Friday 14 November 2008

Porter 1920-1939

I always love reading discussions about Porter. What was it? What were its origins? What is its relationship with Stout (love-child or stepfather)? All of these questions I'll be ignoring completely today. Instead I'm concentrating on its slow lingering death.

Oh, go on then. I can't resist the last of those questions. Stout, that is the dark beer we know as Stout today, wasn't originally called Stout Porter. It was called Brown Stout. The name Stout Porter only came into use much later. And Stout didn't necessarily mean a dark beer in the 18th century. Barclay Perkins were still brewing a Pale Stout, made from 100% pale malt, in 1805.

This doesn't mean that there was no relationship between Porter and Stout in 18th-century London. Both were Brown Butt Beers. Porter being the colloquial name for the standard-strength version. Brown Stout was an understandable abbreviation of Brown Stout Butt Beer.

Is that clear? No? Then you'll have to wait for my book.

Contrary to some reports, Porter did not die out during WW I. Peaking around 1850, it had been in slow decline ever since. This continued in the interwar years, with it becoming very much a marginal product.

Like Mild, as one of the cheaper beers the war had a dramatic effect on its gravity. In 1914, a typical Porter had an OG of 1052-1056º. By the twenties, it had dropped to 1036-1040º. The increase in beer duty in the early thirties reduced it even more, down to the barely-alcoholic level of 1027-1030º.

London brewers seem to have kept brewing the style longer than provincial brewers. Porter was starting to disappear from their price lists in the 1890's. No doubt sentiment played at a part at breweries such as Whitbread and Barclay Perkins, which had made their reputations brewing Porter. Being party-gyled with better-selling Stouts must have helped, too. The tiny amounts of Porter being brewed wouldn't have been practical in breweries with such a long brew length, had they been single-gyled.

Here are some London Porters from the 1920's:

In the 1930's, Barclay Perkins Porter, which was party-gyled with Brown Stout and Oatmeal Stout, has a surprisingly high proportion of dark malts in its grist and just 53% pale malt, in the form of mild ale malt.

The quantity produced in this brew, for a concern as large as Barclay Perkins, was miniscule, just 28 barrels. Here was a beer clearly very close to extinction. As this was a draught beer, only a handful of pubs could have still been stocking it.

In the 1930's Whitbread's Porter was even weedier: under 1030º. Here are the details:


Kristen England said...

Good stuff Ron. Ive found historical sources and breweries to be very murky with their descriptions of various porters and stouts. Their seems the be awful lot of polygamy on the subject. They do however seem to be a lot more open-minded as to what constituted what.

In all the research I have done I haven't found a correlation between porter/stout and the amount of hops. They seem to be about equal when one talks of lbs/qtr. I do see quite a big difference in the level of bitterness of the Brown stouts as they always seem to use the freshest hops.


Ron Pattinson said...

Both example Porters I've given were party-gyled with Stouts. The Barclay Perkins one with their Brown Stout. They both used exactly the same hops. The Whitbread Porter was party-gyled with gyled with their standard London Stout. As, in the case of Whitbread, the gyles were blended post-boil, the hopping really was identical.

It's only the strongest export Stouts that really used fresh hops.

I've found some stuff about hop storage and degradation in Hind that I'll probbably post about next week.

Zythophile said...

Stout, that is the dark beer we know as Stout today, wasn't originally called Stout Porter. It was called Brown Stout. The name Stout Porter only came into use much later.

Errr- up to a point, Lord Pattinson. The Times was carrying an advert for "stout bottled porter" in its edition of Tuesday, Aug 22, 1797, page 1. There's an ad for "Brown Stout Porter" in the edition of August 16, 1800, and one for Stout Porter at £3 a (36-gallon) barrel from the Imperial Brewery, Battersea from the Friday, October 23, 1807 issue (the Ale, which was clearly stronger, was £4 a barrel). I suspect that "brown stout" was the commonest expression used around this time (I haven't done an analysis), but "stout porter" could certainly be found quite early on.

Ron Pattinson said...

I'd call 1797 pretty late in Porter terms. In ""Town and Country Brewer" Brown Stout is mentioned, but neither Porter nor Stout Porter.

I don't deny the term Stout Porter was used abd used quite a while ago. I just have to argue against the idea that it was the "original" name for Stout.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. It's so nice for a brewer to have access at some old recipes like this. I have one question. Can you post all these recipes you found? Or email them to a happy brewer?

I hope so! :)

Zythophile said...

In "Town and Country Brewer" Brown Stout is mentioned, but neither Porter nor Stout Porter.

That's partly because William Ellis was a spoofer who didn't know as much about conditions in the contemporary brewing industry as he liked to pretend, his only experience in the trade having been 20 years prior to the publication of the first edition of TACB, at a time when London brown beer either hadn't begun or was only just beginning the changes that would turn it into porter, and partly bcause it wasn't called "porter" by brewers themselves, as Mathias (p14) shows, until the 1760s or so. Even in 1768 the anonymous Every Man His Own Brewer was talking about "The Method of Brewing London Brown Beer under the Name of Porter". So what appears to have happened is that the "official" (ie as used by brewers) terminology canged slowly from "brown beer" to "porter", the tipping point coming about 1760 (when Whitbread opened the "new porter tun room"), the "official" terminology for the stronger version changed even more slowly, it appears, it taking another 50 or more years after brewers started talking about porter rather than brown beer before they started officially referring to stout porter rather than brown stout. But "brown stout" survived for a long time as a name, of course - there's a great ad in The Times from January 6 1876 for "Bass & Co's European Extra Brown Stout", which they had apparently just introduced.

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, good stuff, as usual.

In London the term Brown Stout seems to have lived on a very long time. Barclay Perkins were brewing Brown Stout until at least the 1930's. It seems to have been much less used outside London, though for some reason Holt's had a beer called Brown Stout well after WW II.

The brewhouse names fascinate me. I can understand what Barclay Perkins BSt and IBSt means, but TT, EI and Hhd? Total mystery.

BTW, on the train to Cologne today I was going through Amber, Gold and Black with my son Andrew. In particular the bit on the hopping rates of Bitter/Pale Ale. I was explaining the difference between hops per barrel and hops per quarter and why the latter was a better means of comparison. He said it made the journey go quicker. Maybe another beer historian in the making.

Ron Pattinson said...

ealusceop, post all the recipes I've found? That's several hundred.

In the book there will be full recipes, that is with mashing details, etc. (Not written by me, but by someone who understands how to write recipes.)

If you look here:

you'll find plenty of grists for 19th century beers. There's quite a few scattered around my blog posts, too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot!