hist-brewing: The Demise of Porter

BrewInfo brewinfo at xnet.com
Fri Dec 1 17:08:31 PST 2000

As I said in my previous email, Terry Foster's book "Porter" pretty
much explains why Porter changed from being all Brown and Amber malts
to Pale and some dark malt:

  "About 1830, a variety of competing pressures compined to decrease
  porter's popularity.  Perhaps the first was technological progress,
  founded on porter's own success.  The London brewers were foremost
  in the adoption of scientific and engineering advances.  They were,
  for example, the first to install steam engines, with Henry Goodwyn
  and Whitbread leading the field in 1784, and others soon following.
  The use of steam and the thermometer enabled them to exert much
  greater control over the brewing process.
  So too did the use of the hydrometer.  It did not achieve as rapid
  an acceptance as my have been expected.  James Baverstock, perhaps
  the first brewer to exploit it, is said to have had to conceal his
  experiments from his father, who strongly objected to such frivolities.
  Richardson's publications in the 1780's were crucial in turning the
  craft of brewing into science.  Before Richardson, only Michael
  Combrune, describing the use of thermometer in mashing in his 1762
  Theory and Practice of Brewing, had published anything quantatative
  on brewing procedures.
  Richardson devised a system of measuring the percentage extract obtained
  from a given sample of malt.  This was to change the character of porter
  completely, for he showed that brown malt was not cheaper than pale malt.
  When the yield of extract for a given unit cost was taken as a
  determining factor, rather than the cost per pound of malt, it turned
  out that pale malt was actually the cheaper of the two.  This put brewers
  on the road to abandoning the use of brown malt."
Foster goes on to say that they first used many different methods and
ingredients for darkening the wort, for example, burnt sugar, licorice
and molasses (plus a bunch of really nasty additives).

Then he says:

  "The answer to the whole problem was discovered by Daniel Wheeler, who
  invented the technique of roasting malt at high temperature (400 degrees
  F [204.5 degrees C]) to give a highly-colored product.  Since he patented
  his invention in 1817, it was and sometimes still is known as patent malt."

His invention was the barrel roaster and I believe it included water jets
to put out the malt *when* (not if) it caught fire.

Wheeler's book is one of the best in the Classic Beer Style Series (along
with Lambic by Guinard and Bock by Richman... just stay away from that
awful Altbier book!).

I'm off to a homebrew club X-mas party... Cheers!


Al Korzonas, Lockport, Illinois, USA
korz at brewinfo.org

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