Make Your Best, cont’d
American (Robust) Porter
One of my favorite styles to revisit is the robust porter (sometimes called American porter) because it can showcase almost any set of flavors you want. Brew one up now, and it’ll be perfect for your winter social events!
Style: Porter is one of the oldest styles, referring to dark ales made with brown malt originally in London and around England. It is a beer that should feature a rich character from its grist, a bite from black patent malt, significant bittering and flavor hops, and a touch of alcohol warmth.
Ingredients: Start with the base malts: Maris Otter and Munich—you want about 50 gravity points from them. Then add equal amounts of medium crystal malt and pale chocolate malt and about half that amount of black patent malt. If you want to really ramp up the richness, you might also consider a little melanoidin malt, but to my palate it comes across as slightly oily. I also recommend adding flaked barley to promote head retention and a creamy mouthfeel.
You want an aggressive hopping regimen that’s fairly evenly balanced across the bittering, flavor, and aroma additions. I like a tri-blend of East Kent Goldings, Styrian Goldings, and Fuggles added in equal parts in three additions, with a small amount reserved for dry hopping. This should give you plenty of bitterness and an earthy, spicy hops character that meshes perfectly with the rich-but-sharp malt flavors.
For yeast, use Wyeast 1318 (London Ale III) for its great fruity esters (when fermented at the right temperature).
If you’re working with slightly hard water, you might also consider ¼ tsp of baking soda to round off the dark malt flavors.
Process: Mash at your center-line, everyday temperature because we’re not shooting for a particularly fermentable (or unfermentable) wort. Let the crystal and flaked barley do their job, and you shouldn’t have any body issues. For fermentation, treat this as you would any ale. Start cool to inhibit diacetyl production and prevent the production of fusel alcohols. After 72 hours or so, let the temperature rise by a few degrees and hold it there for the rest of fermentation. Use the reserved hops for a very, very light dry hopping after about a week in the fermentor. This adds to the nose by brightening the existing hops flavors and aroma, but it also adds a touch of fresh, resiny, grassy hops aroma. Three days of contact time should suffice. You should be ready to go within 10 days, and then you can package and carbonate. This beer needs a bit of carbonation to fill it out and cut down on any perceptions of excess sweetness so aim for a hair under two volumes of CO2. This London ale brewed with English and German ingredients with an American-sized level of hopping serves as a great base for winter specialty or spiced beers—remove the aroma hops and replace with your specialty ingredient(s) as desired.