Make Your Best, cont’d

English Porter

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - The Mash -

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.

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