Friday, May 15, 2015

Recreating History: Home Brewing a 1744 Porter

1744 Porter Home Brew
By David Duncan

Do you like Beer and History? How about combining the two! As a home brewer, I have been experimenting with beer recipes for quite some time.  I am by no means a master brewer, just a guy who loves beer—drinking it, as well as brewing it.  The idea to brew an historical recipe is not unique, indeed I used the George Washington “Small Beer” recipe for inspiration.  However, when it came to actual brewing, I went with a 1744 Porter instead of Washington’s recipe.

George Washington's
"Small Beer" Recipe
The first President's personal recipe for "small beer," appears in a notebook dating from 1757 that Washington kept while he served as a colonel in the Virginia militia.  Unfortunately, the recipe is problematic and if translated into modern ingredients, it does not make a good tasting beer according to many comments on beer message boards. So, apologies to General Washington, but his recipe will be left to history and not my Beer Fridge.

When it comes to beer, I am all about basic home brewing.  So, I embraced the 1744 Partial Mash Recipe from Brew Your Own Magazine, December 2013 Issue.
The ingredients for the 1744 Porter:
9.5 lb. Amber Liquid Malt Extract
1 lb. 2-Row Pale Malt
1lb. Brown Malt
0.5 Black Malt
12 AAU Columbus Hops
Wyeast 1098 British Ale Yeast
Priming Sugar for Bottling

Brewing the 1744 Porter
The brewing of the 1744 Porter followed the standard process of crafting beer. The crushed grains were placed in a muslin bag and allowed to steep in two gallons of boiling water. This takes place for thirty minutes and we were careful not to allow the temperature to rise above 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This process is historically the same, as it involves activating grains to turn them into a malt grain. This removes the starch and releases the enzymes, and at this point it is now wort (beer). Wort is the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer. It contains the sugars that will be fermented by the brewing yeast in order to produce alcohol.

The malt extract was added to the wort and boiled for another ninety minutes. The malt extract gives the beer its body and adds additional sugars. Then the hops were added. Hops are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in the beer, but they are also used for aroma. In the end, hops balance the sweetness against the bitterness of the beer.

The wort was then quickly cooled to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and three gallons of water added to the wort.  The yeast was then added to the beer which converts the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide.  At this point a sample was taken to measure the original gravity, it measured at 1.078.

The beer was allowed to ferment for seven days when it was then transferred to a secondary container to allow fermentation for an additional two weeks. This step is called the two-stage secondary fermentation process and allows the beer to have more clarity and an overall better, purer flavor.

After two additional weeks, we started the bottling process. The 1744 Porter was transferred to a bottling bucket and priming sugar added.  When bottling, we always dissolve the priming sugar into two cups of boiling water. The priming sugar adds carbonation to the Porter.  At this point, another sample was taken and the final gravity was recorded at 1.021.

Although I was attempting to recreate a 1744 Historical Porter, we did use modern ingredients and equipment to make it.  However, I judge the intent to be as important as the authentic historical concept.  So, what is a Porter?  Porter by name is mentioned as early as 1721, and seems to be a more-aged development of the brown beers that were being made in London.  Indeed, Porter was the first beer to be aged at the brewery and dispatched in a condition fit to be drunk immediately. It was the first beer that could be made on any large scale and were strong beers by modern standards.

For a first attempt at recreating a historic beer, I am incredibly happy with the results.  The 1744 Porter has a great aroma and color, and based on several friends reactions, it really hit the tasting mark.  I would heartily recommend this recipe to fellow home brewers.  It was definitely well worth it! 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. Great post, and good to read, thank you!

    I struggle with the whole brewing process, but if I ever get a chance I am emulating you!

    The little I know can add that Porters were a peculiarly London phenomenon like Champagne and Serrano ham, but I may be corrected on that score.