of brett.

Just my opinion, but I think brett would have been critical to the overall flavour profile.

I recently made a homebrewed batch of so-called historical imperial stout (1.103 OG, 78% pale, 18% homemade brown, 4% black). I will most definitely be innoculating it with Brett C, and leaving it to age for 6-12 months.

Oblivious said...

Hi Kristen

"it was originally subject to a patent but that has long since expired." is from W.FORD writing in 1862 an maybe a reference to Wheelers patent of 1817

I was wrong about the date of its development. But according to Durden park they do suggest very little was used before 1860 and then not much till the end of century