Make Your Best, cont’d
English Porter is one of the oldest continually produced styles of beer in the world, dating in its current form back to at least the early eighteenth century, and with good reason: it’s firm and flavorful on the palate and has earned its longevity by offering an interesting (but never overpowering) drinking experience.
Style: English Porter can be distinguished from its louder porter brethren by its relative restraint in three areas: roast, alcohol, and hopping. Much like Munich Dunkel, English Porter features dark flavors but not aggressive roasted or burnt flavors. In much the same way, English Porter, though darker than its bitter and/or mild cousins, is not necessarily stronger. Finally, English Porters may feature hops, but it’s an exceptionally rare example that is ever described as hoppy. This beer is malt-forward, often with a flavor that is closer to hot cocoa than the dark, bitter, earthy chocolate of a stronger porter or the milky lactose-laden chocolate of a sweet stout.
Ingredients: This beer will force you into a choice: play it safe for the judges or play it fun for yourself. The fun version may be dinged in competition as out of style, but I believe that it makes an outstanding beer.
Before we get to your choice, here are the basics. Start with 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of English Maris Otter. To that, add 1 pound (454 g) of British light crystal (45L) and 1 pound (454 g) of Chocolate Rye (which will add color, a touch of spice, and some mild roasty background notes).
Now for the decision. If you want to play this one straight, add another pound (454 g) of brown malt to impart a good dose of nutty flavor and a rich toffee nose. If you’re feeling more adventurous, split that malt addition: 12 ounces (340 g) of brown malt and 4 ounces (113 g) of smoked malt to add something that we sometimes perceive in brown malt anyway—a bit of smoke character. But brown malt seems to be inconsistent, so why rely on the maltster? Instead, sneak in those few ounces of smoked malt (Briess Cherrywood is my favorite).
The rest is easy. Two ounces (57 g) of East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes to give the beer a bit of English hops flavor and aroma and about 28 IBUS. And for yeast, I’m a fan of Wyeast 1318 (London Ale III) for its ester profile and higher flocculation, but if you prefer your beers a bit drier, go with the Wyeast 1028 (London Ale).
Process: The only real process question is fermentation temperature. Mash, boil, and chill as usual. Start this one cool (63°F/17°C), to limit diacetyl production, and increase the temperature about one degree per day until you hit 70°F (21°C) (to clean up any possible diacetyl or precursors). You should be just about finished with fermentation, but don’t rush. Give it a couple of days, then crash it and package it. Two volumes of CO2 should be more than sufficient!
You should have a brown ale that’s obviously a brown ale, but also obviously not just another English Brown or Mild. It will have much more interest on the palate, especially if you take the more adventurous route! But even if you don’t, the spice from the rye and the middle-crystal and brown-malt flavors will still yield some great results.
If you should happen to think to yourself, “My, what a great roasty beer!” you’ve screwed up. Go back, reduce the percentage of the chocolate malt, and give it another go.