My most ambitious project, though, is a series of pseudo-historic beers where I apply some age-old techniques and ingredients to modern recipes to see what sort of effect they have. I've been doing a lot of reading lately on English ales from the 18th and 19th century and wanted to try my hand at some of the now largely obsolete approaches they took. I plan to use large quantities of old-fashioned toasted grains, like Amber and Brown Malt, which were the main specialty grains in British beer before the technology existed to make Chocolate Malt and Roasted Barley. I also bought a 50 lb. (yes, fifty pound) sack of Maris Otter malt from Warminster Maltings to use as the backbone for all of these beers. These self-proclaimed Malt-Stars hand-select barley from local farms to undergo a traditional floor-malting process identical to that used 200+ years ago, resulting in a richer, more robust base malt. I hope that using Maris Otter consistently will add a distinctively British flair that will tie all of the beers together. On the process end of things, I hope to employ techniques such as barrel-aging, souring, and the blending of different beers, both fresh and old, to create new concoctions.
The first beer in the series is a Mild Porter. The goal was to make something slightly roastier than a modern Brown Porter, but not quite as heavy on the coffee notes as a Robust Porter. I wanted to use a substantial amount of Brown Malt as the main flavor component, but incorporate some roasted malts to relate it back to modern beer. The term "Mild" in contemporary British brewing means low in alcohol, but 200 years ago that wasn't necessarily the case. "Mild" denoted beer intended to be consumed fresh, whereas "Keeping" beer was intended for aging. This recipe was designed to be mid-strength so that I could split the batch for both Mild and Keeping Porter. Two gallons of Mild Porter were bottled from the batch, whereas the additional three gallons were racked onto charred oak and pitched with a mixed culture of wild yeast.
The Mild Porter is delicious right now, albeit slightly darker and roastier than I anticipated. Next batch, I'll likely scale back the Chocolate Malt. It also had some fermentation issues. The gravity stuck at about 1.035 and wouldn't finish, so I added additional yeast, which went to town and dried the beer more than anticipated. It could probably use a touch more residual sugar. That being said, it tastes fantastic and has some of the most phenomenal aromatics I've coaxed from a beer thus far. The Brown Malt makes itself particularly apparent here, with a rich, warming scent reminiscent of the crust on freshly baked bread. It isn't exactly a warm weather beer, but its delicious enough that I don't mind at all.
The Keeping Porter is still fermenting with the wild yeast, and will continue to do so for the next few months, but when it's ready to go, a portion will be bottled straight and another will be blended. I'll be sure to document both of those here for your reading pleasure. Check out the recipe below and enjoy!
Yield: 5 Gallons
7-1/2 lbs. of Maris Otter Malt
1 lb. of Brown Malt
1 lb. of Crystal Malt 40L
5 oz. of Chocolate Malt 350L
3 oz. of Smoked Malt
3/4 oz. of Northern Brewer Hops (60 min.)
3/4 oz. of Fuggle Hops (20 min.)
1 tsp of Irish Moss (20 min.)
1/2 tsp of Yeast Nutrient (10 min.)
1/4 oz. of Northern Brewer Hops (End of Boil)
1/4 oz. of Fuggle Hops (End of Boil)
4 oz. of Molasses (End of Boil)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale Yeast
1. Mash grains at 155 degrees for 60 minutes.
2. Sparge at 175 degrees.
3. Boil for 60 minutes following the above schedule.
4. Cool rapidly and transfer to carboy, leaving sediment behind.
5. Pitch yeast, aerate carbon and secure with airlock or blow-off.
6. Ferment at 70 degrees for two weeks.
7. Bottle directly from primary. No secondary fermentation is needed.
Original Gravity: 1.058
Final Gravity: 1.009
SRM: 23 (Dark Brown to Black)