Tuesday, 11 January 2011

More Dornbusch bullshit

Lachlan has found some more fantasy beer stylings from Horst Dornbusch. Not sure whether to laugh or cry.

First Porter:

"Robust Porter - Near the end of Queen Victoria's long reign, as the 19th century was coming to a close, the Robust Porter split off from the standard London or Brown Porter. The Porter, long a brew of working class lineage and favored by the rough, hearty and robust strand of the British social fabric, seemed to be just a touch too rough for the more gentile denizens of refined Victorian society. A gentleman might want his dark ale, but it had to me a bit more upscale. Strange then that the upper-crust Porter that evolved came to be known as "robust," a term more workman- than gentleman-like!"

I wonder when the term "Robust Porter" was first coined? Was it Victoria's reign? Or was it Elizabeth II"s? I'd ask what his evidence is for such ludicrous claims. But that would be a waste of time., Because there isn't any.

"Porter brewing reached its peak production volume in London in the 1820s, by which time it had become arguably the first mass-produced commercial beer. There was no brewery of note that didn’t depend on porter sales for its prosperity. Ironically, brown or standard porter reached its zenith at just about the same time when a newly-patented indirect-heat kilning technology made the reliable production of very pale, as well as very dark, malts possible, thus hastening the phase-out of the traditional, floor-malted brown malts. As brown-malt mashes fell out of favor in the brew houses of London, so did brown-malt based porters in the city’s pubs. Eventually, near the end of Queen Victoria’s long reign, the once-dominant standard porter “represented only one quarter of London’s beer consumption,” according to porter expert Terry Foster (see his book Porter, Brewers Publication 1992). It was during this technology-induced beer transformation of the standard porter that the robust porter — not unlike the stout in earlier times — split off from the fading original porter.

Diversification of the porter style into various sub-styles in the 19th century, however, could not save the brew. In the early 20th century, as beer drinkers switched more and more to pale ales, porters — robust or not — disappeared almost entirely from the beer menu."
Horst Dornbusch.
Brown malt fell out of favour with London brewers in the 19th century? No it effing didn't. They were still using it in the 1970's. What a twat. "Robust Porter" splitting away from "standard Porter"? More fantasy.

"Mild Ale - The roots of mild ale, however, date back to well before the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, perhaps to as early as the 16th century, when milder, weaker versions of the regular brown ale was the drink of the "fairer" sex and of the servants. Brew-technically, mild ale was often made from the final runnings of a partigyle brew."
Yet another wannabe beer historian who doesn't realise that Mild Ale used to be a pale beer. And not weak. He clearly knows fuck all about the history of British beer. He's paid to write this stuff? I'm glad I'm an amateur.

It's a crime that in the 21st century a supposed renowned beer writer can come up with such total drivel.


Rob Sterowski said...

This is staggeringly bad even by Dornbusch's standards.

You'd think that people who pose as beer experts would have realised by now that when they write bullshit people will pick up on it.

But why should they care? Hordes of people will happily repeat the bullshit because it comes from an "expert".

Atis said...

The bad thing is that these teachings are passed on. One commercial brewer recently told me incredible stories of porter, citing some "well known" authors and he acquired this knowledge while attending a very expensive professional training course in Germany.

Of course, he has no spare time for further research to verify all the claims, but those who start using such books for education purposes at least could check out the basic facts.

Arctic Alchemy said...

There's quite a run-off going on about his work here, and this is from the homebrewing community:


P.S. Amidst the many complimentary reviews the Alt book has received since publication, there was a small sprinkling of inexplicably vicious and dismissive attacks, mostly by self-appointed, self-important know-it-all experts who have obviously never been in a real Altbier brew house or talked to a real Altbier brew master. I did not grace any of these uncivil broadsides with a reply, because their opinionated and dogmatic tone made dialog a priori impossible.

Bill in Oregon said...

What's striking to me is the reference to Terry Foster's book from 1992. Homebrewer historians have a tendency to refer to the same couple of books by a handful of writers. All of these books quote each other and between them, they've built up an entire body of work on beer history which is completely made up. But so long as they keep quoting each other, they can claim to have sources. Now we just have to wait for Foster to write a new book where he quotes Dornbusch.

My guess would be that the term robust porter is no more than 30 years old and came out of the homebrew world. Has anyone seen an older reference to it?

Martyn Cornell said...

Bill - the earliest reference Google Books can find to "robust porter" (apart from well-built carriers of goods) is 1993, so less than 20 years ago, and it is indeed from the world of US home-brewing, though it appears to be used as a description rather than a specific style name.

Terry Foster … none of his books has ever given me any confidence that he has engaged in any real research whatsoever.

Kristen England said...

Speaking of Terry he just wrote a crap article on Gyling for BYO. It was nearly completely wrong but when I said so to a higher up at BYO they said that I don't know for sure that no brewery did it his way...it could possibly be true somewhere!!

Now that's journalism.

Martyn Cornell said...

Incidentally, two more pieces of crap from those Dornbusch quotes:

"A gentleman might want his dark ale, but it had to be a bit more upscale."

No - the middle and upper classes went for pale ale/bitter.

"There was no brewery of note that didn’t depend on porter sales for its prosperity."

This is not even true of London, let alone the provinces: there were several successful and well-known ale brewers in London in the 1820s, such as Stretton of Golden Square, Hale & Co of Redcross Street, Godings of Knightsbridge, Charrington in the Mile End Road and Courage at Horsleydown.

Ron Pattinson said...

Kristen, you've got me all intrigued about about that gyling article.

It drives me nuts how often party-gyling gets incorrectly explained, as if techniques never moved on from 1740.

Arctic Alchemy said...

Just a word of caution, not ALL U.S. home brewers are uneducated when it comes to beer history, some of us have learned from the very best and seek the facts, beyond the obvious ! :))

For what it's worth, I honestly have no idea what a robust porter is.

Ron Pattinson said...

Bill, the Classic Beer Style series is particularly bad for circular references.

I've grabbed "Mild Ale" by David Sutula. looking at a random page of the references there's "Porter" by Terry Foster and "Stout" by Michael Lewis.

To be fair, there are reasonable sources like Loftus, Gourvish and Wilson, Barnard and Lloyd Hind. But also Protz . . . .

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, 1993 back to the reign of Victoria. That's revisionism on a grand scale.

Then all the crap about brown malt. And, as you rightly, pointed out, knowing nothing of London's brewing landscape in the 19th century.

But how many have claimed Porter was displaced by Pale Ale in the middle of the 19th century?

Thomas Barnes said...

My guess is that the term "robust porter" is a Papazian invention, or an invention of whoever was describing beer styles for the American Homebrew Association in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

The earliest American style guidelines I can find date from 1994.


Given that they were probably prepared in late 1993, that's contemporary with Martyn's reference from Google Books.

Craig said...

I love this line:

"Strange then that the upper-crust Porter that evolved came to be known as "robust," a term more workman- than gentleman-like!"

Horst must not spend a lot of time with workmen.

Seanywonton said...

Ron, I was just looking at that recent Whitbread Porter post and it seems that they stopped using brown malt in their Porter in 1825. It dropped from about 3.5% of the grain bill to 0% overnight. Doesn't that at least somewhat back up Dornbusch's claim on brown malt "falling out of favor"? I know that is just one brewery, but I thought it was worth pointing out. What are your thoughts on why Whitbread would have done that?

Some other of my thoughts on this recent Dornbusch stuff: I like this post because you are making it a point to pinpoint the inaccuracies that you see. Some of the recent Papazian/Protz cup posts have had a lot of passages where things don't sound right, but as a guy who has not followed your blog for the last few years or so, I don't know specifically what it is that you are taking issue with.

Also, just my thoughts on alt being a lager or an ale. I really don't give a good crap what people call it, although I would give respect to the folks who brew it by calling it whatever they call it. However, if the yeast strain being used is taxonomically an ale strain, then I think calling it a "lagered ale" is scientifically correct.

Kristen England said...


Don't be intrigued. He wrote some BS about how gyling is making numerous beers out of one mash. EG simply filling kettles. he tried to cite Keelings example of fullers about how a part of the strong wort is kept separate for the Golden Pride. He just completely cocked it up and then cited a simple direct correlation gravity chart of how to predict gravities without showing people how to actually calculate anything.

I've had probably 100 emails now asking if our stuff is right or the BYO stuff. Some blaming us b/c how could a published article be wrong!?

Mike said...

Well, being German-born, at least he knows something about German beer history. Whoops! He hardly knows anything about that either!!!

Some people seem determined to be wrong.

Ironman said...

I'm a home brewer and I need to learn and feel connected to the history of my craft. This kind of thing drives me crazy! I need a comprehensive reading list that won't cost me $100 each. All I have is Shut Up About Barclay Perkins!

Ron Pattinson said...

Seanywonton, except that Dornbusch says that brown malt fell out of favour at the end of the 19th century. And Whitbread only dropped brown malt between 1825 and 1831. After that they started using it in larger quantities. With the exception of the occasional Porter brew in the 1870's, there was brown malt in every one of their Porters and Stouts right up until Chiswell Street closed in 1975.

I've yet to find any Barclay Perkins or Truman Porter that didn't include brown malt.

Ron Pattinson said...

Ironman, I have a series of books at considerably less than $100 a pop.

Anonymous said...

Seanywonton, you are falling into the trap that all beer is either a lager or an ale.This seems to be the result of loose language but like much misinformation in the beer world it keeps being passed round and accepted as fact.

Martyn Cornell said...

David Sutula's book on mild has an alleged claim about what I was saying on AK that he got via Roger Protz, and which is completely garbled as a result.

Ironman, just so Ron doesn't get all the book sales, Amber Gold and Black, a history of British beer styles, is available at all good bookstores and a few not-so-good ones too …

Ron, are you letting your sons pick your "word verification" words? Mine right now is "pooeye".

Craig said...

Not only does Ron have great books on historical brews, his pub guides are amazing as well. I really like the Amsterdam Pub Guide... and in particular the cover.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of porters and stouts ..... I'd like to know what the difference is between London Porters, Baltic Porters, and Robust Porters. I do have a favorite, Pig's Ass Porter, from Harvest Brewing in Belt Montana. I'd like to find a clone of it online, but so far I've been unsuccessful - it's supposed to be a good example of a "London Porter", which I've been unable to find here in Tennessee. I've found several 'clones' of Fuller's London Porter online, all of them seem to have different ingredients, so I don't know which is the right one to use. And after reading the above comments concerning BYO, Horst Dornbusch, and Terry Foster, I'm not sure I want to buy Terry Foster's book on Porters for 12 bucks ..... Any Ideas?

Ron Pattinson said...


Baltic Porter is a type of Stout, Robust Porter was made up a decade or two ago.

For me, London Porter has to include brown malt. Pale, brown and black malt is the usual mix.

I'd suggest investing in my excellent book "Porter!". It will tell you all you need to know about the style.