Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1900 Amsdell Porter

Albany Ale has been so much fun I thought that an Albany Beer would be cool. So here's one - a colonial Porter from 1900.

I say Porter, but it's really a Stout. Way too strong to be a Porter. More like a Brown Stout. Ooh, what's happening to me? I'm coming over all style fascist. Never mind. Call it a porter if you like. In my mind it's a Brown Stout. Despite not containing any brown malt.

Porter grists are a topic that have long fascinated me. This one, the stack of adjuncts excepted, holds few surprises. Basically just pale and black malt. Which is pretty typical of Porter grists from just about anywhere but London after 1850. London brewers, you'll remember, stuck with brown malt to the bitter end.

The weird additions - liquorice, capsicum, grains of paradise - remind me of the Porter recipes you find in brewing manuals from the early 1800's aimed at domestic brewers (i.e. not commercial brewers). All of those things being illegal for British commercial brewers up until 1880. I have seen liquorice pop up in British Porter and Stout - Maclay's Oat Malt Stout from 1909 comes to mind - but not the others.

Amsdell liked their adjuncts. All of their beers contain a stack of grits, glucose and syrup. Yummy. It's a useful reminder that adjunct brewing isn't a recent invention of megabrewers. It's been around for a long time.

Because Craig photographed every page of the brewing log over a certain period (thanks Craig) I can see just how infrequently they brewed Porter. Just three times in 194 brews. A sure sign of a style in decline.

One point of interest is the blending that they did. 65 barrels of  the 275 barrels in the brew were "old ale on hops". I believe this was old Ale (that is Ale that had been hanging around) rather than Old Ale (Ale that had been deliberately aged). I can only assume that this was a way of getting an aged taste into the beer. As well as an economic way of using up some old stock. Labatt did something similar.

It was also vatted after primary fermentation. Something that wouldn't have happened to a London Porter at this date. In fact, the more I look at it, the more archaic this beer looks. Blending and vatting had gone out of fashion 40 years earlier in London.

I'll pass the reins to Kristen for the technical brewy stuff . . . . .

Kristen’s Version:


All of the malts and such are very straight forward. The flaked maize was actually grits so if you’d like to cook up a batch, and chuck some shrimp in a bit for lunch, be my guest,…the flaked stuff is so much easier. The Invert No1 was actually glucose so you can replace it with pure glucose if you have it, make your own No1 or even Golden syrup, which is 50% invert, is fine. The No2 is pretty mandatory. The hops were pretty old so if you have some old ones lying around, give them a go. It’s not a beer that really focused on hops but could use a good dose of that veg tannic character. She finishes a bit fat so try and work on that b/c the beer completely changes if it dries out too much for sure. Here are your handy dandy sundry ingredients. The Grains of Paradise and hot pepper are nearly insignificant, the salt and licorice are much higher. Use them at your discretion.



mentaldental said...

Does the log indicate the form of the licorice?

Craig said...

I do what I can. I have to make a trip over and finish up the rest of log—picture taking wise... maybe tomorrow.

JessKidden said...

Stegmaier Porter (one of the three most notable US porters still being brewed at the start of the "craft era" in the US - Yuengling and Narragansett the other two) apparently still contained licorice at that time.

In a undated booklet from The Lion brewery -which purchased the Stegmaier brands in the early '70's - titled Lager Legends and Lullabies II (circa late '70's), their brewmaster Don Mudrick wrote:

“Porter is also a top fermented beer, but heavier and darker than ale. It is brewed with a very high dried and roasted malt which is actually charred on the drying kilns, a touch of unsweetened licorice, and has a less hoppy and sweeter taste than regular ale. It is also sometimes referred to as stout.”

Gary Gillman said...

Indeed an odd mix of contemporary (the adjuncts) and older practices. The reference in the recipe to old ale on the hops is clearly from Thomson & Stewart(1848)(see pg. 286):

The references to capsicum and grains of paradise, etc. surely were plucked from yet older texts which advised their use for home brewers or perhaps some commercial brewers prepared to work sub rosa.

The results sound very interesting.

You can almost picture the books in the brewery library...


Ron Pattinson said...

Mental, no, it doesn't say waht type of liquorice.

Ron Pattinson said...

JessKidden, that's good to know about the liquorice. It sounds like it was a common ingredient in American Porters.

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, thanks for pointing me in that direction. There will be more about this tomorrow.

Jeff Renner said...

Bell's Stout, brewed just down the road from me in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA, still uses brewer's liquorice. This from their website

"The brewer's licorice we use is gelatin-free, making it acceptable for vegetarians."

When I first started brewing about 40 years ago, I used a stick form of liquorice a time or two. It's still available, as well as in powdered form. But one time I used a dry, gnarly looking liquorice root in the boil. I can't really remember how any of it turned out, but I didn't use any of it very long.

Arctic Alchemy said...

Just a thought, several old porter recipes I have from 1800-1830 use Essentia Bina, which was used mostly to add color, but also contains licorice root. I have made EB several times, and once made 24 lbs of it for a commercial batch I brewed (18 bbls). It's quite a pain to produce, and interestingly, the whole mess gets set on fire for a few minutes at the end to further caramelize the sugar and add a bit of smokiness and tannin-like bite.

Edward said...

I'm enjoying the American themed Let's Brew. You have Labatt logs? My generation has only known their crappy lagers. I'd love to see what their IPA or Porters tasted like.

Ron Pattinson said...

Edward, yup, I got me some Labatt logs. Now I think about it, I seem to remember asking Kristen to rustle up a Labatt Stout recipe.

Gary Gillman said...

It should be recorded that Labatt Breweries (now owned by AB-InBev) still makes a porter:


Mark said...

I brewed this beer with licorice root but I was a little conservative with it as well with the salt. I modified the recipe a bit but it came out really good. I would recommend maybe more licorice or add it to the boil earlier. I know for sure that licorice will mellow with age.