A Home Brewer’s Personal Journey through His Craft – Part 33 – Porter
As you may have guessed, this edition is all about porter. We have discussed several porters and stouts in previous editions of this series, but have never addressed one of the most burning questions in all of the Beer World. What is the difference between porter and stout?
I did some research and found this to be a rather contentious subject for beer aficionados around the world. The general consensus though seems to be, there is no difference. It is like asking, what is the difference between dogs and Dobermans? It is a matter of preference, which breed of dog do you like?
Historically, stouts have been stronger than porter. The term “stout” originated as “strong porter” or “stout porter” although at various times in history porters have been stronger than stouts. At one time there was even a distinction called “slender porter” for a lighter style of porter. This was all due to changing taxation systems on beer and marketing strategies employed by breweries. It was also affected by the evolution of malting processes and the relative cost of different malts; amber malt vs. brown malt vs. chocolate malt vs. black patent malt vs. roasted barley etc. etc.
The BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines break porter down into three sub-styles and stout into six. Obviously, they are all dark beers ranging from dark brown to black, dry to sweet, hoppy to malty, low gravity to high gravity, and so on, yada, yada, yada.
What Do I Think?
What is my personal take on the distinction? I believe porters tend to be dark brown while stouts tend to be black. I also think porters are usually hoppier while stouts have a more roasty bitterness from roasted barley rather than from hops. The true difference is: Which name sounds better on the label?
OK, now that I am done educating some of you and offending others, let’s get on with the brews.
Our first porter is based on a recipe from Randy Mosher in his book, Radical Brewing. He called it “1776 Porter” and it employs two old-time methods not commonly used anymore, First Hop and First Wort. These methods will be explained when we get into the brewing procedure. I chose to call my version “Essentia Bina” after the name of the thick dark goo produced from the First Wort. Since then, I found there to be a Danish beer of the same name, described as either a Baltic Porter or Imperial Porter depending on the reviewer. It also uses Essentia Bina in the brewing and comes in at 16% ABV.
Essentia Bina Porter
- 4.5 lbs American 2-Row malt
- 4.5 lbs Victory malt
- 4.5 lbs Brown malt
- 8 oz Demerara sugar (add to first wort)
- 8 oz Demerara sugar (add to boil)
- 4 oz Homegrown Brewers Gold hops (first hop)
- 1.5 oz Hail Mix* hops (5 min)
- 1 tsp Burton Water Salts
- .25 oz Brewer’s licorice
- .75 oz American White Oak spiral – heavy toast (secondary)
- UCCS 1084 Irish Ale yeast
- Priming: ¾ cup corn sugar
*Hops salvaged after hail storm knocked them off the vines; approximately 40% Brewer’s Gold, 40% Santiam, 10% Perle, and 10% Hallertau, Cascade, Nugget.
Make a hop infusion or hop tea by heating 4 quarts water to 160F and adding 4 oz Brewers Gold. Cover, remove from heat and let steep until needed. This is the First Hop. What this does is extract more bitterness and flavor from the hops by using plain water rather than sweet wort which already has lots of infused sugars.
Heat 14 quarts water treated with water salts to 168F and mash in. The temperature dropped to 150F so heat back up to the target mash temperature of 156F. Cover and let mash for 60 minutes. The mash out temperature was 154F.
Pour the mash into the lauter-tun and before adding any sparge water, collect the first 2 quarts of wort. Then continue sparging with 170F water and collect an additional 6 gallons of wort in the boil kettle.
Making Essentia Bina
While the sparge is continuing add 8 oz Demerara to the 2 quarts of First Wort and bring to boil. Continue boiling, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until this wort is reduced to a thick black candy-like goo. At the first signs of sticking, remove from heat to prevent burning and let cool. This thick dark substance is essentia bina; basically, caramelized sugar, or very thick treacle or molasses. This was the method used to make very dark beers prior to the development of chocolate and black patent malts.
Add 8 oz Demerara and licorice to the 6 gallons of wort and bring to a boil. Strain the hop infusion into the essentia bina to dissolve the goo and add this to the kettle. Boil for 85 minutes and then add the hail mix hops and continue boiling another 5 minutes for a total 90 minute boil.
At this point I removed 2 gallons of wort and reserved in another kettle for use in our next porter.
Cool the remaining wort and pour into carboy with yeast already pitched. OG was 1.076. After ten days it was racked to the secondary with the oak spiral. The intermediate gravity was 1.026, 6.5% ABV. The color was muddy brown, not as dark as I would have liked. The brown and victory malts gave it a sweet bread-like flavor and the hops balanced it well.
After five weeks I deemed it was ready to bottle although it was still a little muddy. The color was dark brown. It was well balanced between malt sweetness and hop bitterness with a hint of oak and a very coffee-like roastiness.
The brew carbonated very nicely but never did completely clear out the muddy color. It remained well balanced, roasty and oaky, a very nice example of an old time porter.
Now, what are we gonna do with the two gallons of wort we set aside? Well I had a small container of coconut infused brown sugar which I had been hankerin’ to use in a beer. So, here we go with Cocoa-Coconut Porter!
- 2 gallons wort from Essentia Bina Porter
- 15 oz Coconut Brown Sugar
- 5 oz Shaved coconut toasted (in secondary)
- 3 oz Organic Cacao nibs (in secondary)
- UCCS 1084 Irish Ale yeast
- Priming: ½ cup corn sugar
Add the coconut infused brown sugar to the still hot wort and stir until fully dissolved, then cool the wort and pour into primary fermenter with yeast already pitched. OG 1.092
After 12 days rack to secondary adding shaved coconut which has been toasted at 350F for 15 minutes and cacao nibs both in hop bags. Intermediate gravity was 1.026 for 8.8% ABV. At this point it tasted like toasted bread, sweet and hoppy, the coconut was not very apparent but the ABV was.
Prime and bottle after 4 – 5 weeks in the secondary, FG 1.021 for 9.4% ABV. It had a nice chocolate aroma and flavor along with hops and alcohol heat. A very light lingering hint of coconut was primarily detected along with the alcohol when exhaling after swallowing. The color was a bit too light for a porter, more like a brown.
This took 2 – 3 months to carbonate and was still low and inconsistent from bottle to bottle. It was still very luxurious, good stuff.
Another New Ingredient
Like the coconut brown sugar in the last recipe, I had another ingredient I wanted to use but was unsure how best to use it. I had been given a sample package of Polish Marynka hops by the brewers at Bristol. Neither they nor I had any information on these hops so I did some internet research and found they were ideal for a Baltic Porter. I had always wanted to make a Baltic so I considered this to be this to be somewhat fortuitous.
What is Baltic Porter you may ask? It is a unique style of porter that originated in the Baltic states of Eastern Europe. Sometimes referred to as an Imperial Porter due to its high gravity, this style is unique in that it uses lager yeast instead of ale. I concocted the following original recipe based on information and recipes found on the internet.
- 14 lbs American 2-row malt
- 1½ lb Munich malt
- 1½ lb Vienna malt
- 1½ lb 120L Crystal malt
- 1 lb Wheat malt
- 12 oz Black Patent malt
- 12 oz Chocolate malt
- 12 oz Molasses
- 3 oz Polish Marynka hop pellets (90 min)
- 1½ oz Polish Marynka hop pellets (30 min)
- 1 oz Polish Marynka hop pellets (5 min)
- 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 min)
- 1¾ oz American White Oak spiral – heavy toast (secondary)
- UCCS 2206 Bavarian Lager yeast
- Priming: ½ cup corn sugar & ¼ cup DME
This is the largest quantity of malts I have ever used in a single beer, 21 lbs. Because of this I had to split into two brew kettles for the mash. Put 8 quarts cold water in one kettle and 16 quarts in the second kettle and heat both to 168F. In the smaller kettle add seven lbs of mixed milled malts and 14 lbs in the larger kettle. Temperature dropped to 152F, heat to target temperature of 156F, cover and let mash for 60 minutes. Mash temperature varied from 152 to 160.
A Learning Experience…
Time for a little physics lesson; you cannot put 24 quarts of mash water and 21 lbs of malt in a 5 gallon sparge bucket. I became aware of this when the sparge bucket over flowed. I had to quickly scoop some grain back out of the bucket and let some wort run through until there was enough room to add all the grain into the bucket. Collected about 4 gallons of wort and recycled this back through the grain bed before beginning to sparge with 170F water. Collect 7 gallons of wort in brew kettle and continue sparging, collecting another 9 quarts in a second kettle. This last running will be used in a small.
Bring the 7 gallons to a boil and add hop pellets and Irish Moss directly to the wort, no hop bags, at the times indicated for a total 90 minute boil. Dip out as much hop debris as possible with a strainer and cool with immersion chiller. Pour into carboy with yeast already pitched. OG 1.095, this is a big beer!
Fermentation activity started off normally and became strong but nothing radical, at first. Sometime during the second night things went completely nutso, foaming up and out through the lock. Hop debris eventually plugged the lock and pressure built up until the lock blew off. Wort sprayed up and hit the bottom of the cabinet above it and splattered everywhere. I lost probably a gallon of beer. Attached a blow-off hose into a kettle of water and let it continue to bubble. I then proceeded to clean up the huge mess.
It took about two days for the activity to settle down and I racked it to a secondary along with the oak after a total of seven days in the primary. The gravity at this point was 1.033 and the flavor was heavy, sweet, roasty, and very alcoholic.
I left it in the secondary for about six weeks before priming and bottling. FG was 1.022 for 9.9% ABV.
This was incredibly luscious with an oak aroma and flavor of dried black cherries. The body was heavy, yet smooth and silky. I believe it was probably the best porter or stout I have ever tasted. I gave a bottle to my buddy John Romero, who was then one of the hosts on BeerTap TV, for them to evaluate. Unfortunately, it never made the show because they put it in the back of the refrigerator and it froze. Romey said the resulting Baltic Eisbock was incredible.
- 9 qt wort from Baltic Porter
- 1 lb Light DME
- 10 oz Molasses
- 2 oz Home Grown Brewers Gold whole cone hops (30 min)
- ½ tsp Irish Moss (30 min)
- 1 pkg (11g) Danstar Windsor ale yeast
- Priming: ½ cup corn sugar
Bring the 9 quarts of wort collected from the Baltic porter to a boil and add DME and molasses. Return to boil and add hops and Irish Moss directly to wort. Boil for 30 minutes and remove hops with a strainer and cool wort. Pour into carboy with re-hydrated yeast already pitched. OG 1.060
Rack to a secondary after four days. Gravity was 1.020 and flavor was kind of tart and fruity with tannins from the grain hulls making it grainy.
Primed and bottled after about two weeks in the secondary. FG was 1.016 for about 6.1% ABV, not bad for a small. The fruit tartness and grainy flavor had dropped off a bit, not much hop flavor and mildly malty. It looked and tasted more like a brown ale than a porter. But, Oh My! What a difference a little aging made. It was still like a brown but developed the same, although lighter, dried black cherry flavor of the Baltic. This was excellent!
OK, that’s four porters made beginning with two beers, it’s like a magical 2’fer times 2.
Until we meet again…Keep on Brewin’
Note of interest:
This was the last edition of 100 Bottles of Beer as it appeared on previous platforms before creating this website. All future posts will be completely new editions never before seen anywhere. Be patient, for now I have to write instead of just edit!