Thursday, 18 February 2010

To brew Porter in a Private Family (1773)

Here's another 18th century recipe suggested by Gary Gillman. This time for straight Porter. As it's early and detailed, I thought it worth posting.

Something to bear in mind: this is a description of private brewing. It doesn't necessarily reflect what commercial brewers were up to.

"To brew Porter in a Private Family.

Take eight bushels of porter-malt, or any other very high-dried brown malt. Let it be ground carefully, so as only to crack the grains, not to let out the flour. Lay it in a cool place two days and one night. Then set on a hogshead of soft water, and so much more as will allow for waste, according to the directions before given. This must be covered with a head of malt, to keep in the spirit; and, when it has once boiled up, the fire must be immediately damped, and about one third part of it must be let into the mash-tub. Then it is to stand till cool. It must be cooler than what is required in the common method of brewing ; and then the malt to be poured gradually in. While it is pouring in, it must be stirred very well about; and, when all is in, a person should work it still round and round, first one way and then another, for half an hour together ; but this must be done gently, not to bruise or break the malt. The water in the copper should be kept at a little more than the heat of that which is used for the mash in common brewing : and when the malt has been thus mashed a full half hour, there must be as much more let in as will make it in the whole something more than half the quantity of the water. This must all be very well stirred once together, and then covered with the malt that was left out for that purpose : it is then to be covered close up in the vessel to keep in the heat, and thus to stand two hours and a half.

Then bruise four pound of hops between the hands; and tie them up in a bag ; put them into the receiver or under-back, and let the wort run out upon them in a fine, small stream. When this is running, stir up the fire under the copper, and make the remaining water considerably hot ; then run it on upon the grains, when the other is nearly run off ; and, after stirring them well about, cover the mash-tub, and let them stand two hours more. Then run this second wort upon the first, with the hops still in it ; and let them standtill quite cold.

Then lay a cask a little above the bottom of the receiver; draw off the whole directfly, so as to leave the coarser that has settled behind; pour the wort into the copper, put in the hops With it ; and boil them about twenty minutes. Then let off the wort into the upper back or cooler ; in which let it stand till so cool that you can bear to put your hand in it : then draw it off (leaving again the sediment behind) into the other, or under cooler.

In this let it stand till only milkwarm, and then prepare for workings put into a bowl three pints of good and moderately thick yeast ; work this gently about with a little of the wort, and then put it into the tun, Let the wort out of the cooler run gradually into the tun, so as to blend with this, and to leave its own sediment behind.

Thus there will be the pure wort cleared by these several settlements, and well mixed with the yeast in the tun; then let it be close covered up, and gradually there will be seen to gather upon it a fine mantling head, which will thicken every hour, and at last rise in waves, and then in little curls, This is the perfection of its fermentation. The tun must be uncovered from time to time to look down into this; and when it has arrived at this head, which will usually be in about six and thirty hours, it will be time to have the cask quite ready. This fine head will soon begin to fall ; and then it must be drawn off into the cask, leaving again what settlement it has made in the tun.

A small quantity must be saved to fill up as it wastes in the working, and the full time allowed for this last fermentation in the barrel: then a little isinglass, dissolved as before directed, must be put into the cask, and a quart and half a pint of elder-berry. When these last ingredients are put in, the vessel is to be left with a little opening at the vent-hole two days, and then stopped up entirely. The rule for tapping is when it is fine : and that generally happens in about fifteen days. If it be then drank from the cask, it will be very bright, clear and pleasant, well-coloured, and of a good body. It will have all the flavour of porter; tho' not the sound and peculiar taste of what has been kept a considerable time in a large body ; which is the case with most of the porter that is drank at the famous houses in London.

The flavour which a mixture of elder-juice gives even in this small quantity, is truly that which we expect in fine old porter; and, what is very singular, it is of the same kind with that which porter gets by being, long kept in a large quantity. This must not appear wonderful ; for in chemistry, and even in the common affairs of life, we find the taste of peculiar things may be given to a mixture, by those which seems of a very different nature: in particular, the root of masterwort, with common fennel seed, gives its tincture the flavour of sassafras. Other instances might be given, which indeed are frequent, tho' they are not known. This may be sufficient.

The other great article of time, and Keeping in a body, is what a private family cannot have opportunity of doing ; and 'tis for that reason, and that only, the public brewed porter will always be superior. The brewers Of this liquor have, large caskS; in which it is kept two years and more : and in those it undergoes a last fermentation; which, as it is slight and slow, produces no other change than mellowing of the drink ; that, is a perfect mixture of the malt and hops: it lasts a long time, and consequently the effect is greater: in time, this last fermentation, perfect rest; and a cool air from good cellarage, produce a fineness and clean sound taste in this liquor ; which is what we admire and what is not to be found in any other; because the same degree of keeping in any other kind than a brown malt beer would soften it, but take off the spirit.

Another advantage the great brewers have, which private familie cannot, this is an opportunity of correcting the faults of one butt of their porter, by means of another. It is in this their great practice assists them ; and it does the fame in their brewing : for their judgment directs to mix and bring this to a proper taste and strength ; otherwise, to an unexperienced person, they would seem to do it wildly. Thus, in brewing porter, they make three and sometimes four mashes; strengthening; them with a little fresh malt, or running them as they call it a greater length, that is, making more beer from the same malt, according to their pleasure. These several worts they mix and make the whole of such a strength as experience shews them porter ought to have ; and this they work and barrel up accordingly.

In the same manner, if a butt of porter be too mild, they will throw into it a small quantity of some that is very strong and too stale ; first dissolving in it a little isinglass. This produces a new tho' slight fermentation ; and the liquor, in eighteen or twenty days, fines down, and has the expected flavour. These, and many such advantages, none but the public brewers can have: and therefore none but they can brew this beer in that degree of perfection. We do not propose the brewing it in private families in London. But the extent of this enquiry into its nature is, that those who prefer this to other malt-liquors, and live in places where it cannot conveniently be bought, may brew it for themselves ; and that such as may intend to erect public breweries for it, may proceed with regularity. The construction of those large brew-houses, where it is usually made, favours also greatly the excellence of the drink: and this is the third article of which it was proposed to treat in this enquiry."
"The complete English Brewer", by George Watkin, 1773, pages 123-133.

I'm so busy. Still working on Barclay Perkins water chemistry, amongst other things. As well as a couple of grander projects. I would tell you more, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.


Paul! said...

that part about adding elderberry to achieve an aged character is interesting

Gary Gillman said...

Thanks Ron for putting that up. I was looking too recently at Samuel Child who, on the one hand, deprecates the practice of large brewers to mix beers in various ways, yet, by his very reference to the practice, in a sense supports what Graham has been arguing.

Watkins does too, to a degree, with his own repeated references (admiring in this case) to various types of blending as done in large breweries.

This private recipe was likely different from large brewery practice as you noted, yet Watkins still says it will taste of porter, he considers it an unaged porter due to the brown malt content, essentially.

Child gives an example of big brewery blending practice: he says they often add mild beer to stale beer and blend them in a butt for a year. (This method shows up in the 1800's e.g., in Thomson & Stewart's book). I am thinking now that starting may have meant putting such a mixture to a butt for at least a year).

Child deprecates the practice though, he says the result is mid-way between truly mild and properly aged beer (I am summarizing). He also states disapprovingly that it is a way for large brewers not to take the loss on over-stale beer.

And again, Watkins for his part does not refer to mixing as invariable, but as one of the bag of tricks a large brewer can resort to.

I conclude that the "true" or best entire butt beer, or porter, was not a mixture of young and old beer: it was one original beer (entire but possibly not entire grist) aged to the right point. This purist approach is evident in Combrune too, who states baldly not to mix old beer with young but if you will do it, not to exceed one part in eight. He considered the palate ruined in effect if you did otherwise.

Barclay's testimony was the commercial flip side of this earlier perspective. The ultimate businessman, he justified the practice on the basis that not using the returns and other waste beer would result in a higher-cost article to consumers.

So I think Graham is right in terms of the actual product most brewers put out. Indeed, with very large aging vats as we are often told existed, this had to be the case, i.e., the vats would have been continually topped-up. But the vats to begin with were not huge - the butts - and were not I believe topped up. Once again the distaste for adding stale beer to beer that wasn't acidic is quite clear from Child and Combrune at least.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, what Porter was depends on what period you are talking about.

An aged element seems to have been usually part of Porter's makeup until somewhere around the middle of the 19th century. But there were clearly different methods of achieving this.

What's the title of Thomson & Stewart's book?

Gary Gillman said...

This is the Thomson & Stewart, see especially pp. 286-287 where they advise to combine new and old beer (3:1) and lay away for aging. They were writing from a non-London perspective - they were Scots - but were very knowledgeable.

I agree with your last post fully Ron. My remarks are more to try to get at what the original porter was, around 1720 when the term first emerged.


Gary Gillman said...

This passage seems to me to point to the original porter:

"Thus, in brewing porter, they make three and sometimes four mashes; strengthening; them with a little fresh malt, or running them as they call it a greater length, that is, making more beer from the same malt, according to their pleasure. These several worts they mix and make the whole of such a strength as experience shews them porter ought to have ; and this they work and barrel up accordingly".

Watkins is talking about entire grist brewing and/or party-gyling in the later meaning of the term, but the difference is not material. I believe he is saying that before this procedure, it was difficult to brew to a proper strength (possibly due to ancestral practice, possibly limitations of size and number of mashing and fermenting vessels). Beers probably were too strong (what Combrune called the "over-strength" of brown stout) or too weak, hence the mixing in the pub or at brewery before sending out.

The true entire was I think probably such a party-gyled beer.

Now, was it aged from the beginning? Poundage suggests that porter later in the 1700's acquired a perfection it did not originally have, which suggests that perhaps it wasn't methodically aged originally - I think he said it was cloudy originally, which may have meant it was not aged and did not undergo a further fermentation.

Anyway, to me the true, original porter (which is mythic no doubt but still) meant:

- entire grist brewing or party-gyling in the 1800's sense

- use of all-brown malt with 20-30% less extract than pale

- aging one brewing in wood, initially probably not for very long, but later up to 2 years.


Graham Wheeler said...

The term Entire-gyling is a general brewing term that preceded porter by a long way. It refers to combining all the 'mashes' from one batch of grain into one wort or beer, whereas it was usual to make three beers of different strengths from the 'mashes'. Porter brewers, as they majored in one type of beer, had no option but to entire-gyle.

Butt-beers preceded porter too, and seems to be a pseudonym for "Keeping" beer, kept in butts.

This gives a clue as to where the term "Enitire Butt" came from.

A butt, you will observe is a wine measure. Because of regular punch-ups with France, the wine drank in Britain came from Portugal. This wine was shipped over to Britain in non-returnable butts. It was cheaper for the brewers and publicans to avail themselves of these surplus butts than to have casks made, hence they were widely utilised.

Doubtless 'port' or something like it, maybe even 'porter', was stencilled on these casks. Certainly the drinker would have been aware that these were ex-port casks.

This gives yet another interpretation of the origin of the term porter. Particularly in view of the similarities between port production and porter itself. Look up 'port' on Wikithingy and then go to the 'Tawny Port' subheading.

I have several more of these origin theories, but that one will have to do for now.

Anonymous said...

Elderberries would give a slightly sharp, sour, fruity taste, and they would also add considerably to the depth of colour: see here for an analysis of the precise flavour compounds. I leave it to someone far more knowledgable than me to say which of those flavour compounds is also found in ageing beer.

Graham Wheeler said...

(In response to an earlier post that looks likely to drop off the page soon)

I did not say that porter was JUST mild. I said that porter was mostly mild plus a small amount of "Beer Improver". Nevertheless, porter was essentially a mild beer. It could not have been so cheap or so popular if it was anything other.

Onto Poundage: It depends upon the interpretation of that term 'Stale'. For a long time I assumed that stale was a synonym for aged. Now I am not so sure. It probably meant stale in the modern sense - as being well past its best. Poundage mentioned that stale was part of the mix before 1722. Certainly once the porter brewers became established the 'stale' had become much more than just 'aged'; it was taken to the point of being well past its best - virtually undrinkable on its own - sour, and obviously with many other bacterially-induced flavours besides. Later, in 1818, it is clear from the cask-bottoms returned from pubs that Barclay was adding to his Entire, that his Entire could not have been anything other than sour. He was, in fact, positively encouraging it, and he was probably aware of that too. It was deliberate. Even he admitted, in a roundabout, guarded manner, that it was undrinkable on its own.

Clearly a partially aged beer is not the same thing as a properly aged beer. Lots of things happen during ageing (my firefox spell-checker insists on 'ageing', my editor spell-checker insists on 'aging'). Leaving porter aside for a moment and going to old ales and stock ales, about which more is known. During during the ageing of old ales, harshness from the hops and from highly-roasted malts mellow, but the 'nutty' character that was a highly esteemed feature of British ales was produced by brettanomyces. Brettanomyces cannot compete with the primary yeast and remains dormant until the yeast has finished. With the yeast being dormant the brett still cannot become active until the redox potential is appropriate and also until the pH has dropped to the right region. This could take six months or a year to occur depending upon initial conditions. Obviously a beer that has been aged for four months is not going to have any brett character because it has not even woken up by then. The same is true of bacteria. It too needs conditions to be right before it wakes up and performs its duty, and most anaerobic bacteria are slow workers to boot. Even some bacterial off-flavours, sourness that would make you pucker initially, mellow into pleasantness after aging. Many home brewers by error, accident or misfortune have produced a completely undrinkable beer, but after leaving it for several months it has transformed itself into nectar. Yeast is very good at cleaning up its own back yard.

However, the Londoners appear not to have been concerned about harshness or over-the-top flavours that would mellow a bit after very few months, because 90% of the mix was cheap 'n' 'orrible mild anyway. They were after something else. That something else, apart from brett-induced, horse-blanket aroma was probably sourness. Not the sharp sourness that is imparted by some fruits, but a more mellow, matured sourness perhaps. Certainly the 'stale' was acidic, because the stale is described as 'hard', and hard is brewerspeak for acidic. Porterisation (howzat) is known as 'hardening'. What particular acid was so highly esteemed will have to wait until brewers start building 300,000-barrel wooden vats again, although some of the Belgian soured (as opposed to sour) beers probably had their origins in London porter.

Gary Gillman said...

Rodenbach may be influenced by historical or at least 1800's London porter practice. Ancestors of the current owners studied in English porter breweries in this period. This is mentioned in an article in All About Beer not too long ago. I believe I gave a link to it in a comment here some months back.

I find the all-aged version (Grand Cru) not easy to drink due to the marked sourness. The version that blends the aged beer and a young sweet beer is more palatable to my taste but both are very interesting.

The delayed action of brettanomyces and lactic bacteria suggests indeed that a "properly aged" beer was one which had to await these influences. This clearly would have taken longer than 6 months and I doubt the effects could be achieved by adding stale beer (sour beer) to a much larger quantity of mild beer. That is not to say formulas for the latter did not appeal to the market, but there must have been something special about an entire (unmixed) beer aged a year and two in wood as so many of the old writers suggest. Watkins suggests too that stratagems such as blending a butt of beer that was too mild with stale beer were adjuncts to regular practice, trade know-how that smaller concerns did not have the luxury of developing. However, probably for cost reasons it seems everything went mild-based by the end of the 1700's, and ultimately mild only. Maybe public taste did play a role but it is hard to say (no pun intended). So many 1800's writers insist that "sound old" did not mean sour that there must have been something special about a "true" 2 years aged porter. Perhaps the taste was like that of some modern saisons, which have a sourish note but are not sour as such (Dupont's is the classic but there are many others).

I once had some Rogue Imperial Stout aged three years by the brewery, in kegs, not wooden I assume, that was superb. (It was part of a presentation of Rogue draft beers at the Blue Tusk in Syracuse, NY (well-known beer bar)). It had a marked brett note but was not sour in any sense. It was tasted against a current version which was similar but lacked intense leathery brett notes. As Graham says, one might imagine that a series of effects imparted by huge wood vats would be all the more unique.

Where does that leave the Grand Cru version of Rodenbach that has an intense sourness? This is hard to say, I have wondered if that Rodenbach, aged about 2 years in large wooden vats, really does taste like the aged entire porters. Perhaps so, since the term hard can connote acidity. I believe it is Booth who wrote (early 1800's) that it is just as well the original porter flavour was not available since no one would drink it - he might have been referring to an intense sourness. Clearly a taste for same can be developed: cider drinkers in the West Country familiar with scrumpy were in this class, as too devotees of lambic. Yet again many observers said sound old should not be sour... Probably there was a range of qualities and certain brewers may have been known for the particular virtues of their beer.


Gary Gillman said...

I draw attention to the comments of Booth on porter and especially at pg. 51. Booth was a careful observer. His career spanned the time when porter production changed from a long-aged product to a milder one. He states specifically that little mild beer was used in the heyday of prolonged entire butt aging. This confirms the Poundage account that porter was aged to reach the correct palate, neither new nor stale but not completely acid as I read him. Although, clearly Booth considered beer aged one year and longer hard, probably at least as sourish as modern saison can be although whether it was like Grand Cru Rodenbach (or a traditional gueuze) is hard to say.

Booth's comments on the origin of brown malt are very interesting. It was a way he said to disguise poor-quality barley. They confirm Graham's comments that empyreumatic brown malt beers pre-date porter and indeed according to Booth they even precede the time hopping started.

But overall I feel Booth validates the theory of porter origin found in Poundage.


Graham Wheeler said...

Gary Gillman said...
But overall I feel Booth validates the theory of porter origin found in Poundage.

Booth does not validate Poundage. Booth's source WAS Poundage. Poundage is where the folklore began.

Booth's text on the origin of Porter is plagiarised verbatim from an article the Gentleman's Magazine of 1803; the same magazine that published a copy of Poundage's letter forty years earlier, and the influence of Poundage's letter can be clearly seen in the paraphrasing.

Booth was another writer that got himself sued, this time by the collective brewers of Burton, over stuff he said in the 1829 edition of his book. He was ordered to put a retraction in the next edition. Apparently he didn't.

Yes, most early malts were classed as brown malts because they were dried over open hearths using local fuel; the Celts were probably doing the same in 340bc.

One of the interesting things in Booth is the mention of adding gypsum to casks after filling (for Burton type beers).

...and the sulphate of lime, which in a short time disappears, is said to prevent any secondary fermentation.

In another passage he says that adding it prevents after-frets, which is the same thing as secondary fermentation.

It shows that some brewers were aware of the suppressant effects of sulphate before 1819, which pre-dates Burton's entry into IPA.

Gary Gillman said...

In the end, it is the "aged element", to use Ron's phrase, that was the keynote to the 1700's porter. Only methodical aging could achieve that on a large scale and that was regarded as new after 1720. Did it occur on a smaller scale before? It may have, and the 1763 Hertfordshire brewer's beer may be an example, perhaps it was ancestrally brewed from the 1600's, perhaps even the Ware brown malt originally had been a local thing that only hit London in a big way in the 1700's. Everything comes from somewhere but the public recognition of a new style of beer, London porter, after about 1720, suggests something occurred on a massive scale offering something new and exciting to a large group of people.

Booth testified to his own knowledge of the porter market at the end of the 1700`s, and anyway I didn`t get that he was copying Poundage.

The early 1800`s account which states that ``the system became altered`` ties into this too, it confirms that long aging of all or the bulk of what went into the glass of porter in the 1700`s was changed into mild beer with a lesser proportion of stale added by about 1820.

Withal, I take the original Poundage account (1760) at face value since numerous sources before and after him (writing from different perspectives, not just ``professional brewer``) are consistent.

Here is a period definition of starting which should clear up some questions:

Typically, ambiguity is the result: starting a butt meant adding new beer for lengthy aging but could also mean adding new beer to old to emulate age. The two techniques were there from the start, and each producer had his way of doing it. However they did it, the result was (and I am not being facetious) much like new porter with a dash of elderberry juice added. In contrast, by the mid-1800`s, porter was much like it is today - non-acidic, non-fruity in the way mentioned. Also, with the change from 100% brown malt to the mixtures of the 1800`s and finally pale malt and roasted malt for the Guinness style, the taste really did vary from what 1760 knew.


Graham Wheeler said...

Booth did not copy Poundage directly; he copied an article published in the February 1802 edition of Gentleman's Magazine. That article in itself is obviously based on the Poundage letter.

The point is that nineteenth-century accounts of what porter was in 1722 are just interpretations of Poundage. Poundage was first; he is where it all came from. There is very little information around that pre-dates him, and even less that is contemporary.

What porter was by the turn of the nineteenth century is well understood and better documented, as long as you ignore the cocculus indicus, salt of steel, liquorice root, capsicum, salt of tartar, and, um, elderberry juice.

The fact that there were so many different methods of trying to imitate the stuff indicates that there was quite a lot more to porter than just ageing; every brewer knew about ageing.

Also, in the 1700s brewing in London was still a 'misterie' - a controlled trade that was very secretive.

Michael Combrune's 1762 book has this on the title page:

"printed with permission of the master, wardens, and court of assistants of the Worshipful Company of Brewers

He needed to ask permission before publishing a book in case he got thrown out of the club and was not allowed to trade.

Gary Gillman said...

I find these comments by Thomas Hale of interest (pages 161-164), because written (1759) before the Poundage letter came out:'s+liquor&lr=&as_drrb_is=b&as_minm_is=1&as_miny_is=1720&as_maxm_is=1&as_maxy_is=1760&as_brr=0&cd=2#v=onepage&q=&f=false

He stresses something I hadn't noticed before, long boiling, feeling this essential to the quality of porter. (And indeed it endured in the 1920's practice of BP as Ron has just showed). But he also mentions long keeping as an essential characteristic. ("To come to its true quality it requires also long keeping"). Others stressed brown malt as the keynote. And true enough the secrecy angle is reflected when he suggests that some brewers put people on the wrong path to preserve their trade secrets.

The addition of what were later termed "beer drugs" seems more a late 1700's/early1800's phenomenon, not essential to the porter story as I see it.

I would infer it was "all of the above", soft water, high-dried malt, long keeping (with its associated benefits of a prolonged, slow additional fermentation), long intensive boiling, and in some cases astute blending, combined to form the real porter. Various writers focused on different aspects, but taken together these features seemed to have defined the style.

Aging may have been known ancestrally but I think it is one thing to preserve some beer for a time because you want to keep it for later drinking (e.g., Combrune's pale small keeping beer, which I think may have morphed into IPA) and another to make very large amounts year-round whose very character depended on the particular interaction of brown malt, incisive, non-aromatic hopping, and long aging in very large wooded containers. This was something novel after about 1720.

I'd point out too in Watkins, he makes the point that each type of beer should be made according to its particular method otherwise they will combine to form one type. He says (I paraphrase but it is close), October should remain October, Dorchester should remain Dorchester, and porter should remain porter. This suggests to me that porter was regarded as something unique and novel since the large London concerns did not exist in the same form in the 1600's.