I haven't posted much about Porter recently. I was going to say "haven't written much about Porter". But that wouldn't be true. I've been writing about it a lot. Just not making any of it public.
I've just noticed that Tizard lists "tasting of empyreum" as a fault in one of the quotes below. Whereas Hitchcock says "a fine empyreumatic flavour" is a necessary characteristic. Great having sources that agree so precisely. I really need to dive into "Malts and Malting" to see if that has any answers. It only has 600 or so pages.
Thanks for all the comments about empyreumatic. I guess "burnt" is closer than "smoky".
The nature of Porter was still very dynamic and diverse. The move away from brown malt had changed its character. "This liquor is different both in colour and flavour from all other extracts of malt and hops, yet, like them, has been subject to a variety of changes, owing to the capriciousness of the public taste;" (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 46.)
Hitchcock gives one of the few precise descriptions of Porter found in old brewing texts:
"The qualities of the porter at present admired are, perfect brilliancy, a dark brown colour approaching to black, considerable bitterness, with a fine empyreumatic flavour, and a close creamy head. Without these requisites, porter is little valued." (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 46.)
It seems some Porter was even deliberately oaked:
"One brewer (Thrale), imagining it [Porter] had the smell of oak, in which he was not mistaken, and knowing that newly manufactured oak timber imparted a brown tinge from the tannin which it contained, had his store vats made of this material" (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 484.)
Early London Porters were strong beers by modern standards. Early trials with the hydrometer in the 1770's recorded Porter as having an OG of 1071° and 6.6% ABV. Increased taxation during the Napoleonic War pushed its gravity down to around 1050-55°. For the rest of the 19th century it remained in the range 1055-60º.
The huge popularity of the style prompted brewers to produce Porters in a wide variety of strengths. These started with Single Stout Porter at around 1070°, Double Stout Porter at 1085°, Triple Stout Porter at 1095° and Imperial Stout Porter at 1100° and more. As the 19th century progressed the Porter suffix was gradually dropped. British brewers, however, continued to use Porter as the generic term for both Porters and Stouts.
The move from brown to pale malt continued. London Porter grists of this period contained between 70 and 85% pale malt and just 10 or 15% brown malt. The small proportion of brown malt was possible because of the introduction of black patent malt. Though the speed of its adoption had varied from brewery to brewery, by the second half of the 19th century all large Porter brewers in London were using it. Some also used a portion of amber malt, especially in stronger Stouts.
Tizard espoused on the diverse nature of Porter:
"even in London a practised connoisseur can truly discover, without hesitation and by mere taste, the characterisctic flavour that distinguishes the management of each of the principal or neighbouring breweries; and a more striking difference is still discernible amont some of the Dublin houses, none of which yield a flavour like country-brewed porters, many of which are shockingly bad, being sometimes blinked, oftem tasting of empyreum, some black, some musty, some muddy, some barmy, and some having the predominant taste of Spanish juice, which is a not uncommon ingredient, and generally speaks for itself when taken upon a delicate stomach. This diversity is caused by a variety of circumstances, known and unknown, as some of them are profoundly veiled in secrecy; but at present as much from the colours and proportions of the grists brewed, as from any other cause." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 484.)
Here are some example grists provided by Tizard:
Porter grists according to Tizard 1846 :
grist 4____3____25 _____15___57___100
"The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 499.
Variations in colour of, in particular, amber and black malt meant that brewers often had to adjust the proportions of each used to maintain a constant colour and flavour in the finished beer. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 499.)
Grist 1 was the cheapskate's favourite and produced a beer with the taste of liquorice. Grist 2 made an ordinary Porter, though better in quality than from grist 1. Grist 3, with a portion of amber, was better. Grist 4 was better still and in common use outside London. Grist 5 was excellent, but best of all was grist 6. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 499-501.) By when Tizard was writing in the 1840's, London Porter breweries were mostly using around 80% pale malt in their grists.
Session 103: Dear Beer, Lie To Me. Again. - It's the first bit of the month. Session time. I almost forgot. A bit like my subject for last January's 95th edition of the Session when I last hosted, ...
5 hours ago