The Session 109 Roundup: Porter

Thank you all for your participation in this month’s Session! The roundup follows, and while I hope I got them all if I somehow managed to overlook yours PLEASE do leave a comment below and I will correct the oversight immediately.

Your contributions

Juan Fajardo of Beer 511 (Juan’s Beer Blog) was first with his post, “The Session #109: Porter.” Having “settled pretty clearly on saisons, “farmhouse” ales, and sours. porter holds some strong and dear associations” for Juan. We learn about his journey into homebrewing, porters, and of a couple porters from Lima, Peru.

John Duffy at The Beer Nut went “Back to the source.” We learn about two versions of porter brewed for Marks & Spencer by Meantime, London Porter, and Greenwich Winter Porter with cinnamon and allspice. “Simple is best where porter is concerned. In 1750 and today.” Can’t say I disagree.

Gary Gillman’s Beer et seq. “The Session – What Is Porter?” provides a brief history lesson on the differences between porter and stout, and why it is all porter in the end. There are times and reasons to differentiate but this is certainly my thinking.

Jessica Boak  & Ray Bailey at their eponymous Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog dash off “Session #109: Porter” where they tell us “It is like drinking a Dickens novel.” Hear! Hear! Boak & Bailey spit out some rapid fire thoughts on porter and remind us that they have done some previous writing on the topic. Think if it as background material for this post, if you will.

By the way, have you read their book Brew Britannia? You should consider their Gambrinus Waltz also but I have so far failed to review it. Consider this a hearty recommendation. [Amazon US | Amazon UK]

Alistair Reece at Fuggled in “#TheSession – Head East Young Man” takes a look eastward and provides a story of Baltic Porter.

Sean Inman of Beer Search Party lets us know in “The Session # 109 – “Porter”” that he is clearly not a fan of porter with it being “…,  well, boring and solid” but seeing as this is an election year in the US he does bring in several political references. Who said beer and politics can’t mix?

By the Barrel; or, Bend Beer Librarian, “Porter (The Session #109),” in which I, your host, waffle on about a local cherry Baltic porter and The Brewers’ Project beers (currently) available from Guinness.

Thomas Cizauskas of Yours for Good Fermentables reminds us in his “In Praise of Porter. (The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.)” that “Modifiers heaped upon modifiers yield differences of kind not degree.” Be “honest and respectful” and call your Imperial chocolate coffee peanut butter porter something besides porter. I fully agree. We also learn about his homebrewing and professional brewing background that led to this respect for porter.

Kate Bernot at Draft Magazine writes an ode to porter after first almost dismissing them as a topic in her “We should all swipe right on porters” post.

Looke at Likely Moose “The session – Porter” could only find one in his British supermarket, Guinness West Indies Porter, which was “nice,” but ends with a question, “My question, are dark beers really just for beer geeks because the powers that be think most people dont want to drink it.” I certainly hope not.

Derrick Peterman at Ramblings of a Beer Runner is in search of porter in his post, “The Session #109: In search of Porter.” Derrick has to work at finding a few porters among the plethora of other choices, whether at his local bottle shop, the supermarket, or at local bars. He succeeds but the numbers are not heartening to us fans of the style.

[Despite what I said above about agreeing with Thomas that too many modifiers/ications takes one away from the style itself I would love to try that Heretic Chocolate Hazelnut Porter. Maybe I’d decide it had gone beyond porter but was tasty nonetheless. That said, getting nuts right in beer is, in my opinion, almost impossible. Peanuts, “Blergh!,” but I have had one or two well-executed hazelnut beers.]

Jay Brooks of Brookston Beer Bulletin gives us “Session #109: Loving Porter.” Please tell me that you are aware of Jay Brooks’ more recent undertaking, Typology Tuesday! It takes place on the last Tuesday of the month, and addresses where he prefers that The Session itself had stayed centered. As he says, “So I want to make more of a concerted effort to explore the nature of different kinds of beers, how they can, or should, be organized, divided, dissected and shuffled around, preferably with one in my hand.” There’s a tad bit more to it if you need a better explanation but see that Typology Tuesday page. In January we did Barley Wine; February was Bock [Sadly I was unable to find one and was unable to participate.]; March will be Irish-Style Dry Stout, for which I have already secured a couple; and April will be Saison. Please consider joining Jay and others and let’s get this look at styles off the ground and running.

Why did I write all of this? Well, as one of my suggestions was to “Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages,” he did just that for Robust Porter. Check it out.

A Good Beer Blog, “Session 109: Porter And Our Shared Georgian Culture,” is written by Alan McLeod and brings us an image “from the commonplace book of William Maud, evidently of Wetherby, York, England, b. 1787 who served as a customs official in Great Britain; he was employed at the excise office in Leeds in 1830.” It includes recipes for both strong and common porter. As he writes, “Porter is Georgian Britain’s gift to us all. It comes in many forms.”

Quite possibly my favorite contribution from Georgian Britain.

Jon Abernathy of The Brew Site in “The Session #109: Porter” drinks a classic local [Bend, Oregon] porter, the flagship of what I often think of as our “little local brewery” [due to the pub] despite the fact that they are squarely in the top 7 or so craft breweries in America, along with a much newer, adjectified, er, flavored, porter from one of our newest local breweries that really has people talking.

Sorry about the timing regarding “Porter,” Jon and Sherri. But coincidence, serendipity, outright strange things cropping up seems to be some kind of metaphor or description of my life.

At my blog, By the Barrel; or, Bend Beer Librarian, my wife, Sara Thompson contributes “The Session: Lovely Time Warp” in which she expounds on the Bend Brewing Lovely Cherry Baltic Porters we shared and a lesson she learned regarding beer awards.

** Updated submission 08 March 2016 **

“The Session #109: Porter” by Dan at Community Beer Works in which we learn that he is just as confused as many others as to what exactly a porter is; “For me, stouts, porters and brown ales are sort of like a pie graph mixed with a venn diagram that then gets beer spilled on it ….” Sounds about right to me.

Some of us might want to pull that apart a bit but I actually kind of love that metaphor for the (few) non-pedantic moments in life.

Final comments

All this talk of porter and flavored porters, whether for or against, put the wife and I in mind of a few of ours that need drinking. We settled on our last Ninkasi Ground Control Imperial Stout released in April 2015. It is a flavored with Oregon Hazelnuts, star anise, and cocoa nibs and it is fermented with ale yeast shot into space. Seriously.

Photo of a bottle, box, bottle cap and glass of Ninkasi Ground Control Imperial Stout

I think this is one of the best nut-infused beers that I have ever had but nonetheless did not want to risk the hazelnut going rancid. I first had it less than a week after it was released in the tasting room of the brewery in Eugene, Oregon (April 2015). It was particularly exquisite 2 1/2 months later. From there it has tapered off, in my opinion, but it is still quite tasty. It will never be my favorite Imperial stout, as I much prefer them “simple” as John said and “honest and respectful” as Thomas said. It was quite good with a bit of homemade chocolate chip cookie, which brought out a really nice rum barrel-aged quality that it doesn’t actually have. Yum.

Thank you all for your contributions to this month’s Session and I hope we can find room to appreciate one another’s viewpoints whether or not we agree.

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.

Barley Wine: Typology Tuesday #1

This is my post for the first Typology Tuesday: A Session About Styles, the brainchild of none other than Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin. The first topic is Barley Wine. [I would have hoped to do better than this post but I only learned of Typology Tuesday today. I now have the next couple scheduled in Google Calendar.]

Typology Tuesday logo

Let me begin by stating that barleywine is one of my favorite styles, although I much prefer mine to the English-end of hopping. As Derrick Peterman wrote at Ramblings of a Beer Runner:

“I’ve had some good American Barley Wines, but found a fair share of them to be either unbalanced palate assaulting monstrosities or bloated, muddled concoctions struggling beneath the weight of all their heavy flavors.”

This past weekend I had the good fortune to judge at a commercial craft beer awards. On the second day, Sunday morning at 9 am, out came the American Barley Wines (BJCP 22C). “Well. Alrighty then. Glad I didn’t get too buzzed during Saturday’s judging and that I had a good breakfast,” said I.

We were told there was another table doing American Barley Wines so we had decided we only wanted to advance three. We had initially been brought four but they were cold still so we asked them to go ahead and decant any others and bring them to us. Not long after we got five more.

Score sheet and small plastic cup of barleywine

After a short break to let the first four warm up some we dove in. We couldn’t find anything particularly wrong in any of the first three, except some oxidation; something all of us preferred but were they within guidelines? “Flavors will smooth out and decline over time, but any oxidized character should be muted (and generally be masked by the hop character). (BJCP 2015)” We also did not find them exceptional.

Thus, beginning with the first one we set them aside until we had a few more under our belt. We did this to the first three. Finally after the fourth one we started narrowing them down. We had one or two that were too heavily oxidized and one with DMS and diacetyl. We, of course, had to retaste the first three. After getting to the ninth one and having weeded it down to a potential three we got brought four more.

OK. We quickly had them verify that we were in fact the only table with barley wine and that there were 13 in total. When we finished we thought we had passed on five to the medal round but it turned out to be only four. We got fresh pours from new bottles of all of them and got to work.

One was easy to remove as it was certainly odd man out and pushing the style guidelines in a couple ways even though we all quite enjoyed it. From there we moved on to ranking the other three and while third came easy, ranking the other two was much harder.

When we were done (thankfully that was the entirety of our morning) I found myself still sipping the odd man out. Realizing this I had one more sip and added it to the dump bucket. There really was no good reason to be putting more barleywine in my body!

Except for a couple of these, they were all quite drinkable. Some were not to my preferred palate in a barleywine but they all made you want another sip. They were mostly all well-executed although some more than others, of course, and the one I preferred the most was not exactly to style. Such is life.

Some were more heavily oxidized than others but that is how I prefer my American barleywines! I am one of those folks who age these beers at least 9-12 months before opening. I also age them no more than about two years as all that staling hop character can get unpleasant quickly. English barleywines need little aging and can last years and years, in my opinion and experience.

I will never judge barleywine (or any other style) at GABF or the World Beer Cup, as Jay Brooks has, but I feel privileged nonetheless and learned a lot from the other two more experienced judges, one a long-time homebrewer and one a long-time homebrewer and professional brewer.

A few barelywines wrap themselves sinuously around my soul while doing their utmost to fire the hell out of my pleasure receptors in a profound and spectacular way. Generally the ones that do are less bitter than those that don’t. But if I must have bitter bombs on occasion I could do far worse than American barleywine.

I am so very glad they exist as a style.

My 5-star checkins of the style per UnTappd are (I have had at least 60 distinct Americans):

  • Firestone Walker 2012 Sucaba
  • Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws 2013
  • Dogfish Head Olde School 2009 (~4 years old when drank)
  • Amnesia 10th Anniversary

I also see Firestone Walker Helldorado 2015 there but that is not an American barleywine, folks.

My favorite English barleywine (per Untappd) and only 5-star (Helldorado belong here too) is Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2009. And, honestly, I’ll take the infected or non-infected version. Have only had the infected version now, twice. Delicious. We really need to try one of our 2014 Mirror Mirrors soon.