hist-brewing: Re: Olde Porters - hist-brewing-digest V1 #729

JazzboBob at aol.com JazzboBob at aol.com
Tue Nov 21 20:02:16 PST 2000

I have been brewing several different historic Porter recipes over the past 
ten years.  I became fascinated with these old style porters after reading 
John Harrison's and The Durden Park Beer Club's book on Old British Beers and 
How to Make Them.  I have shared my beers and tasted others with the Beer 
Circle when visiting London and have received their enthusiastic approval for 
my efforts. I highly recommend this book to anyone exploring these old styles 
of brewing.  All the recipes are researched from historic brewery archives 
and have been interpreted to 1 Imperial Gallon size recipes in a way to 
recreate the beers as authentically as possible with our modern malts.

John Harrison discusses old malts and describes brown malt as being roasted 
over fierce hardwood fires.  It was the darkest colored malt possible to 
produce before creating a reaction that would turn the malt into charcoal.  
In 1817 D. Wheeler invented the cylindrical drum roaster incorporating water 
sprays which could be used to quench the roasting grain instantly.  This 
enabled controlled production of roast malts ranging from amber, brown, 
chocolate, and black.  This development was rapidly exploited by porter 
brewers and within 5 years most London Porter had been reformulated to 
replace most of the brown malt by pale malt plus a little bit of black malt.  
This evolution can be observed by comparing the ca. 1800 London Porter to 
1850 Whitbread's London Porter.  He also has a 1750 Porter and a ca. 1800 
Dorchester Ale recipe that is another Porter variation along with several 
other Stouts and Porters.

I have followed his instruction to home roast malt in my oven to recreate 
Brown Malt.  Of course, we are missing some of the smoked aroma and flavors 
from the original fire heated roasting of the old days.  I place the grain in 
a 100*C (230*F) oven for 30 to 45 min to dry it out.  Then I raise the 
temperature to 150*C (300*F) and roast for another 20 to 30 minutes to create 
pale amber malt, or 45 min for amber malt.  Next I raise the temp to 175*C 
(350*F) and continue roasting for another 15 minutes for Brown Malt.  My home 
roasted Brown Malt is very rich and aromatic and has a dry bitter roasted 
flavor along the lines of commercial black malt but with much more grain 
taste.  Of course it doesn't have any enzymes left at this point and it must 
be mashed with other grains to be converted.  I never exceed 35% of my grain 
bill with Brown Malt to allow conversion.  

Modern commercially produced British Brown Malts does not have enzyme powers 
and must be blended into a mash.  They do not have anywhere near the flavor 
or intensity of the homemade styles.  I believe that the historic original 
hardwood fire roasted brown malts did have some enzymatic ability.  They were 
a bit caramelized like Crystal Malt from the intense heat and were toasted 
and removed from the heat before all the enzymes were destroyed.  Although 
they were mashed successfully, the introduction of the hydrometer showed that 
they were less productive then the lighter malt yields.  In addition, it was 
cheaper and less expensive to produce the lighter grains (less roasting time) 
and then add some of the new black patented roasted malts for color and 

This is probably getting too long, so I shall skip my thoughts on the use of 
Linseeds and Oak.
The Harrison book is available directly from him in the UK or in the US from 
The Beverage People @ 1-800-544-1867.

Also, The noted historic beer and yeast expert Dr. Keith Thomas is hosting 
this month's AHA Tecnical beer forum and would be available to answer 
questions for the next few weeks.

Bob Grossman
JazzboBob at aol.com

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