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
Paperback, 211 pages
Published 2014 by Skyhorse
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.
Table of Contents:
- 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
“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.
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.
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.