Sunday, March 10, 2013

East India Porter Tasting

Usually when I brew a historical recipe, I try to stay as true as possible to the ingredients and processes that were employed when the beer was originally brewed. For porters, this often means I have to make my own brown malt, add brett/bugs, and then wait an eternity before I can start drinking the stuff. However, that didn't happen with this batch. I brewed this beer in late November and while I had plans to let it age for six full months before I did anything with it, as is often the case in life, some things just can't wait. After two months of conditioning in the keg, I started drinking this beer a month ago and it fast became the most popular beer on tap. Even my friends who have absolutely zero interest in drinking or hearing about historical beers, were going back to the tap for seconds with this one.

Barclay Perkins 1859 EI : Historical Beer

Appearance - Pours an opaque, inky black color with a large tan head that slowly settles leaving nice lacing. Retention could be a bit better.

Aroma - Heady, perfumey floral-English hops and a strong chocolate/coffee liqueur, similar to many craft-brewed Imperial Stouts. Some higher alcohols.

Taste - Dark roasted malt with a very strong coffee and chocolate character. The malt is full flavored and layered; biscuits, espresso, liquorice, and chocolate-covered coffee beans. Bitterness is high and the hops lend a pleasant herbal character that melds well with the (sweet) malt. While the yeast is largely buried under everything else, the beer finishes with some mineral character.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is low and the beer has a thick and viscous mouthfeel that rolls off the tongue. The beer finishes medium-dry.

Drinkability & Notes - I really dig this one. It has a lot of the things people look for in big and chewy craft beers, while at the same time, it tastes much different than your average (modern) porter. The real kicker with this beer is the sheer volume of hops used in the boil - more than 1/4 lb of low AA%, whole-leaf Kent Goldings - as the hops permeate the brew with an intensely floral/herbal character that you just don't get by using a small amount of high alpha hops. What I like most, however, is the amount of coffee and chocolate flavor found in this beer. If you are somewhat wary of brewing historical recipes, do yourself a favor and give this one a try.

Additional Thoughts:

From a purely "let's brew a historical beer" perspective, this batch is largely a misfire. I used modern brown malt, I didn't age the beer for nearly as long as it would have been, and I didn't dry hop it. On top of that, there was no Brett involved, nor did the beer gain any acidity from lacto/pedio/acetobacter. But that's all ok...

Looking back, there isn't much that I'd change to this recipe. The malt bill is golden and I bet it would make an absolutely smashing RIS if you upped the gravity 20 points and applied the same hop treatment with a more flavorful variety... cascade comes to mind. A lower attenuting yeast would really up the "richness" too. I'd love to try this recipe with wy1318.

Lastly, this beer tasted great a few weeks in the keg and really didn't require much time conditioning before it was ready to drink... surprising, considering the amount of brown malt in the recipe. Moreover, I am glad I did not add any Brett to this beer, as such an addition probably would have spoiled the flavor (high roastiness and bitterness doesn't go so well with sour/funk).

6.8% ABV, 90 IBU, Wyeast 1028 London Ale. Recipe Here


  1. I'm thinking about making this with some Target hops I bought recently. If this is a bad idea, now's the time to talk me out of it.

    1. I've never used target hops before, although I hear they have a nice earthy character that probably would be nice in something like this. Or, maybe, use them as part of a blend?

    2. You made your own hornbeam-smoked diastatic brown malt, but you've never used target? Just when you think you know someone. Well, I have 14oz, so it's full speed ahead. I wanted to brew it when I saw it on SUABP, and based on your review I'll definitely brew it now. By the way, love the blog.

  2. Sounds great Will. I've nearly finished all my porter I brewed at about the same time as you. Nothing historical about mine, but I must post a review on my blog soon. I'm getting more into the darker beers and might give yours a go later in the year.

  3. Now when you say up the gravity by 20 points, we talking base malt only upping, or up the entire grist by keeping the percentages the same?

    1. Increase the entire grist to keep the %'s the same. You don't want to dilute all that wonderful brown and amber malt flavor.

      I will certainly be rebrewing this beer in the imperial stout form, figure 1.085-95 gravity, 100+ IBU, and maybe the same yeast... or not. The only thing that's totally in the air right now is the hops. Go all EKG route again or try the more American approach?

    2. Brewed a 5.5 gal batch of this today but subbed in cascade ala Rogue Shakespeare Stout, and used dry Nottingham as that's what I had. Other than those subs, I followed the malt bill exactly - never used brown malt before and wow what an aroma from the mash.

      Fermenting in my fridge set to allow a 66f ferment, pitched at 64f and allowed to free rise to 66. Pure o2 for 1 min. Can't wait to taste this one.

    3. Awesome, let us know how it turns out! Notty should be a great yeast choice for this beer. I recently picked up two packets of the stuff, thinking I'd use them if I decide on the RIS version of this. Still trying to figure out the hops tho.

      Man, I really want to brew this beer now...

  4. Back again. Took a gravity reading today after a week in the bucket, and found the beer at 1.027FG from 1.070OG?? I don't know what happened as I pitched a rehydrated pack of Nottingham, pure 02 for 60 seconds at 2-3L/min (flow meter) and mashed at 155 for 60 min. I'm not thrilled about it finishing high, but I must say the gravity sample tastes great, so instead of trying to "fix" it, I'm going to rdwhahb and enjoy it, albeit a touch sweet.

    Oh well, there's always a rebrew, and this already is one of the tastier dark beers I've had the pleasure of tasting the gravity sample from.

    1. Bummer about the high FG, although with all the brown malt and high bitterness, you can probably get away with it being a bit sweet. It is strange that the notty kicked early; only time I've had attenuation problems with it, is when I did a warm rehyrate and pitched it into a cold wort, probably killing off half of the yeast cells.

      One week is still early though, good luck with the beer.


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