I do not know if this process is to be exactly commended; it is better, perhaps, for a water to be naturally extractive instead of being made so artificially, while the carbonates of soda and potash may extract from malt a good deal of material that would be quite as well left behind. At the same time both these bodies are used very extensively, the latter, perhaps, by preference, to the extent of 80 to 85 grs. per gall., and if any calcic sulphate happens to exist in the water, it is thrown out of solution as carbonate, while the sodic or potassic sulphate is neutral, or apparently so, in influence. The London system, a few years ago, depended simply on the employment of deep-well water, naturally containing, as taken from the tertiary beds below the clay, a quantity of alkaline carbonates ; three and sometimes four malts were used, the resulting beer generally going straight into the cellars of the publican, while the better qualities were vatted for a certain length of time.
This proves at once the entirely different character of the porter common to London; it is mild, full tasted, and absolutely free from acidity. Recently, the system has been modified, raw sugar coming into pretty general use, this, probably determining the more speedy consumption of the beer, giving it at the same time greater sweetness; but much of the distinct flavour depends on the fact that many varieties of malt were and are still used, while boiling pressure and bulk during fermentation contribute no doubt in no small degree to the definite flavour that attaches to the black beer of this centre.
It is difficult to speak with respect on a process that turns on the free use of inferior material, and the speedy consumption of the resulting beer; and it is not wide of the mark to say that two-thirds of the London porter is utterly devoid of the least stability. It is consumed, indeed, almost prior to the completion of fermentation, the last traces of yeast being removed by artificial fining, carried out at a stage that leaves the beer moderately fresh to the palate — i.e., the flattening is not so great by fining as if carried out later.
The common course is merely to work out with finings, as described previously, and I presume that the practically rapid turn over of capital that is possible with a strictly tied trade, and by such modus operandi, sufficiently justifies the adoption of it; but, as compared with the Dublin system, it sinks into insignificance.
The dangers resulting from the use of raw sugar have been already referred to ; they combine to produce those disasters which the large London brewers are known to experience. It is all very well to secure stability for short periods by the use of strong antiseptics ; but that surely is not good brewing, and with this remark I may leave the users of raw unrefined sugars to proceed as they think proper. One benefit, perhaps, that attaches to such a process is the ready fermentability of the finished beer, for the heading principle is by no means general when the black beer is so produced, while, if found necessary, it commonly consists of the same raw sugar in concentrated form.
A very common percentage is 82 pale, 12 brown, 6 black, while others producing the black beer of more liquorice flavour double the quantity of brown malt. A great deal is supposed to depend upon temperature of fermentation, the majority of London brewers working as high as 80°, a temperature which is held to determine a distinctiveness of flavour much liked. There is, of course, nothing difficult to understand about this, each range of temperature corresponding to a different species of ferment development, an extreme instance of this being seen on the one hand in the case of bottom fermentation, on the other in the fact that "caseous ferment " is the only example of alcoholic cell life that will develop at a temperature of 120°.
This covers, I think, the proceedings common to London breweries: the water is soft, the material good, if for the production of heavy-vatted stouts ; a perfect medley when the ordinary London public-house porter is required. Fermented very carelessly, it is either fined in large vats or sent to the publican in such a condition that when fined it will eject the fining material from the bung-hole, the porter being immediately afterwards drawn for consumption, and, if we are to believe some people, capped with an artificial head of fining froth."
"The theory and practice of modern brewing" by Frank Faulkner, 1888, pages 264-268.
It's evident from this passage that "heading" is another term for primings.Nice to get that cleared up.
London brewers did indeed usually have grists of pale, amber, brown and black malt in various combinations. The continued use of brown malt being one of the major differences between London and Dublin Porter brewing.
The point Faulkner makes about how supplying mostly their own tied houses encouraged London brewers to ship their beer very young is an intriguing one. The time when he was writing was just when the majority of English pubs were becoming tied. Guinness (along with Bass) were unusual in not building a tied estate but instead relying on selling their beer in pubs owned by other brewers. Its a policy still pursued by Guinness today.
It seems that the days of vatting standard-strength Porter were long gone and that it was almost exclusively sold "mild". The high levels of residual sugar implies that it had also become a sweeter drink than it its heyday. Could the changes in production methods have been the seed of London Porter's eventual downfall?
I'll probably contuinue with Faulkner's description of the third type of Porter: provincial Porter. Tomorrow, maybe. Or next week. Sometime between now and the apocalypse.