Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ghosts, Ghouls & Malt-Worms

We have an excellent selection of books in the Windmills pub and while browsing through a really great tome on Bauhaus art (which I'm quite fond of). I came across this Lyonel Feininger watercolor from 1922 titled "Little Ghosts, Good-Natured Ones". It reminded me that it's Halloween in the US. One of my favorite holidays.

Continuing with the creepy theme of this post, I'm really hoping that that very soon we won't be hearing much from these two ghouls!

Here I am at Toit (brewery) enjoying some stout with start-up consultant and all-around font of brewing knowledge, Phil Kelm (left) & head brewer, Matt Callaghan. They should have a special Halloween Pumpkin Ale on tap by now. I tasted it out of the fermenter last weekend and thought it was spot-on!

Three Old Malt-Worms

Beery Factoids
A Malt-worm is (1700's) slang for beer drinker.
Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty glass (Malt-worms are particularly susceptible).

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beer Style Spotlight ~ Porter

Windmills Craftworks is probably brewing the only Porter in India and I'm thinking a little introduction and explanation of just what it is, and not, is in order. Porter is a dark ale much like Stout is but differs mainly in that the grain bill is usually more complex, there is a noticeable hop finish (unlike Stout) and it’s not opaque or completely black like a Stout generally is. Windmills Porter is made with Pale Ale Malt, Munich Malt, Crystal (Caramel) Malt, Chocolate Malt, Roasted (unmalted) Barley and Flaked Barley (also unmalted). The finishing hops are American Cascade and English East Kent Goldings. It's fermented with a classic London Ale yeast strain at 20ºC and has a starting gravity of 13.8º plato and an alcohol content that is about 5% by volume. It's a smooth roasty brew with hints of chocolate, toffee and nuts. It also has a subtle but spicy hop finish. It's completely veg and served unfiltered for extra flavour and nutrition.

The Association of Brewers Beer Style Guideline for Robust Porter is as follows:
Original Gravity 1.045 -1.060 (11 - 14.7º Plato) {Sugar level or liquid density before fermentation}
Apparent Extract / Final Gravity 1.008 -1.016 (2 - 4º Plato)
Alcohol by Weight 4.0 - 5.2% (5.0 - 6.5% by Volume)
Bitterness (IBU) 25 - 40
Color SRM 30+ (60+ EBC)

There are some variants within the style such as the lighter/softer Brown Porter and the stronger Imperial and Baltic Porter's. Much the same as there is quite a variation in the types of Stout brewed around the world. Interestingly, many Baltic versions and quite a few historic American Porters, including Yuengling - from Americas oldest brewery - are brewed with lager yeast!


Folklore but not much hard fact has is that the style originates in London of the 1720's and was not a single beer but rather a pub-blend of three different light and dark ales. This mix was popular and often requested by the porters around Victoria Station. At that time the beer was called "Entire". A few years later a brewer named Harwood purposefully made a beer that contained all or the "Entire" qualities of the popular blend. It's a little uncertain if Harwood's name caught on or if the drink took the name of it's chief proponent. I'd bet on the latter. In either case, Porter was born. When it was brewed as such, it was one of the few beers that had any significant aging at the brewery before release to the pub trade. By many accounts the beer had a secondary fermentation with brettanomyces (wild) yeast - the “British fungus” that was discovered (isolated) in an English beer at the Carlsberg brewery in Denmark - and was a blend of young and old (vatted) beer. This would certainly make it drier and "gamier" than contemporary versions of the style. Early London Porters were strong beers by modern standards. One report from the 1770's lists a Porter as having an original gravity of 1.071° (17.75° plato) and an alcohol content of 6.6% by volume.

Dr Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia, published in 1830 mentions "acerbity" when describing the beer. Could this be the brett character or was it the flavour of the sour, vatted beer that was blended back in? The Cyclopaedia goes on to say, "About the beginning of the eighteenth century a malt liquor called entire butt was much in use; and afterwards a variety called brown stout. These were heavy, strong drinks; and about the middle of the eighteenth century they began to give place to a liquor the brewing of which was then much improved and in great request amongst the street porters of London; hence it obtained the name of porter. In some years after, it became one of the necessaries of life and has continued so ever since. The manufacture of porter has been subject to all the changes which the capricious taste of the public could devise. At first it was requisite that it should have a heavy taste, and a blackish colour; but this kind being reported to be unwholesome, and apt to occasion dyspeptic symptoms, it was conceived that to give it age was the remedy: but the liquor being not strong, age was sure to produce sourness in a slight degree, or hardness, as this is technically called. The secret of inducing sudden old age on an infant brewing of porter was soon found out; and the method of making best old London porter in a fortnight, was to mix porter that had become sour, in a certain quantity, with fresh drink. At length the publicans were let into the secret, and they were furnished by the brewer with two separate hogsheads, one of sour, and the other of fresh drink. Finally, so notorious was this practice, and so bare-faced the imposture, that in all public-houses hydraulic engines were fitted up, through the pipes of which, by the combination of two or three pumps, drink of any age required could be brought out of the cellar ready made. At present the public taste has undergone a new revolution, and nothing but a full, sound, fresh, dark-coloured porter will be relished."

By the end of the 18th century Porter brewers in London like Truman, Meux, Whitbread & Barclay found themselves buying or making ever larger tanks to mature the beer and get that “aged” flavour - the largest on record being 25 feet tall with a 20,000 barrel capacity - that is, until one calamitous day in October of 1814, when corroded hoops on a large wooden tank at Henry Meux's Horse Shoe brewery caused a rupture and sudden release of about 7,600 barrels (over 1.2 million liters) of Porter around Tottenham Court Road. The black torrent caused severe damage to the brewery, killed eight people and ended the trend of building ever larger tanks! Interestingly, the Horse Shoe Brewery only produced Porter through most the 1800's. It was a true specialist. The large London Porter breweries pioneered many technological advances in brewing such as the use of the thermometers (aprox. 1760) and the hydrometer [sugar meter] (1770). I couldn't imagine making beer without either of these measuring devices and especially when getting a new brewery up and running.

Meux's Horse Shoe Brewery, London
The very first European-style beers to arrive in India were most likely bottled Porters from London or Liverpool in the late 1700's. Later these dark beers would be shipped in "Hogshead" casks (250 liters) from England. The long journey aboard clipper ships typically took between three and five months. The ships departed between late November and early February and arrived in India between March and May to miss the monsoon season. The long (warm) journey caused much of the beer to go flat and sour in the ships hold. This led brewers and shippers to experiment with creative packaging and blending techniques. They even tried brewing on-board in effort to extend the beers stability and thus quality upon arrival. Despite the losses, they persisted in shipping because high demand and low shipping costs could result in huge profits (the rate for shipping beer from London to Bombay roughly equaled that of London to Edinburgh) and while India was self-sufficient in most things, beer was not one of those things. It was one of the few British commodities in demand because it was not made locally. Also, the valuable shipments of silks and spices returning from India more than covered the beers outbound journey.

After 1860 the popularity of Porter and the “aged” taste began to wane in England and the beer became increasingly "mild" - weaker and less hoppy. In the final decades of the century, many breweries discontinued their Porter altogether. Increased taxation on beers with higher alcohol content in England was one reason for the decline. Grain shortages and restrictions on beer strength during World War I was another. Later, the ever increasing popularity of pale lagers would be the nail in Porter's English coffin. The deadly slumber would last until 1978 when Yorkshire brewer Timothy Taylor would revive the style.


Porter was also brewed in the "new world". I've read that it was first commercially brewed by Robert Hare of Philadelphia in 1776 and was popular with none other than George Washington who declared that he would only drink Porter brewed in America. Early American Porters differed from English variants by the use of adjuncts. The unreliability of grain supplies and crop failures forced early American brewers to frequently use corn, molasses, pumpkins, squash and even peas in addition to malted barley. Sometimes in quantities that were not exactly beneficial to the beers character. Other than the prohibition years (1919-1933), Porter never really died in America like it did in England. Breweries like Narragansett in Rhode Island and Yuengling, Stegmaier, Neuweiler and Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania were the torch bearers that kept the style alive during the dark days of industrialization and brewery consolidation that followed prohibition. The style saw a revival in the 1970's at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco and later in the 80's at Sierra Nevada Brewing with the advent and popularization of craft-brewing. I've made a Porter at nearly every brewery start-up I've worked on and I’d be lying if I said it was not a style dear to my heart. Those I’m most proud of are from Seattle's Big Time Brewing, Japan's Swan Lake Brewery and of course Windmills Craftworks here in Bangalore. Here are some award winning Porters from the most prestigious and professional beer competition. They would certainly be worth seeking out:

2012 World Beer Cup ~ Robust Porter Winners (68 entries)
Gold: Pier Rat Porter, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente, CA. USA
Silver: Pro-Am Porter, Wormtown Brewery, Worcester, MA. USA
Bronze: Chocolate Porter, Kumazawa Brewing Co., Chigasaki, Japan

2010 World Beer Cup ~ Robust Porter Winners (64 entries)
Gold: Pier Rat Porter, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente, CA. USA
Silver: Founders Porter, Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI. USA
Bronze: Russian River Porter, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA. USA

2008 World Beer Cup ~ Robust Porter Winners (49 entries)
Gold: People's Porter, Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, NC. USA
Silver: Porter, Nøgne Ø, Grimstad, Norway
Bronze: Swan Lake Porter, Hyokoyashikinomori Brewery, Niigata, Japan

Beery Factoids ~ Brown and dark beers pre-date pale beers. Darker kilned or roasted malt makes darker beer. Pale malts only came on the brewing scene in in Derbyshire, England in the early 1640's with the advent of coke-fired kilns to dry the wet, newly malted grain. Coke is just coal heated in the absence of oxygen so that unwanted gases (that would taint the malt), especially hydrogen sulphide, are absent. Earlier kilns used wood as fuel and the malt that came from them was darker (and smokier). In Scotland peat is still burned in some malt kilns, especially around Islay. This is why the whiskey from this area is quite smoky. In the German town of Bamberg a smoked beer called Rauchbier is produced by burning beechwood in the malt kiln. It just so happens that one of Windmills malt suppliers is in Bamberg. This should make it easy to guess one of our future, special seasonal beers. Cheers...