Wednesday 5 January 2011

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1811 Whitbread Porter

This is a good start to the New Year. The first Let's Brew is actually on a Wednesday. Don't worry. I'm sure I won't be able to keep it up for long. As the bishop said to the actress.

Having a tie-in with my just-started epic series of posts on Whitbread Porter seemed like a good idea. So here you go. A Porter from the Napoleonic War era.

This is a good example of the transitional phase of Porter. After the start of the use of pale malt, but before the invention of black malt. Even though the bulk of the malt is pale, a hefty percentage is brown. Which brings us to problem number one: what was this brown malt like? Is it resemble 18th-century diastatic brown malt or is in more like late 19th-century roasted brown malt? I'm afraid I've no answers, only guesses.

The obvious course to take when substituting mostly pale for brown malt would be to make the latter darker. Purely to try to get the correct colour. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this brown malt had already begun to take on its roasted, non-diastatic form.

This is a description of 18th-century malting:

"All common malt is made of barley, and owes its difference to the manner of making and of drying. There are malts made of wheat, of oats, and even of beans; but we are here speaking of the common kinds, which are all of barley. These may be arranged under three heads; the Brown, the Pale, and that middle kind which is called Amber. The malt with which porter is brewed, is of the brown kind; and is higher dried than any other. It is to be sold at the same places with the rest, under the name of porter-malt: and, what is very particular, it is made of an inferior kind of barley. The degree of fire with which it is dried gives that agreeable taste and colour ; and the art of the brewer, who thoroughly understands his business, makes that peculiar drink from it ; not the water or any other ingredient. Great dealers have opportunities of great experience; and what they see wrong in one brewing, they can make right in another. This is the whole secret: what has been hitherto wanting, is the publishing of the result of their experience.

The difference of the three malts is owing to the degree of fire, and the time allowed to dry them. The pale malt is dried very slow, and with a small fire; the brown is done quickly and the amber is of a middle quality; dried with a moderate degree of time and heat. In general, the brown malts are to be brewed with the softest waters, because these best take out their strength and flavour : the pale malts should be brewed with spring-water, to preserve their fine colour; and the amber with a midling water, such as that of clear small rivers."
"The complete English Brewer", by George Watkin, 1773, pages 6 - 8.

The 19th-century method sounds different. Before the drying process was completed, the grains were sprinkled with a little water in the kiln. Dried beech or other wood was added to the fire for the final stages of drying to generate an intense heat. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 88-89.) The barley used to make brown and blown malt was second in quality with regard to size, but needed to be sound and able to germinate as well as the very best.  (Source: "An Historical Account of the Malt Trade and Laws" by William Ford, London, 1849, page 208.)

"the corn is laid with great care on the kiln, not exceeding one and a half inch in depth, is turned only once; the entire drying takes from one hour to one hour and ten minutes, and requires eight faggots to each quarter of malt, and the extreme heat is not thrown in until the steam or moisture is off." (Source: "An Historical Account of the Malt Trade and Laws" by William Ford, London, 1849, page 208.)
Here's another mention of wood being added at a late stage of the kilning process to produce an intencse heat:

"The malt to be prepared for porter-brewing is half made in the usual manner for drying pale malt. It is then divided into two or three parts, which are dried and finished on the kiln at such a high temperature as speedily turns it of a brown-colour, but without scorching or charring it; and converts it into porter malt.

It is first dried with coke in the usual manner. Birch-cuttings, or beech, when the former cannot be procured, are prepared to blow it, as it is termed, on the kiln, and give it the brown colour and that bitter principle which is so desirable to the taste in the consumption of porter.

When the malt is spread on the kiln-floor, the furnace is gradually charged with the wood-cuttings until a temperature upwards of 200° is obtained. It is carefully watched by the maltster, until it begins to burst by the escape of the air confined between the kernel and husk of the grain. It is now turned by the maltster and his assistants with shovel and broom, working it quickly, and sweeping each division, as it is proceeded with; and this process is repeated until it is judged sufficiently brown for its purpose.

By this incipient charring its germinating principle is destroyed, and it loses the capacity of yielding sugar, by mashing, in the proportion of twenty per cent to pale malt made from the same description of barley."
"Brewing and Distillation" by Thomas Thomson and William Stewart, 1849, pages 278-279.

Then there's the mashing scheme. The original is probably more complicated than most of you would want to take on. The details aren't wonderfully clear. It looks like three mashes at 160º, 170º and 175º F, then two sparges at 170º and 165º F. That's the water temperature, not the mashing heat. There's about two hours between each mash. Though obviously thetun has to drain after each mash.

Kristen thought that the yield of the original brew was quite poor. I've just checked and, to be honest, it's a bit better than I would have expected. In the 1850's, William Loftus gave the yield of pale malt as 76 to 80 brewer's pounds per quarter and of brown malt 62 pounds. Taking the yield of pale malt as 80 lbs per quarter, I get a total yield for this brew of 14,208 lbs.:

Whitbread 1811 P
lbs extract per quarter
total lbs extract


And here's the details from the log:

Total yield: 14,205 lbs. Or about as close as you could possibly get.

What else do I have to say? Fermentation temperature. That's another one. It was pitched quite warm at 65º F and rose to a maximum of 78º F.

That was long. Sorry for going on so much.

Now over to Kristen . . . . . . .

Whitbread - 1811 - Porter
General info: This was one really wacky beer. Tons of gyles, tons of sparge water, really extended mash and boil. The mash went up to 9 hours and the boil went over for 4 hours for a few gyles. A very simple yet complicated mash with numerous gyles at varying strengths to make over 85 thousand liters of standard gravity porter. The hops were quite high for a beer this size and were a blend of young and old. Try using a bunch of old hops for this beer and see how it turns out. A porter none like you've had.
Beer Specifics

Recipe by percentages
Gravity (OG)

72.4% English Pale malt
Gravity (FG)

27.6% Brown malt

Apparent attenuation

Real attenuation






2.67 hours

Homebrew @ 70%
Craft @ 80%
English Pale malt
Brown malt



Goldings 4.5% 180min
Goldings 4.5% 30min

65°F /18.3°C

Dry Whitbread yeast

1099 Whitbread Ale Yeast  -

Tasting Notes:
Rummed raisin and cherry cordials. Toasted biscuits and sultanas. Resinous and bitter. Not burnt but a rich general 'roast' character. Very long roast and hop tannins really extend the finish. Goes very well with a nice dose of Port!


Mark Oregonensis said...

Thank you for this. I was just last night eyeing the 1804 Whitbread recipe in "Porter!" with thoughts of trying it next week.

Kristen, did you do the three mashes, or just the single infusion cited in your recipe? If it's the three, we'll have to pin a medal on you, frankly. Although I might consider it, given a long day off work.

Kristen England said...


Not in this recipe but in a similar Whitbread stout from near the same year. Same for the boils, 1, 4 and 9 hours. I had like 97% efficiency for a 1.050 beer. :)

Unknown said...

I think I am going to try this recipe.
I plan on making my own brown malt in the oven.
My question, is the long mash time really necessary,and what effect it has on the beer? Or can I just go my usual one hour, or until I get full conversion testing with iodine.

Unknown said...

I recently brewed this recipe using modern brown malt. After 4 months maturation it's tasting very good, quite difderent to anything else i've tried before. I used whitelabs 007 and itfermented down to 1.008, so it's drier than most. Thanks for this recipe!