Saturday, November 28, 2009


To say that I have been in a funk lately, would to be putting it mildly. I have not been interested in brewing, and definitely not in the mood to write. My brother and I have been making and breaking loose plans to do our yearly pumpkin beer for well over 2 months. We just could never get the ingredients, or find the time. Most of this was my fault. I don't know if it was the weather changing cooler, the busy time of year with all of the holidays, my over indulgence on various beers during beer week and the Great American Beer Festival in September, or just the general state of mind I have been in, but I considered giving up this blog, and began to wonder if I was entering a dormant period in my brewing.

Finally, I think my brother has had enough. He had long run out of beer, and even the 12 pack of red ale I gave him more recently. He decided he was coming over to brew the day after Thanksgiving, ready or not. This was a good tactic, because it made me at least commit to it. Ordinarily, I put a lot of research into formulating a recipe. I read about the style, and think about what we like commercially and why. This time, not so much. I just didn't have the will or the time to get going on it.

We decided that pumpkin was too complicated and we weren't sure that we could get our hands on pumpkin due to a poor harvest, and that we both wanted to try something new and a little more robust. We settled on Porter. I decided to adapt a clone recipe of Anchor Porter. I used a yeast from Anchor's brewery (Wyeast American II, purportedly used in Anchor Liberty), and modified the chocolate malt to pale chocolate malt on a whim.

Porter is reportedly the first mass produced beer. Common practice in the early 19th Century was to blend new (green), aged, and/or stale beer to get a drinkable beer. The drinkability of the beer was dependent on the bartender's ability to appropriately mix the beers, and the cellar man to rotate and keep the beers stocked and conditioned in the right proportions. Porter was formulated to taste like the blended beer. It was a robust drink compared with the brown or pale ales of the day, and was favored by laborers so much so that it was named after the Porters who loaded and unloaded trains. Stout is a offshoot of Porter and was often referred to as Stout Porter. Nowadays, Porters are classified by the AHA of either Brown Porter or Robust (brown, closer to brown ale, robust closer to stout). Both are of medium alcoholic strength, perhaps 4-6% (more for Robust less for the Brown), medium/full body, dark and malty with little hop flavor or aroma. The dark grains give it that burnt or coffee flavors, and is complemented well with additions of chocolate, coffee, or other aromatic flavorings. Porter's can be made in a export variety of greater strength and bitterness and is either referred to as an Imperial Porter or a Baltic Porter. Baltic Porter was made in England for export to the Baltic nations (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, perhaps Finland and Russia). Anchor Brewing in San Francisco revived the Porter style in the United States in 1975 with the release of their Anchor Porter.

All went smoothly during our brewing process yesterday afternoon (with afternoon temps reaching the 60's and dipping down to the 30's by the time we finished after dark), and we had visible signs of vigorous fermentation within a couple of hours of pitching the yeast. My brewery's fermentation area is doubling as Santa's Workshop (or Warehouse, actually) right now and I need to get the Christmas Lights out today, which will make more room. I will snap pictures of the Porter in the next day or two. The nice thing about Porter is that it will be ready by Christmas and New Year's.

I have already made plans to brew again when my brother in law is in town. I do want to figure out what we are going to brew, and be ready with my normal amount of research and preparation....I do hope that I can get my heart into it by then.

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