Announcing the next Session #109: Porter

For The Session 109—my first as host—I would like us to discuss porter. It seems that this highly variable style has not been done in The Session before.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

What is The Session?

“The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry” (The Sessions at Brookston Beer Bulletin).

It takes place on the first Friday of every month, so 4 March 2016 for this one.

Porter

“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).

I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.

There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on.

With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate. [Yes, I know that is from Thrillist; feel free to ignore it.]

I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.

Possibilities include:

  • Contrast and/or compare two or more of the styles
  • Contrast and/or compare two or more beers within/across porter styles
  • The history and development of the style
  • Your love/hate relationship with any porter style
  • Baltic porter – ale or Lager or a mixed fermentation?
  • Is hopping the only difference between English and American styles?
  • Food pairings with your favorite porter or style of porter
  • Review the porter(s) you are using as a creative springboard
  • Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages, see for example American Barley Wine or Bock [I’ve already collected some of the information below for you.]
  • Recipe and procedures for brewing your version of a great porter

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

On Friday 4 March, you may comment on this post and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or two of the first Friday (March 4th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

Further Resources

To give you some food for thought I am providing some resources below:

I took some inspiration from Jay Brooks’ new Typology Tuesday [see this for example] but being inclusive of all the porter variants precludes doing anything close. There’s no way I am copying and pasting all of the descriptions from all of the style guides I can find for all of the versions.

Style References

BJCP

  • Baltic Porter BJCP 9C [Strong Euro Beer]
  • English Porter 13C [Brown British Beer]
  • American Porter 20A [American Porter and Stout]

The only mention of Imperial Porter in the 2015 BJCP is in a comment under Baltic Porter.

Comments: May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7–8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout” [9C, p. 17).

Brewers Association 2015

  • Brown Porter : British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Robust Porter :British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • American-Style Imperial Porter : North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Smoke Porter :  North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Baltic-Style Porter : Other Origin Lager Styles : Lager Styles

World Beer Cup 2016 or PDF  

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 31F Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 34 Baltic-Style Porter : Styles of European and German Origin : Lager Beer Styles
  • 74 Brown Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles
  • 75 Robust Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles

GABF 2015 or PDF   

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 31E Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 47 Baltic-Style Porter : Lager Beer Styles
  • 82 Brown Porter : Ale Beer Styles
  • 83 Robust Porter : Ale Beer Styles

BreweryDB

This looks a lot like the Brewers Association style breakdown. I wonder if they’re using an older version of the guidelines. Seeing as the schema is the same as BA above,  I am just going to list and link these.

Periodic Table of Beer Styles

  • Brown Porter 34
  • Robust Porter 48

UnTappd

UnTappd lists the following styles of porter: American, Baltic, English, Imperial/Double, Other

Other References

Foster (2014) – Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today

I consider this to be a significant update to Foster’s Porter below. My reasoning is included in my reviews [the links].

Foster (1992) – Porter (Classic Beer Styles 5) [Publisher’s page]

Pattinson (2012*) – Porter! [see here for a bit of info on author]

Eckhardt (1989) – The Essentials of Beer Styles

Alworth (2015) – The Beer Bible pp. 140-165

Daniels (1996) – Designing Great Beers chap 23, pp. 263-282

Klemp – “BIG BALTIC PORTER” (Stylistically Speaking column), All About Beer, 29:1, March 2008 [There may be others.]

Fodor – “Robust Porter: Style of the Month” Brew Your Own, December 1997.

Dornbusch – “Robust Porter: Style Profile” Brew Your Own, September 2006.

Zainasheff – “Robust Porter: Style ProfileBrew Your Own, September 2012 [May be others.]

Michael Jackson – Beer Styles: Porter

Oliver, ed. (2012) – The Oxford Companion to Beer 

Baltic porter, 82. See also porter

porter, 27, 30, 84, 107, 166, 179-80, 195, 356-7, 422, 439, 479, 483, 485, 494, 587-88, 638, 660-64, 770-1, 792-93, 824, 841; Americanized porters, 663; Baltic porter, 663; comeback of, 663; craft brewers, 663-64, decline of, 663; origins of, 661; robust porter, 663; smoked porter, 688; stout porters, 663. See also stout (index)

[Main entry for porter by Horst Dornbusch and Garrett Oliver]

Oliver (2005) – The Brewmaster’s Table 

porter beer, 30, 43, 137

American, 47, 313-25

British, 135-38, 145-52

food with, 138-39, 314-16

producers of, 145-52, 316-25 (index)

And, to leave you with some potential choices although I suggest going further afield than some of these, according to Men’s Journal on Yahoo the “15 Best Porter Beers From Across the Globe

For more history, see Cornell (2003) – Beer: The Story of the Pint and for recipes see, among many others, Lutzen & Stevens (1994) – Homebrew Favorites chap. 5, pp. 97-116 or Zainasheff and Palmer (2007) – Brewing Classic Styles which contains recipes for Baltic, brown and robust porters, including smoked and vanilla porters.

See you and your thoughts on porter—whatever that is for you—on Friday, March 4th.

Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts

Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today by Terry Foster

Date read: 31 January – 04 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Foster's Brewing Porters & Stouts

Paperback, 211 pages
Published 2014 by Skyhorse
Source: Own

I loved this book! It was everything I was hoping it would be as an update to the author’s 1992 entry in the Brewers Association Classic Beer Styles Series, 5, Porter, which I reviewed here.

There is more history, a great update on the proliferation of ingredients available to the homebrewer, far more recipes, and I love the inclusion of the stouts. There are also more opinions and they are awesome. Dr. Foster is full of opinions and he tells you why and then it is up to you to choose where you stand. Most are well-reasoned and I generally agree with him.

Highly recommended!

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended
  • Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions
  • Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials
  • Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients
  • Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes
  • Selected Bibliography

Introduction

“I started brewing my own beer in Britain, just as the craft of homebrewing was beginning to be revived, then moved to the United States just as homebrewing was legalized here. I have therefore lived through two homebrewing revolutions, and of course through the great craft brewing revolution here. The quality of beer I can now produce at home, and that of those craft beers I can buy, has improved dramatically. Proudly numbered among all these new beers are many porters, stouts, and their sub-styles, and new variations on these are appearing almost daily. Therefore, it seemed that this was a good time to review those styles, their histories, and their brewing methodologies” (2).

Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended

“Since this book is essentially about brewing porters and stouts, I needed to condense this history, and have chosen to do so in a fairly loose chronological manner. That means there may be some omissions of material that other brewing historians consider to be significant enough to be included. I have limited the number of references in the text for reasons of brevity, and have instead appended a list of some of my sources. Note that some of the points I make are purely of my opinion, although I have endeavored to base them on as much fact and general brewing knowledge as possible. I make no apology for this; rather, I hope I might stimulate some intriguing debates on them!” (7-8).

The history of porter and stout is broken into sections by century, from the eighteenth to the twenty-first.

There are a couple times here and elsewhere, and I have seen it in other books, where he writes something like, “And in 1875, Whitbread, for the first time, brewed more ale than porter or stout” (33). What?! They are ales. Were they not thought of that way earlier? And I do believe this sort of thing crops up historically or when writing about beer history so perhaps so. Or is this simply an ‘ales other than stouts and porters’ thing? I believe I got the point in this case and often do when this kind of reference crops up but it seems disconcerting. If it is the case that they were definitely not considered ales in, say, the eighteenth century I think making that explicit would go a long way towards educating the reader. Very small point, I concede.

Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions

This section discusses the style parameters, from the perspective of the Brewers Association, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), and his own. He discusses where they overlap and where they disagree. For instance, he does not consider smoked porter to be its own substyle but merely a variant (53). From this he narrows down the styles/substyles he will be discussing in the rest of the book and providing recipes for.

“I am therefore going to stick to considering the nine designations of brown, robust, and Baltic porters, along with dry, sweet, oatmeal, foreign extra, American, and Imperial stouts. Since most of them have demonstrable historical pedigrees (even the American stout), these categories are useful as a way of looking at these beers. However, they do not include every variety of porter available commercially (let alone those brewed at home)” (53).

From this he goes on to provide sections on each of these nine, plus a couple page discussion of flavored porters and stouts.

Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials

This chapter covers malt (and other grist products) primarily, with a small diversion into a few flavorings (lactose, licorice, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, and ‘barrels’). Hops, water and yeast are covered in the next chapter.

The ‘malts’ covered go from the general to the very specific, while he covers how much of what to use in all of the assorted styles he is discussing. They include: base malts (including Vienna and Munich), malt extract, specialty malts (caramel/crystal, Special B, two particular biscuit malts, Special roast malt, Melanoidin, amber, brown, chocolate, black, roasted barley, flaked barley, oat malt/flakes, rye malt, and smoked malts. Foster also includes a section on making your own amber and brown malt.

Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients

Hops, yeast, water, and finings get the Foster treatment here.

Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes

For many this will be the gist of the book and I do look forward to making use of it but, so far, I believe I have and will get the most value from his thoughts in chapter 3 on malts and other grist ingredients.

For each style/substyle he discusses he has included several recipes. These include a couple of all-grain ones and a couple extract and extract plus partial mash recipes per style. After that is a section he entitles, “My Ten Most Interesting Recipes.” Five of these are historical recreations (as best as possible) and the other five he says “are based on modern craft-brewed beers” (189).

At the end of this chapter is his addendum to recipes where he discusses carbonation, kegging, bottling, and stout dispense and nitrogen gas.

One thing not included, unlike in his previous work, are recipes for one-barrel batches. Craft brewers (and homebrewers wanting more than 5-gallon batches) would be on their own to scale up the recipes. Personally, I find that a fair tradeoff for all of the new and updated information, the additional recipes, and the inclusions of the stouts. Recipe scaling information can be found elsewhere.    

Selected Bibliography

This bibliography is much more extensive than the one in the Classic Beer Styles Series from 1992 but he also cites a fair few works in the text that are not listed in the back. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, nor does he intend it to be. Nonetheless, it is several times longer than the one in the 1992 work.

Final comments

Again, I loved this book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the brewing of stouts and porters. I will be visiting and revisiting it, no doubt.

This is my favorite book of 2015 so far. It may seem a tad early to make this claim but I did write “so far.” I have also completed 25 books so far this year so not a completely absurd statement.

This is the 6th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Snowed In (The Session #108)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

From Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site who is hosting this month’s Session:

“The theme is “Snowed In,” and I want it to be open-ended. It’s the first week of February—we are solidly in the grip of the winter, which means hunkering down from the cold and, depending on where you live, waiting for warmer days to thaw out the ice and snow. But perhaps it’s one of those winters, where the snow starts falling… and falling… and falling some more, and the next thing you know, schools are closed, there’s four or more feet of snow on the ground—and you are effectively snowed in and not going anywhere.

So what’s next? That is what I want you to write about—as it pertains to beer, of course! …

My birthday is 2/3rd of the way solidly into winter, late in February. People can complain about winter weather all they like—as do I on occasion—but my birthday is during that hell of sleet, rain, ice, snow, freezing winds and everything else that comes with being in the Midwest or Central Oregon in the dead of winter. I used to despise it but now I embrace it. I want it all. And I want all the winter types in February! Now I’m not sadistic; I am perfectly pleased with a day or two of each of the bad kinds of winter weather or even a good gobsmacking by two or three all in one day. Then it can go away. It can, of course, be as nice as it wants; although, admittedly, I’d be a bit freaked out by temps over 60F/15C.

All of that to say, I am fully down with Jon’s topic. And while perhaps not as prepared as I would like “knowing the snow’s coming” we are not unprepared either. Both contingencies will be addressed, as will most of the ideas Jon proposed.

Cold weather beer styles

My cold weather beer styles are pretty much my normal beer styles, although a few specific beers creep in during the colder temps. Imperial stouts and barley wines, barrel-aged or not, are our go-to beers, all year-long. I am not a fan overall of the winter warmer category but a few like Deschutes’ Jubelale and Anchor’s Our Special Ale/Christmas Ale do get put into the winter line-up, at least a couple of each. It also means trying more of them to hopefully find others that can do spicing the way I prefer; not many do. There are also other winter seasonals, such as Deschutes’ Red Chair, that also need a few or more imbibed.

Dip into cellar? Something special?

Here is where we are already prepared. Our cellar is two smaller fridges—4.4 and 11 cubic feet—which are temperature controlled, for which we have a by shelf inventory (spreadsheet). We also—as we buy more beer than we can actually cellar—have several boxes full, all of which is also accurately inventoried. Then there’s the general drinking beer which we do not bother (anymore) to put into the spreadsheet. “General drinking beer” may still be an Impy stout or a barley wine but we simply had no intention of cellaring them when we acquired them; we simply meant to drink them “soon.” We were buying mostly cellar beer for a good while. Had to get that (somewhat) under control. We also used to put every beer into the spreadsheet. We were young. Or something.

So … “snowed in and not going anywhere”? We do have projected dates for most of the cellared beers but we adjust some of the longer, more hopeful, dates based on drinking as we go. Some have definitely moved up across time. We also realized we needed to drink a lot more of them sooner rather than later based on incoming amounts so we are “suffering” our way through that. 😉

I am going to assume this is around my birthday in a couple weeks; thus, as of now anyway, first up would be my last Firestone Walker Double DBA Proprietor’s Reserve Series No. 001 (2012). I drank the previous one February 28th last year and it was freaking ridiculous. It was simply one of the best beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting and we had a whole 22 oz. bottle to the two of us. I got four of these from our friends at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café in late 2013 and they have been amazing all along but the improvement along the way has been off the charts! So I have chosen this as this year’s birthday beer. Could change my mind but not thinking I will.

Next up for consideration:

Some of the tasties we are already scheduled to drink soon: 2013 editions of Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel, Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and Crux’s Tough Love. There are far more coffee stouts than the Péché, like a 2013 BCBS Coffee, a Stone 2013 IRS Espresso and a Founders’ Breakfast Stout. among a few others.

We might finally get on with our Fort George Cavatica Stout tasting. We have 16 oz cans of regular Cavatica Stout from 2014, along with the barrel-aged versions from the last few years: 2013 Rye, 2014 Rum (also 16 oz cans) and 2015 Bourbon (22 oz bottle). Should make for a fun excursion.

I spy a 2014 Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin slotted for sometime in 2016. Snowed in seems like as fine an occasion as any for it.

Perhaps one evening as we’re winding down, we could sip on a Westvleteren XII (2012) and contemplate our moments of good fortune. I still have three of these that I got in the “fix the roof” six-pack.

Like I said, there are others, listed in the spreadsheet or not, but these are some of the more intriguing and, in a few especial cases, better—fully world class—beers that would fit the extended snowbound occasion.

Stock up on go-to beer

Depending on the timing, I would want a case of Deschutes’ Jubelale. This year’s (2015) is my favorite so far. Every time I drank it I wanted another. Sometimes I chose not to but the “but I want another” was strong for me in this year’s Jubelale. The thing is … I only drink this fresh. Same as with Red Chair. And I do mean fresh. If I can’t verify this is only a month old or less I generally won’t touch it. My choice, I know. Saw a 12-pack at Haggen’s (supermarket) the other day (first week of January) for a reasonable price and I had a tough time rationalizing my way into following my own principles. I adore both of these beers but can only drink them for a few weeks each year as if it isn’t fresh it is not the same to me. I am not so much on this level of freshness with any other beers. Not at all. Don’t get me wrong I like fresh beer (and appropriately aged beers, no doubt) but this is some kind of hyperfreshness fetish. But, to me, when definitely fresh, these are both world class beers of the highest order but when not quite fresh anymore they rapidly start to approach “Meh. There’s better beer available in this town/bar/pub.” I don’t want to be there with either of these beers. So I self-limit in an odd way.

Picked up a case of Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout end of January. This is currently the wife’s go-to beer whenever I am drinking one of the many things I have around that she isn’t into. I also quite like it and generally leave it to her but with a case I can have a few. We’d been buying it by the 4-packs but realized I should just ask “my guy” for a case. Making that request a couple weeks ago reminded me I have no Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in the house either. Went through several cases of that the last couple winters especially as that was my go-to beer. Might need to grab a 6-pack or two and see how it’s tasting. Could need to talk to my guy about that again too.

I have been drinking a boatload of Pelican’s Umbrella Single-Hop IPA with Ella hops from New Zealand as my go-to beer lately. I’ve been loving the heck out of that! Also a bit strange as there are only a few IPAs—of any kind or color—that get me excited. And never one I have bought by the 6-pack! I was so excited when Umbrella was put in 12 oz 6-ers and made year-round. Crazy but there it is. Seems I need a good hop bite with none of that “Is it the roast malts, or the bitterness from the hops/coffee/chocolate/ … WTF is that bitterness?” that we get frequently in many of the beers we love.

Even more lately, I have been drinking Fremont’s Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout in 12 oz cans. Fremont has just recently begun distributing in Bend but I have had several of theirs previously thanks to a local friend, Ryan, who is a big fan of them. In fact, he gave me one of these for my birthday last year. I gave it 5-stars (of 5) and wrote “Very creamy. Fruity. Nice. I like this a lot.” I left out the ridiculous roastiness, the massive mouthfeel during and long after, and the lingering complexity. This is big and chewy and at 8% seems even bigger.

Whoa! just checked Fremont’s website and they say this beer is only available January 1st to February 29th. Oh. Hell. No. Just shot my guy a message. Got a case on its way. This is stocking up on go-to beer, right?

Too late for more Jubelale for me this year but maybe if I truly knew the big one was coming I’d break my prohibition as it would still be a tasty beer, to say the least. I would want a case of at least one of the stouts but preferably the Ten Fidy as we need something Sara is happy to consume without investing lots of thought. Going with the Fremont for now but would not a couple 6-packs of the Barney Flats for something more sessionable and also of Umbrella. Need a little variety in your drinking beer, I do.

Homebrewer

I am a fledgling home brewer so do not yet even have all of the equipment and certainly not any ingredients for brewing up something on the spot—well, that’s a lie as I have a good 3/4 lb or so of Cascade pellet hops in the freezer that were given to me.

I have also not brewed in the snow yet but look forward to it. If I can find a way to make it possible.

I think a nice roasty, toasty porter or stout would be a good match for the weather and goes along with many of my other choices in this post.

“Desert island beer” but colder – snowed in for all of winter

Well … this depends. Is this something available and affordable to me? Is it something I choose for myself or for the wife and I both or something we choose together? Those questions will all influence the answer.

Considering that if it isn’t available to me (for whatever reason) or I cannot afford it (one of those reasons) then I’m not going to get it so we will just forget that blissful group of beers and move on.

I think, as of now, the easy answer is Barney Flats if only I’m choosing and Ten Fidy if I am for both of us, and possibly if we both choose one between us. I would go with the almost sessionable Barney Flats over the not-at-all-sessionable Ten Fidy myself as it would have a bit more range.

If I could somehow get fresh deliveries but only of the same beer I might for go this year’s Jubelale but that’s not really possible over Winter anyway since by then Red Chair has replaced it as a seasonal.

Beer book(s) paired with which beer

Well, there’s the easy answer of the appropriate style with each book in the Classic Beer Styles series from Brewers Publications, for instance Pale Ale with one’s favorite pale. I’m not sure what my favorite pale is although I know I like a few. Poking UnTappd I’m going to have to say either Deschutes Hop Trip, Block 15 Print Master’s Pale, Mazama Oregon SMASH, or Crux The Pale Ale.

I own Pale Ale (Foster), Porter (Foster), Stout (Lewis), and Barley Wine (Allen & Cantwell) (all of which I’ve read) and Vienna, Marzën, Oktoberfest (Fix & Fix) which I have not.

Probably couldn’t get very far at a time with Barley Wine unless sipping very slowly. I’ll leave it to you to choose appropriate beers for these and the following.

Might I suggest some possible combinations for your own consideration:

Boak and Bailey  Brew Britannia with the best approximation [if not in the UK] of English beer, preferably a sessionable one, that you can achieve in your location. Actual British beer would be preferable, with something from one of the upstarts even better. Perhaps you ought sit in your local and enjoy your beer there while you read it. That would be my choice. [Learned to read in bars in college & grad school, basically across my 40s. “Retired” from the Army and started college full-time to finish undergrad degree and eventually grad school.]

Patrick Dawson – Vintage Beer with anything cellared for over three years.

Sam Calagione – Extreme Brewing with some Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, or one of their other off-centered beers [same issue as Barley Wine above, though].

Terry Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts with tasty porters or stouts or an assortment of the various sub-styles if your tastes are eclectic enough. Mine are. I can appreciate a well-made porter or stout of any origin.

There’s also the Brewing Elements series from Brewer Publications:

Stan Hieronymous – For the Love of Hops with a nicely hopped (whatever that is for you), hop-forward beer, with either your favorite hops or some of the newer German varieties or anything from New Zealand.

John Mallett – Malt with tasty malt-forward beers.

Chris White & Jamil Zainasheff – Yeast with tasty yeast-driven beers. [not yet read]

John Palmer & Colin Kaminski – Water with, well, not sure what a water-forward beer would be, but tasty beers where the style is heavily-dependent on the water profile seems a good start. [not yet read]

Then there are potentialities like working your way style-by-style through some of these:

Mirella Amato – Beerology [read, not yet reviewed]

Garrett Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

Jeff Alworth – The Beer Bible [read, not yet reviewed]

Randy Mosher – Tasting Beer

Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries (or your own state/region) with a selection of Oregon (or other “district” as appropriate)  beers

Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer [still need to do a proper review of this]

Pete Dunlop – Portland Beer (or your city)

Joshua Bernstein – The Complete Beer Course [not yet read]

Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium with as many of the great beers of Belgium you can (easily) get to hand. [not yet read]

Leaving the easy to come by—self-evident—beer-related pairings:

Anne Brontë – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with some “home-brewed ale.”

“‘Sine as ye brew, my maiden fair,
Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.’*”

“From ‘Country Lassie’, a song by Robert Burns (1792). ‘Sine’: then; ‘maun’: must; ‘yill’: ale (Scots dialect). Cf. the proverb, ‘As they brew so let them drink’ (ODEP, 85).” 227/433

If you are still reading, thanks. Sorry for going on so long but I was inspired by Jon’s topic, even if it was mostly meaningful to me.

Foster – Porter (Classic Beer Style Series 5)

Porter (Classic Beer Style Series 5) by Terry Foster

Date read: 28-31 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Foster's Porter (Classic Beer Style Series 5)

Paperback, vii, 134 pages
Published 1992 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This is an excellent book! The reason I gave it 4 stars is that the discussion of commercial beers and ingredients available to homebrewers (as in Pale Ale) suffers from age and the march of time.

In the author’s defense I just pulled his Brewing Porters & Stouts from my shelf to read next and its copyright date is 2014. I am so utterly happy at this moment! In the introduction to this he addresses these issues as primary motivators for wanting to revisit the topic.

Table of Contents

  • Dedication
  • About the Author
  • 1. A History of Porter
  • 2. Profile of Porter
  • 3. Porter Brewing – Raw Materials and Equipment
  • 4. Porter Brewing Procedures
  • 5. Porter Recipes
  • 6. Commercially Available Porters
  • 7. Further Reading
  • Glossary
  • Index

Commentary

1. A History of Porter includes Origins, The Nature of Porter, Growth of Porter and its Brewers, Porter Brewing Outside of London, and The Decline of Porter.

“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries has developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).

2. Profile of Porter includes Porter, and Aroma and Flavor of Porter.

“Personally, I would prefer to think of porter as one beer with a whole continuum of roasted malt flavors” (52).

3. Porter Brewing – Raw Materials and Equipment covers Ingredients (Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water) and Equipment. Malts discusses Pale Malt, Crystal Malt, Malt Extract, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt, Roasted Barley, Wheat Malt, Sugar, Flaked Maize, and Flaked Barley.

He is not for all of those and tells us why he is for each ingredient (and in what amounts) or why not.

Dr. Foster, while admitting that porter fermented with lager yeasts exists, really does not want to talk about it. I really don’t have an issue with that for a couple reasons: a) I mostly agree, although I have had a few tasty lager yeast-based Baltic porters; b) I can find those recipes and procedures elsewhere. His reasoning seems to primarily be that “[t]he original and most modern versions use top-fermenting yeasts” and, more importantly, “that there is little doubt that porter is at its best when one of its flavor aspects is a fruitiness due to the presence of esters” (68). I do like some fruitiness in my porters.

4. Porter Brewing Procedures covers Extract Brewing, Grain Mashing, Wort Boiling, Fermentation, Secondary Fermentation and Cellaring, Packaging, and Serving.

5. Porter Recipes

There are seven recipes for a range of porters. Each recipe includes ingredient lists for extract and all-grain batches of 5 gallons along with all-grain for 1 barrel.

6. Commercially Available Porters

Only covered a few American and British porters as they were not widely available when this was written. This section is about half historical commentary at this point.

7. Further Reading

He provides a “limited number of references” for assorted reasons (121). His newer book does a bit better in this regard, going so far as to include the many books used “that are either out of print or very difficult to find” (121).

His recommended starting points are:

Jackson, Michael, The New World Guide to Beer, 1988, Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Corran, H. S., A History of Brewing, 1975, David & Charles Inc., North Pomfret, Vermont.

Final comments

All in all, a good book but I am most thankful that he has published an updated work which includes his newer research and observations on the availability of commercial versions and better brewing ingredients. It also has the added bonus, in my opinion, of covering stouts. As he writes in the Introduction to Brewing Porters & Stouts:   

“While I was busy amassing ream upon ream of notes about porter brewing in the past, modern craft brewing caught up with me as there was a revolution in brewing this style of beer, as well as a huge expansion in the range and quality of brewing ingredients available. It was soon clear to me that there was a need to redo the porter book. But this time, I wanted to not only include results from my research, but also include stouts, since there are really only derivatives of the original porters” (1).

“Hear! Hear!,” Dr. Foster. Stouts are my end of the porter spectrum and the further down that spectrum the better. I can see reasons for separating them in various style guidelines—useful purposes can be served—but, historically, this seems a better treatment, at least in a work like this. Or perhaps it is simple greed as I want to know what Terry Foster has to say on stouts.

I read this as a recommended book for studying for BJCP certification. I am participating in a study group beginning in early March and going for 12 weeks. I am the #1 standby on the wait list and I am assured several people do not show up for the exam so I hope to be taking the tasting exam in July.

This is the 5th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

Date read: 28 November 2015 – 10 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016curr 2015poss

Cover image of Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table

Paperback, xi, 372 pages
Published 2003/2005 by Ecco
Source: Own

Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part One: The Basics
  • 1 What Is Beer?
  • 2 A Brief History of Beer
  • 3 Principles of Matching Beer with Food
  • Part Two: Brewing Traditions
  • 4 Lambic
  • § Gueuze
  • § Fruited Lambics
  • 5 Wheat Beer
  • § Bavarian Wheat Beer
  • § Belgian Wheat Beer
  • § Berliner Weisse
  • 6 The British Ale Tradition
  • § British Bitter
  • § British Pale ales and India Pale Ales
  • § British Brown and mild Ales
  • § British Porter
  • § Irish and English Stout [what he says re IS]
  • § Scotch and Scottish Ales
  • § British Barley Wines and Old Ales [what he says re BW]
  • 7 The Belgian Ale Tradition
  • § Belgian Pale Ale
  • § Flanders Brown and Red Ales
  • § Saison
  • § Trappist and Abbey Beers
  • § Golden Strong Ales
  • § French Bière de Garde
  • 8 The Czech-German Lager Tradition
  • § Pilsner
  • § Helles
  • § Dortmunder Export
  • § Dark Lager
  • § Vienna, Märzen, and Oktoberfest Beers
  • § Bock and Doppelbock
  • § Schwarzbier
  • 9 New Traditions—American Craft Brewing
  • § American Pale ale, Amber Ale, and India Pale Ale
  • § American Brown Ale
  • § American-Style Wheat Beer
  • § American Amber Lager
  • § Steam Beer
  • § American Porters and Stouts
  • § American Fruit Beer
  • § American Barley Wines
  • 10 Unique Specialties
  • § Altbier
  • § Kölsch
  • § Smoked Beer
  • Part Three: The Last Word
  • Glassware, Temperature, Storage, and Service
  • Beer with Food: A Reference Chart
  • Index

This book is in three parts: The Basics, Brewing Traditions, and The Last Word.

Part Two is by far the largest section of the book, 281 of 383 total pages. Each section here consists of a bit of history of the style, a section on the style with food, and a list of notable producers with descriptions of specific beers and their pairings refined even further.

The are four color photo sections with gorgeous photos of brewhouses, regional specialties with their accompanying beer, and so on, throughout the book. There are also lots of black & white images throughout the book.

Chapter 3 on the Principles of Matching Beer with Food contains the following sections: Aroma; Beer Styles; Impact; Carbonation; Bright and Dark; Bitterness; Malt, Sweetness, and Caramelization; Roast; and After Dinner—Matching Desserts and Cheeses.

“Paying that little bit of attention, both to your food and to your beer, is the difference between having an “OK” culinary life and having one filled with boundless riches of flavor. Learn a little bit about the amazing variety and complexity of flavor that traditional beer brings to the table, and in return I promise you a better life. I’m not kidding—it’s that simple” (39, emphasis in original).

The Aroma section gives us lots of words for the various aromas that come from beer ingredients and other foods but the gist is that, “Harmonizing aromatics between the beer and the food is one of the guiding principles of matching. There’s far more to beer than its aroma, but your nose will often lead you in the right direction” (44).

The Beer Styles section emphasizes determining style as “… style describes what the beer tastes like, what the aromatics are like, how strong it is, what sort of body it has, how it was brewed, and even what its history is” (45). There is a cheat sheet provided on the facing pages of 46-47. “”Cheat Sheet”: Beer Styles and Flavors” provides quick, useful information, such as Bitter is “Fruity and racy, subtle, low carbonation, robust hopping” where IPA is “…, amber, strong, dry, robust hop bitterness and aroma” (46). There are approximately 40 styles elucidated via this shorthand on these two pages.

Impact is the section where we get, in a sense, the most information. First up, “When we are matching beer and food, the most important thing we’re looking for is balance. We want the beer to engage in a lively dance, not a football tackle. In order to achieve the balance we seek, we need to think about the sensory impact of both the beer and its prospective food partner. “Impact” refers to the weight and intensity of the food on the palate” (49). What follows this is a several paragraph “thought exercise” discussing various beer and food combinations that help elucidate further what is meant by impact.

Carbonation tells us that “In finished beer, carbonation gives beer a refreshing lift, concentrates bitterness and acidity, and cleanses the palate. It also lifts the beer’s aromas right out of the glass and presents them to your nose. … The carbonation in beer lifts and scrubs strong flavors from your palate, leaving you as ready to enjoy the next bite as if it were the first” (50).

On the next page, Oliver discusses the range of carbonation and how that works with assorted food choices.

In Bright and Dark we learn that “Brightness refers to a dry briskness on the palate, sometimes with a refreshing zip of acidity. It also refers to citrus or apple-peel aromatics, sometimes from the yeast strain used, but also from some hop varieties. … Darkness refers to roasted flavors such as chocolate, toffee, caramel, and coffee, as well as the flavors and aromas of dark fruits such as plums, raisins, and olives. Sweet spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg belong here too; this is one reason they are often added to stews. Mushrooms are a dark flavor …” (52).

For Oliver it is still all about “harmony” (52).

We also get the highly applicable admonition to “Let’s not confuse bright and dark flavors with light and dark colors, though,” as they are not the same (52, emphasis in original). Often a dark beer has a dark flavor and vice versa with light but this is definitely not always the case!

Under bitterness, we get a discussion of the Italian love of bitterness to start and end a meal, for instance, with something like Campari as an aperitif and a sharp espresso to end it and how this contrasts with Americans’ general distrust of bitterness.

“Well-hopped beers have the ability to cut through heavy sauces, fats, and oils, leaving the palate cleansed and refreshed rather than stunned” (54).

Also critical to understand regarding bitterness in beer, Oliver tells us that “Hops are not the only ingredient that can lend bitterness to a beer. Roasted malts can also add their own bitterness—just as espresso has a roasted bite, so does an Irish stout, and only partly from the hops. In beer, bitterness is focused and accentuated by lowering serving temperatures, higher carbonation, and a low residual sugar content. Conversely, malt sweetness, warmer serving temperatures, and lower carbonation will temper bitterness” (54).

In Malt, Sweetness, and Caramelization we are told that “The warm, breadlike flavors of grain are more prevalent in some styles of beer than others, making them better companions for certain foods. Malty beers tend to be full-bodied and round on the palate” (55).

Perceived sweetness, which is a corollary to malt, depends on four factors: residual sugar, bitterness, carbonation and serving temperature (55). Oliver does a good, succinct job of how those work together and individually affect the beer to generate a perceived sweetness.

Roast expounds on the flavors of roasted malts—primarily across the wide ranges of coffee and chocolate—and how they work with foods.

Desserts and Cheese round out this chapter with some specifics on those topics.

I jumped into a lengthier discussion of this section since, at heart, it should be the core of the book. Alas, I fear it is not. I do believe that Oliver has done a good job overall but it is spread far more throughout the book than concentrated here. Much of what you need to know to pair well is in those detailed style and specific exemplar pages.

Some of the books that have followed this pathbreaking one have done a better job of providing the basics of how to proceed on your own versus the main gist of Oliver’s pairing knowledge being passed on in the style sections, such that the reader must piece more together. Then again, “shoulders of giants” and all that.

For instance, Mirella Amato in Beerology, does a fine job giving one lots of angles from which to explore while giving the subjectivity of individual taste its due. Randy Mosher also does a wonderful job in a short amount of space in Tasting Beer, which I highly recommend overall. Both authors give credit to Oliver, as they should. Another writer, also respecting Oliver, who does a fine job on the topic in a short space is Jeff Alworth in The Beer Bible.

Another early beer and food writer given her due by many is Lucy Saunders. We have, and I have read, her 2013 Dinner in the Beer Garden, which we helped crowd fund. This is more of a cookbook with little in the way of principles but one could learn from it, albeit more slowly perhaps even than Oliver. Saunders has also written Cooking with Beer (1996), Grilling with Beer (2006), and The Best of American Beer & Food (2007), sadly none of which I have seen.

The other writers often bring in the idea of “contrast,” which is an important idea. For Oliver it is (or was) all about the harmony and balance, which is a great place to start but not the only way to go.

I am also hearing really good things about Julia Herz and Gwen Conley’s Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros but I have not seen it yet. I am looking forward to it though.

On cheese and beer pairings I doubt that you can do better than Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher.

The best way to proceed may be to peruse one or more of these books and choose a point or two of entry and bravely venture out with (or without) any firm guidance and experiment. Remember to record and grow your experiences from there. They are your taste buds and your palate, after all. No one can tell you how things taste but you.

From English and Irish Stouts with Food:

“The harmony between stouts and chocolate desserts is so big and so wide and so obvious that every restaurant that serves desserts should have at least one stout on its list. If you get only one thing from this book, make this point the keeper—stouts are an absolutely perfect match for chocolate desserts” (144, emphasis in original).

Beer with Food: A Reference Chart is a 7-page quick listing of beers that go with specific foods, ranging from Aioli to Wild boar.

Highly recommended but perhaps not as the first book one peruses on the topic. I feel you can get an easier and quicker start by digging into the short chapters in Mosher or Amato (see above), or others. Oliver is the book you’ll turn to to get a deeper appreciation but one which you’ll have to cull from the entire book.

Foster – Pale Ale

Pale Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes 2nd ed. (Classic Beer Styles series no. 16) by Terry Foster

Date read: 9 – 16 November 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Foster Pale Ale, 2nd ed.

Paperback, xi, 340 pages

Published 1999 by Brewers Publications

Source: Own

Contents:

Acknowledgments

Introduction

  • 1 The Evolution of Pale Ale
  • 2 Style Definitions and Profiles of Pale Ales
  • 3 Brewing Pale Ales
  • 4 Packaging and Dispensing Methods
  • 5 Pale Ale Recipes
  • Appendix A Recommended Commercial Pale Ales
  • Appendix B Suggested Reading
  • Chapter Notes
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • About the Author

Review

I found this quite interesting and I believe it will be very useful when I start picking/modifying recipes and brewing on my own. I do enjoy pale ales and bitters but I believe I like something a bit more “English” and far less West Coast. Seems a good reason to perfect a recipe or four across the spectrum of pale ales, as considered by Foster.

It is a tad out of date in ways but mostly in a (probably) non-critical way. The prime example is the many beers referenced as either comparisons or as commercial examples that are no longer in production. Some of the references to individuals and companies are also a bit dated, as are some of the developments in, say, hops and other areas. The book could stand a bit of an update but it is not significantly less useful either due to its being dated.

Introduction

“This book is an attempt to foster interest in one of the world’s great beer styles and to encourage you to brew it and drink it” (4.) Sounds like a plan to me.

Much expanded along with new material. “I determined that I would not simply revise the earlier book but would write a new book from the ground up” (4).

  • References, more.
  • More discussion of bitter as “largest class of pale ale derivatives in England” (4).
  • Dispense/Real ale section is “considerably more comprehensive” (4).
  • “… more emphasis on extract recipes, since I feel I downplayed that important aspect of homebrewing in the first edition …” (4-5).
  • Historical section “much expanded” (5).

1 The Evolution of Pale Ale

In a bit about the use of adjuncts in English brewing after the Free Mash Tun Act of 1880,

“Further, sugar and cereals are not adjuncts. The term adjunct implies that something was added. Sugar and cereals add nothing; they are merely cheap malt substitutes (62).”

That seems like an unsustainable claim. Lots of sugars add flavors along with doing specific things to, say, the body as do all of the other cereals used. Sugar and cereals are frequently serving in the role of “merely malt substitutes,” whether cheap or not, but many of them contribute to aspects of the beer that are not addressed via standard malts, either, and certainly add something. They are also frequently not cheaper than malt. Small point, indeed, but I felt it needed noting.

2 Style Definitions and Profiles of Pale Ales

“For further interesting discussions on the need for style definitions, read “The Last Wort” by Alan Moen and “Beer Styles: An International Analysis” by Keith Thomas8” (104).

Full citations from Chapter Notes [but good luck finding these; not sure I am going to be able to get my hands on them even].

  • Moen, Alan. “The Last Wort: A Question of Style — The Search for Ales beyond the Pale.” Brewing Techniques (September 1997): 98, 86, 87. [I have no idea what this page numbering means.][Verification of the citation but not available here.]
  • Thomas, Keith. “Beer Styles: An International Analysis.” Brewery History Journal (Summer 1975):35-40. (302) [Not sure if this is complete but is not verification; doesn’t disprove anything either.]

Foster decided the style was a bit more complex than he thought in the the 1st ed.; particularly when one adds dispense type in (104). He includes the English bitters, English pale ale and English IPA. As American subtypes he includes American pale ale, American amber and American IPA.

3 Brewing Pale Ales

He recommends a two-step mash for two-row pale malts as Fix and Fix (see below) demonstrated that a 30-minutes rest at 104 °F (40 °C) before going up to saccharification temperature improved yields as much as 15%. He omits the protein rest that they also recommend as he thinks most two-row malts are highly modified enough and to include it would negatively effect “both foam and malt flavor” (147.) I believe that is a fairly common understanding of most modern fully modified malts.

Thus, he mashes pale ale styles in two steps: 104/155 °F (40/68 °C) (147).

  • Fix and Fix. An Analysis of Brewing Techniques. Boulder, CO.: Brewers Publications, 1997, 24-30.

A lot of good information is covered in this chapter and includes useful tidbits about all ingredients and processes prior to packaging.

4 Packaging and Dispensing Methods

He calls for a pale ale specific glass to be designed as “Pale ale is one of the most important beer styles in the world…” (246).

The Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada and Spiegelau-designed IPA glass works well with pale ales, especially pale ale and IPA. It truly enhances the aroma, especially hop aroma. But they are fragile, even if that is mostly perception, and a real pain in the ass to wash. [I hand wash my beer glasses with LFD soap]. As to the maybe fragile, I had one for a good two years or so and it got some good use as that is the glass I wanted if I had a pale or IPA to drink. Not my most prominent styles by consumption but one of the few that clamored for one specific glass. Less than two weeks ago it came apart in my hand while I was washing it. I was very lucky in that the deep slice into the pad of my left right thumb [I am left-handed] was at a shallow oblique angle.

I kind of want two to replace it but they are a pain.

[I am not getting into the why of the whole line now from Spiegelau of style-specific glasses that are variations on the shape of this one; there is definitely a kind of marketing or schtick angle to them. The IPA glass does truly enhances hop aroma in a way that I much prefer; it does not—for me anyway—affect the flavor though. I would love to try the stout glass as they may be my favorite styles; no declarations. The barrel-aged one looks quite useful but in a general way already covered by our glassware. The stout potentials, glass-wise, are where we shine already so justifying a spendy “weird” one is tough. I won the IPA glass at a Sierra Nevada tasting. The stout glass was done with Lefthand and Rogue. Not sure where I am going to win of one them.]

5 Pale Ale Recipes

Recipes are provided for all of the substyles, English and American, that Foster identified and all include three recipes: 5-gallons malt extract, 5-gallons all grain, and one-barrel all grain.

The ones that I am particularly interested in are the special bitter and the English pale ale. American pale at some point, of course. Then a fine-tuning of and to my taste to find a mix of English and American pale. Perhaps with southern hemisphere hops. Who knows?  I certainly do not as I have yet to have a pale ale I can’t live without. I have had tasty ones, and there are some I prefer at this point, but they are not “perfect” pales to me. Looking forward to exploring.

Appendix A Recommended Commercial Pale Ales

This is a prime example of content in dire need of updating. I cannot begin to know about the English examples but I guarantee some of those are no longer in production or have radically altered in brewery consolidations/closures. The list for the US certainly is problematic: Ballantine’s IPA, Bert Grant’s IPA. Some others are questionable and most are of very limited distribution even if extant.

Appendix B Suggested Reading

Includes the following topics of suggested resources:

  • Malt Extract Selection
  • Malt Analysis
  • Methods for Preparation of Crystal Malt
  • Barley-Based Syrups
  • Hop Varieties
  • Traditional Fermenters
  • Yeast Strain Selection
  • Yeast Cultures
  • Brewing Water Chemistry
  • Counterpressure Bottling
  • Handling and Selection of Kegs
  • Brewing Real Ale
  • Where to Find Real Ale
  • Source of Suppliers

Chapter Notes

Lots of good sources in both the suggested readings and the chapter notes.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in brewing pale ales and/or the styles Foster places within their kin: English bitters, English pale ale, English IPA, American pale ale, American amber and American IPA.

Bostwick and Rymill – Beer Craft

Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill

Date read: 23 October – 01 November 2015
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BostwickandRymillBeerCraft

Paperback, 176 pages
Published 2011 by Rodale
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Contents:

  • Authors’ Note
  • Beer History
  • 1 Learn: The Brewing Steps; The Ingredients
  • 2 Make: The Great Recipes; Bonus Steps
  • 3 Drink: Tasting and Troubleshooting
  • 4 Design: Branding Your Brewery
  • 5 Repeat: Outfit Your Brewery; Log Your Brews
  • Glossary
  • Resources
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments
  • Credits
  • Craft Brewers of America (spread throughout; short interviews with Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Bret & Eric Kuhnhenn (Kuhnhenn), John Maier (Rogue), Greg Koch (Stone), Ron Jeffries (Jolly Pumpkin), Lauren Salazar (New Belgium), and Shane C. Welch (Sixpoint).

Comments:

This book focuses on making small batches of beer: “We brew on a budget, in a tiny apartment kitchen, without any fancy equipment. We brew from scratch, with all-natural whole grains instead of canned extracts. We like inventing our own recipes. And we brew in small, one-gallon batches—they’re quick, easy to experiment with, and they actually fit on our stovetop” (7).

The book is heavily illustrated and almost all of them work well. It is a small book being 7” h x 6” w and just over 0.5” thick.

All-in-all, if you are interested in brewing smaller bathes then this book might work well for you. If not, it still has some relevance but this is not the only book on homebrewing, nor does it aim (or claim) to be. I’m still undecided on my batch sizes but am considering going smaller so this was a very useful book for me. For basic brewing I would turn to other books first, and they do list a couple of great ones in the Resources section.

I am not really sure why a small book on brewing needs a section on beer history but we get 14 page of it; well, a few of those are large infographics but still. Roughly 8% of this book on brewing is essentially wasted on general beer history.

Chapter 1 Learn covers sanitization, the six brewing steps, and the ingredients. There is a “Field Guide” for malt, hops, and yeast, along with practical tips on all of these ingredients. There is also another handy infographic which shows the basic grain bill for the ten styles of beer that they cover.

Chapter 2 Make consists of The Great Recipes, which has recipes for 10 styles: pale ale, brown ale, porter, stout, Scottish ale, wheat beer, saison, abbey ale, Pilsner and barleywine. The Bonus Steps section looks at specialty grains, spices & herbs, extra hops (techniques such as first wort hopping, using a hopback, …), sugars, fruits, barrel-aging, and sour beers.

Chapter 3 Drink: Tasting and Troubleshooting discusses pouring beer, tasting, troubleshooting problems, flavor identification, and beer and food pairings. For each of the ten styles a cheese plate and dinner menu is provided; well, barleywine gets a dessert menu instead. Glassware is the last thing covered.

Chapter 4 Design: Branding Your Brewery provides ideas for label design, labeling, and bottle caps. At first I thought this was a waste (and it still gets a tad too much room perhaps) but one of the authors is a designer and editor. According to the About the Authors, Jessi Rymill “collects labels and bottle cap and wonders why the beers with the weirdest designs usually taste the best” (inside back flap). With that in mind it makes perfectly good sense.

Chapter 5 Repeat. Outfit Your Brewery covers equipment, while Log Your Brews provides sheets for recording the information about your brews and one for tasting notes.

The Resources page is short but contains some great references. It is broken down into Beer Craft (their websites & Twitter), Supplies, Organizations, Magazines, Books (broken into Recipes, Advanced Techniques, Tasting and Pairing, History, and Design), Websites (broken into Tasting and Rating Beer; Beer Sample Testing; and Labels, Caps, and Breweriana).

To get a feel for the design of the book visit the book’s page at http://beercraftbook.com/ They also have a blog.

Recommended for a look if you are interested in brewing small batches of beer or if you are interested in designing labels and/or bottle caps and have no idea where to begin.

DigiWriMo 2015 Huh?

Over at my other blog, habitually probing generalist, I wrote about my participating in Digital Writing Month, DigiWriMo, this year.

What does that mean for this blog? Well, since I am hoping to write a fair bit this month, some of it will most likely end up here. I intend to write a post for The Session #105. In fact, as soon as I am done here I need to prep my double feature. Taking a British twist. More on Friday.

I am also, finally, working my way into homebrewing here at home. Toward that end, I helped someone brew the other day and I will be helping him bottle several beers in a couple weeks, I am designing recipes to brew at two other friend’s houses, been reading brewing books and making lists of equipment and processes that I can use in my situation here, and even signed up for an all-grain homebrewing class through the community college that I work at part-time. I took it two years ago with the same instructor, Tim Koester. It was a great class and I learned a lot but now I have specific questions and want to go through the steps in a more formal classroom setting again. I need to do but I also need structure in my education.

I know I am way behind on book reviews here, and as I said have been reading plenty—brewing and otherwise—and hope to get a few of those addressed too.

Anyway, hopefully DigiWriMo will give me the motivation to move forward with some of these things in this space. If there is something you would like me to address feel free to make a suggestion. I am not making any promises but if I find your prompt interesting I may well run with it. Cheers!

Beechum and Conn – Experimental Homebrewing

Experimental Homebrewing: Mad Science in the Pursuit of Great Beer by Drew Beechum and Denny Conn
Date read: 01-18 October 2015
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover of Experimental Homebrewing by Beechum and Conn

Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2014 by Voyageur Press (an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group)
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The Basics
  • Chapter 2: Recipe Design
  • Chapter 3: Splitting Batches
  • Chapter 4: Equipment Nerdery
  • Chapter 5: Off-the-Wall Techniques
  • Chapter 6: Favorite Experimental Styles
  • Chapter 7: Conventional Brewing Ingredients
  • Chapter 8: Experimental Ingredients
  • Chapter 9: Evaluating Your Experiments
  • Chapter 10: The Experiments
  • Acknowledgments
  • Resources
  • Works Cited
  • About the Authors
  • Index

I definitely enjoyed this book and will be getting myself a copy once I start brewing. And let me say, this book has me seriously considering how to make that happen, soon.

Even if you do not want to go down some of the more experimental roads in this book it is great placing the entire context of the brew day (and more) into an experimental framework. The book can teach you a lot whether or not you ever get near an alternative ingredient.

Highly recommended; even if you don’t enjoy every bit or it isn’t entirely relevant to you I bet you’ll find something to really make you think about your brewing.

As a beer blogger, the almost inevitable question people have when they hear this is “Do you brew your own beer?” I’m kind of tired of hearing it. Is that, honestly, the most interesting question most people can think of when hearing “beer blogger”? ::sigh:: [This is in no way a negative comment re homebrewing but this “direct” link between writing about beer and brewing your own seems mighty tenuous to me. There are far more beer drinkers than beer brewers.]

That said, I am doing something about the not brewing. I have taken an all-grain brewing class (Tim Koester through COCC; great) and have helped a couple friends once or twice. I have been meaning to help them more and they have offered up brewing days but, for assorted reasons, I have not made them.

I believe I have finally figured out a system that will work for me; or, at least, part of the system. Now I am trying to find out all the answers I need to get the correct equipment the first time. Fermentation temperature control is still a mostly open question but it is ultimately solvable and I have a good idea what that’ll take.

To show how serious I am, I joined the American Homebrewers Association yesterday. I (we, really) have been members of our local homebrew club COHO for a couple years. This Thursday I am going to help a guy brew on a system much like I’m considering to a) help and get experience and b) pester him with questions and acquire observation(s) of his process.

So, back to the book.

Introduction
“Close your eyes for a moment …” (7).
Contains an short intro; About Our Process which lays out the scientific method [Question, Hypothesis, Prediction, Test, Review and analysis] and how to apply it to brewing, What We’ll Discover shows that there are questions homebrewers have that aren’t those of any ongoing research, and Keeping the Experiment Alive where they bring up the accompanying website http://www.experimentalbrew.com/ and their community of IGORs “(independent group of researchers)” (9). That is, you are encouraged to join the experimental team.

Chapter 1: The Basics
Lays out their basic assumptions and a minimalist guide to all-grain brewing and one for extract brewing, including equipment lists; Small Batch Brewing (One Gallon B.I.A.B.) which is the bit that really got me thinking; A Brew Day with the Experimentalists runs through a brew day but, in essence, since they live 844 miles apart you get two views on Preparation, Mashing, Sparging, and Boil. The chapter ends with the “Most Important Tips” from both of them.

Chapter 2: Recipe Design
Before they teach you how to play with recipes they strip things down to “the bare essentials” (23). The authors show us “a tasty beer that lacks focus and is needlessly complicated, like its creator” (25). It’s a DIPA using 6 malts and 8 hop editions of 7 different hops. So, we get a SMaSH blonde, Pils and barleywine. If you’ll allow the stretching of a SMaSH by the addition of Belgian candi syrup then you even get a Belgian quad. With a little more purposeful expanding from beyond our minimalist constraints we get an oat beer, and a simplification of that troublesome DIPA. There’s The Recipe Roadmap with Denny which discusses thought processes and just getting on with trying the thing you’re thinking; experimentally, of course. Unless you are lucky enough to create a perfect recipe the first time and have your processes nailed you need to run experiments. A several page section Chris Colby on Recipe Design [former editor of Brew Your Own magazine] follows. After a little discussion on fooling your nose and mouth we get a white stout recipe.

Chapter 3: Splitting Batches
This chapter is all about the various ways and reasons to split a batch of beer. That simple; yet, quite helpful.

Chapter 4: Equipment Nerdery
Both authors list their “Basic Build-out” equipment list under the headings Planing the Brew, Yeast Management, Brew Day, and Fermenting and Packaging. Toolbox suggestions and storage ideas follow with tools for cleaning and sanitation, temperature checks and “science” coming next. Instructions for a “Cheap ’N’ Easy Mash Tun” and for a “Cheap ’N’ Easy Fermentation Temperature Control,” along with making a draft hopback (Randall), and thoughts on RIMS and HERMS and playing with a Raspberry Pi are included. Tips on chilling are also included.

Chapter 5: Off-the-Wall Techniques
Adding flavor via teas and tinctures, using that hopback, canning starters in advance, brewer’s invert sugar recipe, Eisbeer technique, dry hopping, Brett, blending beers, soda pop and more, along with a few more relevant recipes, constitute this chapter.

Chapter 6: Favorite Experimental Styles
Wheats, IPAs, tripels, sessions, porter, and saisons are the star of this show with a couple experimental variations on each presented.

Chapter 7: Conventional Brewing Ingredients
Thirty-two pages covering the four basic ingredients of beer, along with a section on Sugars, and information on assorted techniques as applicable.

Chapter 8: Experimental Ingredients
Here we get information on produce, spices, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, caffeine, mushrooms, meat, peanut butter and candy and how to use them.

Chapter 9: Evaluating Your Experiments
Tasting beer, some science of tasting, finding tasters, types of tests and an example of running a tasting comprise this chapter.

Chapter 10: The Experiments
Experiments for the mash, the boil, fermenters (materials & shapes), yeast, wort prep, fermentation, pre-packaging, packaging, aging, and serving are all included.

An example of a mash experiment is “No or low sparge: Can you skip the sparge step altogether? Or sparge less? Some brewers swear by no sparging to make beautifully smooth beer for a few dollars more malt” (213). This one is of intense interest to me as I am considering going mostly the no sparge route.

First wort hopping and hot side aeration are a couple of the boil experiments, with aeration being an example from wort preparation. Most of these experiments have a code number so it can be found in the IGOR section of the book’s website. This allows you to run the experiment and to join in the discussion of how it worked (or not), of what difference you found. Collaborative science in action. All in the name of beer.

Acknowledgments

Resources
Lists some useful looking websites and a couple books with those being mostly standards.

My final comments

Recommended. I enjoyed the book and although I doubt I’ll ever be putting a pepper near a kettle or fermenter there are a lot of great ideas and good info on how to implement them. Try your public library first if you want to have a gander at it before buying. That’s where I found it.

Beer book reading update

Yesterday on my other blog I posted about some issues in life and letting some things go, hopefully in a non-judgmental way. But it is difficult.

I am currently having to let go of some things that are part of how I have defined myself lately. That hasn’t been going all that well and letting things go will most likely mean any “progress” will also be delayed. Which complicates things. ::sigh::

Books

Anyway, in the spirit of disclosure in that post I want to do the same here. The following is a list of beer-related books I have read sometime in the past 17 months or so and have not yet reviewed.

Some will not be. Even though I am not a huge believer in “Don’t say anything unless…,” I will not be reviewing some. Besides, often my gripes aren’t as generalizable as I would hope, which is a good reason to (sometimes) keep them to myself.

Some I definitely hope to still review. No idea when though. Or if. I said “hope to.”

[Dates are date finished.]

Posts

On the same note, the same needs to happen with so many blog posts. I am so far behind. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be a beer blogger if I don’t actually blog about the beer things I do.

Things from two years ago. Things from two days ago. … [I was going to make a list but not sure I see the point right now.]

Letting go

I must come to grips with letting much of this stuff go, at least for a while, for the sake of my health.

Maybe some of the reviews and/or posts will get written some day. For now, I am moving them completely “off the table” though.

If you don’t feel the need to follow a beer blogger who isn’t really blogging much of his beer events or beer-related musings I fully understand.