Taste Is Relative, But Diverting

 

As we see in this 1909 article from American Brewers Review, detailed instructions were given how to avoid the “pitch taste” in beer. It was said, “The prevention of ‘pitch taste’ has always been a matter of vital importance to the beer Brewer”.

Yet as I explained recently, until then a faint taste of pitch was considered part of the profile of lager. American beer writers, including the New York brewer George Ehrets, mentioned this trait in books before 1900. And only 10 years earlier, Budweiser was advertised as having a “pitchy bouquet”.

Which is it?

Contradiction, and making a virtue of necessity, characterize human endeavour in general, and not least brewing, where the prime and overriding factor has always been delivery of a weak alcoholic solution to the public. National Prohibition proved this starkly when near beer became a damp squib…

In an era when large wood vats were used to age the beer for months, and these were lined with pitch, some of the taste got into the beer, even bottled beer, where pitch-lined trade casks were not used. For draft beer, the effect had to be more marked.

Once Pfaudler tanks lined with glass were substituted by the larger brewers at any rate, the pitch taste went away at least for bottled beer and was reduced in draft beer. Indeed we have seen that Anheuser-Busch advertised the Pfaudler tanks at virtually the same time as the article above appeared. I doubt the two things were coincidental.

(The glass enamelled tanks were substituted not to rid the beer of the pitch flavour but to render it more stable, less likely to sour for example from hard-to-excise microflora resident in the wood of the older tanks).

Hence articles such as these. All the old lore of the “incense” smell of pitch, of the romantic odours of Bohemian towns and how they infused the finished product, went out the window.

In my view, differing commercial rationales explained the virtues of corn and rice in brewing, of pasteurization, of short lagering, finally of reduced hop content. It’s not really any different today. Do the very pronounced tastes of U.S. hops have any inherent value? Not really. Indeed some of them were rejected by European brewers just for that reason, yet today they are the acme of terroir.

Is heavy gravity brewing a bad thing, or Nathan conical fermenters viz. their effect on top-fermenting  yeast? No, it is what it is and we attribute value to the results, provided it is beer.

This is normal as taste is relative if not almost arbitrary. We like a heavy and bitter-sweet beer because we want to, not because it is inherently superior to a light and almost tasteless one. At one time, and still for many, it is precisely the obverse.

Creating a detailed classification of tastes is an economically useful and often absorbing endeavour, but ultimately an unnecessary one. Perhaps the Russians were the most honest in that when it became possible to produce virtually tasteless alcohol as drink, they did precisely that, in the form of vodka.

Did the advice in the 1909 article work? I doubt it. A road made of tar always has a faint smell of the material, particularly on a warm day. It can’t have been much different for a barrel of beer. I am quite sure I remember the pitch taste in Pilsner Urquell in the 70s and 80s, lightly musky as I recall it.

Now that I think about it, incense can smell like that. It would be great to see it again, because it is interesting – that’s reason enough. Craft brewers are the perfect people to do it.

Note re images: The first image above is via HathiTrust and source is linked in the text. The second is from Wikipedia, here. All intellectual property therein or thereto belong solely to the owners or authorized users. Images believed available for educational or historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

Riding The Wave

img_20161203_114052_editContinuing the theme of my last post, I show here part of a drinks menu from a restaurant in the vicinity of Grand Central Terminal – as midtown as it gets. It is near The Beer Bar, whose sign I showed yesterday (but not from that pioneering establishment, founded 1994. The Beer Bar now blends easily into New York’s beer scene but was a scenemaker in its day).

Kona, the Hawaii-originated, nationally distributed brand from Craft Brew Alliance, makes an appearance. So do two beers from Sam Adams, Rebel IPA and Boston Lager. Two wits appear, both well-known, had it been me I’d have selected one of the two shown and a wit from the New York area.

Stella, the new Bud, is front and centre as is Bud Light – a doughty survivor from the old days – but after that it’s big crafts again, plus Chimay White and Guinness.

This type of list is typical around town but often with variations such as Lagunitas or Stone, or perhaps Barrier, the New York-area brewery whose profile increases every day. Even the average street bar often offers a salting of distinctive local or other craft brands.

The posted list nonetheless is very acceptable with some fine beers, my only argument is there is no characterful porter or stout. Now if Guinness released its 5.3% extra stout currently on supermarket shelves as a draft, that would fix that as it is much tastier than regular Guinness. Of course a strong stout or porter from a New York state craft would be appreciated, too.

This type of menu increasingly will characterize the big cities and finally smaller areas, with adjustments that take in local brands and big craft distributed in the area. Will it displace the diversity of a true local beer scene? Not at all. Brewpubs and beer bars specializing in great beer will ensure further choice.

gamme_4bouteillesConsidering the realities of business and distribution in many parts of the U.S., the menu shown is a reasonable working out of trends started in the 70s by Michael Jackson, the American Homebrewers Association, All About Beer magazine, Jim Koch, Ken Grossman, Fritz Maytag and many others. Ale Street News, the long-time “brewspaper” edited by Tony Forder, played its part and is still to be found in beer hangouts all over Manhattan.

N.B. The term “chalice” for a characteristic Belgian beer glass, was originated by Michael Jackson. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Beer and Whiskey in New York Today

img_20161203_113321I hadn’t been to New York in seven or eight months and renewed acquaintanceship. We stayed in Queens just over the Queensboro Bridge, part of Long Island City, for a few days.

I liked being in a different borough. Although very close to Manhattan the feel is quite different, more “neighbourhood” and the surroundings more like you see in upstate New York, Buffalo and similar.

Prices were more reasonable and the Ditmars section had excellent restaurants, one memorable night was spent at a Greek restaurant there, Stamatis. It was all locals having a great time. We sipped Greek red wine, eschewing for once the beer.

I’ve mentioned on Twitter how American whiskey prices have skyrocketed in recent years – a victim of its own success. Store owners told me there is large demand in Asia for bourbon and rye and it has put pressure on domestic stocks and therefore prices. Of course stateside, demand has spiked too. Still, there are good values for the persistent. Heaven Hill, more as a public service I think than anything else (a nod to the working people who kept bourbon going for decades before hipsters cottoned to it), keep the price of Evan Williams Black Label reasonable, and there are one or two other values, and specials and reductions, for those who look.

Otherwise, be prepared to spend from $40-$80 and more for stuff that cost half or less 10 years ago. By the standards of malt and single potstill whiskey, still a good deal I suppose. The cocktails scene seems to have lessened in intensity, and the “Prohibition” craze in ratio.

The standards remain, like Manhattan, Sazerac, Old-Fashioned. The craft distilling scene is where the action is but prices again are understandably high with a riot of flavours and distilling approaches.

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My feeling is, the small guys should focus more on straight bourbon and rye. Four years or less in some cases can produce some fine whiskey and I feel they would do better with this than all kinds of fruit and unusual wood flavourings. Beer Barrel Bourbon (the only new element being finishing in ex-beer barrels) shows the way, as it is a very good shot of whiskey by any standards. But then too, one can’t gainsay experimentation and coming up with that “new” flavour that may catch on. Clearly many are still trying, as at home, more power to them.

On the beer side, the established craft specialty outlets are still going great guns. Interest is as high as ever. On the licencee side (bar and restaurant trade), midtown at least a changeover has occurred from five years ago and more when many still carried Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Corona, Mich Ultra, maybe Heineken, maybe Sam Adams or Guinness. Or a variation on that theme.

Now, the default beer offering is craft: Goose Island, Sam Adams or its excellent Coney Island spin-off, Brooklyn Brewery, Lagunitas, and similar. Heineken and Corona still sell well too, and Stella Artois is omnipresent. It’s significant though that the mainstream bars have turned the corner in this way.

The craft speciality bars are as strong as ever, featuring a wide variety of styles and tastes. But it’s in the larger market where you see that the penny has dropped. I predict that will happen nation-wide too in about five years, certainly in ten. This is why the large brewers have bought up craft properties, they know it’s coming. While big craft or macro tend to dominate that craft availability, nonetheless it shows public tastes have changed. The big urban centres are always the harbingers.

 

 

East Side, West Side

Did I Say The Bases Were Covered?

From a late 19th century drinks manual (via HathiTrust), we see below a simple but dignified ad for an American ale brewer, one of the holdouts against the lager invasion.

It’s a summum of the great 1800s Anglo-Saxon top-fermentation world, a last hurrah for a tradition which began in Colonial days, transplanted from where it started by people of the same blood. (Well, the Dutch had a part in it, too).

We have mild ales in pale and amber versions, two strengths of the former. We have the proud Burton, probably dark amber and strong.  And East India, the name old and romantic albeit barely 50 years known outside Britannic circles in Asia. The X ales again but given stock treatment, probably a bit tart. And porter – we know what that is. And brown stout, the same but stronger and with more substance.

Haddock & Langdon were active in the last quarter of the 1800s in New York, on East 14th Street. The brewery closed in ’96. Haddock was an engineer, from Buffalo, NY.

Just under loomed the competition ever nipping at the heels. The German-sounding Hermann lager brewery, but owned by an Anglo-American (presumably), named Burr – America always was a mixture. It’s on 18th street, but over on the west side, what is now the West Village.

East side, west side, all around the town, fine beers from a dual tradition conspired to crack the crown. All and more are now returned to what Jack Kerouac called the “Manhattoes”, a territory unto itself to which Beeretseq now decamps for a few days.

N.B. Actually I think Kerouac got the Manhattoes poeticism from Walt Whitman.

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Textiles, Threads, London Beer

When I spoke at Castro’s Lounge on the weekend, I was asked to give a simple example of threads and porter in a textiles context.

In The Art of Weaving, by Hand and by Power (1844) by Clinton G. Gilroy (image below via HathiTrust), we see a discussion of striped cloth where thread is used in relation to porter (aka portee, portie, portee).

Here, three threads per dent (also called split) was used, presumably a typical application. For various fabrics the definition of porter could be different, e.g., for jute it was 40 threads to define the basic type (20 splits x 2), which makes sense given the looser construction of jute or burlap. Better qualities used more threads per split, e.g., tarpaulin.

But the basic principle is the same. All the threads of a porter helped form the fabric. I believe that each thread-type for mixed beers – two threads, three threads, up to six – were a porter, just as a two-thread striped cloth and three-thread striped cloth were. It was all porter, the cloths and the mixed beers. Finally the amalgamated (entire) beer was a porter too – hence the name – only it was prepared by the brewer, ready-made – the weaving was done so to speak.

Consider too that the term loom was also used at the time to describe a brewery. I documented this in earlier writings here.

Thread counts in the length were a way to grade cloth. The variables were the numbers of splits in the porter, the number of threads in the splits, and the number of porters in the reed length. Dents is from French, for teeth. It’s the idea of a gap to be filled with thread, the same for split of course. Porter as a textiles term is from the French portée, the idea of an entry or space again.

All this technology was understood in the late 1600s in Spitalfields, London, and used for all cloths. The only difference was, looming later became more automated. Silk manufacture had some particularities as well but they are not relevant to the aspect being discussed.

This is the first new theory on the origin of the names porter and three (etc.) threads for hundreds of years. I think, of course, I’m right, as further discussed in my 2015 postings referenced in my blog post yesterday.

Oh, a top grade of silk in this period was black silk, used for hoods and parts of the dress of prosperous women. That’s what a good strong porter tastes like, eh?

 

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My Presentation on Porter and Stout at Castro’s Lounge in Toronto

“Rear View Mirror” Presentation at Castro’s Lounge, Saturday, November 26, 2016

I presented on this topic over the weekend. We had a dozen signed up, not a large number but Castro’s, a compact room, was almost full from normal trade anyway, so not many more could have been accommodated.

I started by noting that “porter” as a term for beer is first documented in a 1721 letter published in Nicholas Amherst’s Terrae Filius (1721-1726). I noted that previously, brown ale and brown beer were popular in the city, but also other beers of varying colour and strength.

I stressed that the subject of porter is complex and would deserve a book on its own, indeed a series of them examining the topic from different standpoints. I chose to focus on the points itemized below, but obviously another 20 or 40 could be added, e.g., the Harwood origin story, Obadiah Poundage’s letter of 1760, Feltham’s Picture of London account, the origin of brown malt and the oak and alder link, tax and price issues, technological innovations, the invention of black malt by Daniel Wheeler, the rise of mild ale, etc.

bottle-padrino-photo-pngThe group was comprised of about half “new hands” and the others more experienced in the beer palate with a couple knowing some good detail on beer in general. We tasted Sleeman Porter, Durham Black Katt stout, Mackeson Milk Stout, Flying Monkeys Cadillac Graveyard Oatmeal Stout, Wellington Imperial Russian Stout, Padrino Porter, and the house threw in Black Oak Nutcracker, a spiced porter.

All were from Ontario except the Mackeson, brewed in Caribbean, and Padrino (Barcelona). All were bottled or canned except the Black Katt and Nutcracker, which were non-cask draft.

Fuller Imperial Stout was on the original list, but couldn’t be sourced in time. The last two were substituted.

The part of the group not familiar with beer technics preferred the Sleeman Porter, then the Flying Monkeys or Black Katt. The others liked the Padrino a lot (I thought it was great, the best that day). The Wellington seemed a little off, with an acidic edge. This actually suited my purpose as I pointed out some 1700s-1800s porter acquired a similar “hard” edge and was often used in blending.

Chris and Craig in the group blended the Wellington with the Flying Monkeys and it was excellent!

Few enjoyed the Mackeson, but I did.

Below are the main points I addressed. I’ve lightly edited them to reflect more how the discussion actually went.

  • earlier terms for porter include porter’s ale, porter’s beer, porter’s guzzle, porter’s liquors
  • traditionally, it is thought the term comes from London porters who moved parcels and merchandise as they favoured the drink
  • “three threads” and other thread numbers preceded porter as drinks
  • “porter” aka “entire butt beer” was said to replace a blend of beers, the “threads” (thirds?)
  • Gary Gillman has advanced a completely new idea that London Huguenot silk weaving terminology explains the terms three threads and porter, by reference to cloth quality*
  • the greater the number of threads of each “porter” in the loom (aka portée, portee, portie), the higher the quality of cloth and its price
  • the higher the number of threads in the thread beers, the greater the price, as documented in 1713 at the Fortune of War, Goodman’s Field, part of London’s silk-weaving district
  • Gillman projects the weaving terms porter and thread were applied jocularly to mixed beers to label their ascending qualities by price, e.g. two threads was two pence the pot, three threads three pence
  • this is the first new thinking on porter history for 200 years
  • the term stout preceded porter, there was pale stout and brown stout
  • porter and stout are essentially the same except stout was sometimes stronger and richer
  • the thread beers and mixes may have been a way to avoid tax on strong beer, but possibly also to attain a better palate
  • with a tax crackdown, arguably entire butt/porter emerged to replace the most popular mix, three threads
  • three threads and porter were the same price for a good part of the 1700s, three pence the pot, which adds to their connection…
  • a hallmark of porter/entire was longer-age to have a balance of mature and fresh elements, but blending never disappeared and resurged at end of 1700s
  • brown malts were typically used in porter in 1700s and somewhat smoky from kilning with straw, wood, coals
  • in early 1800s, pale malt was added to mash to afford its higher extract potential
  • roasted black malt became popular, instead of or in addition to brown and amber malts, to lend the colour and roasty taste
  • palate of porter apparently changed in this period
  • early 1800s, Guinness substituted black malt for brown, but also used amber malt through 1800s, the beers were still all-malt
  • c. 1900 Guinness settled on pale malt and black malt for all beers
  • mid-1900s (dates vary) Guinness substitutes roasted barley for black malt, apparently today 40% of mash is unmalted barley
  • porter disappeared for a time in Britain but some breweries continued to make stout, which was similar
  • e.g., Mackeson stout was never off the market, it uses a lactose addition, introduced 1907
  • craft brewing has restored different varieties of porter and stout, e.g., oatmeal stout, Imperial stout, foreign export stout, Baltic porter
  • craft brewing has developed new forms of these especially flavoured with coffee and chocolate but also fruits and other things
  • some flavourings are new, some are not, but all beer was flavoured with a huge variety of things before the hop became standardized for beer
  • classic porter and stout are made with 100% barley malt and the hopping traditionally is high, in keeping with its “beer” origins versus ale
  • the beer and ale distinction largely disappeared by later 1800s but traces of the distinction subsist
  • the pint of “mild” in U.K., where still available, is less hopped than bitter and IPA and reflects the old “ale”

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*My two main publications (2015) on the topic can be read here. The “keystone post” mentioned sets out the main argument, and additional points are made in the second posting linked herein.

 

Doctor Doctor Give Me The News

Oh Help Me, Dear Doctor…

I’ve discussed earlier that Victorian medical journals regularly mention (beverage) alcohol to aid treatment. Often their pages contained analyses of various liquors with opinions on therapeutic value, and even ads for beer and other alcohols. IPA was a favourite in this regard.

The idea of alcohol as a medicine is very old in Western culture and never entirely disappeared.

In a time when sulpha drugs didn’t exist and care was rudimentary, folk medicines still held sway in the public imagination, and alcohol was always a star performer. Physicians were not exempt, faute de mieux, perhaps.

To be sure, some of the Faculty resisted this tendency. In the U.S., Dr. Benjamin Rush was an early opponent of excessive alcohol use, especially spirits. But most doctors must have viewed alcohol indulgently, judging again by all the attention given the subject in their media.

As late as 1907, one reads encomia to whisky and beer in The Lancet. Consider the one below for an extra stout from William Dulley in Wellingborough, central England. We are told the alcohol level, 7.32% abv, the gravity, and that the beer is free from acidity. Were that not enough to guide the reader, it is helpfully added that the stout is “soft” and “very malty”.

One can be forgiven for thinking the source is a magazine for sybarites, indeed the writing sounds like a taste note from a consumer beer book…

But it reflected the times. The note in the same page on a Scotch whisky is in similar vein. The writer noted the product was all-malt (not a blended whisky), and compared the sample to a “genuine old brandy” suitable for medical purposes whose legitimacy he took took for granted. Some doctorly restraint was shown by a caution directed to the vendors to cease describing the whisky as “anti-gout and rheumatic”.

So as not to favour malt-based alcohol, the same page noticed the increased availability of South African wines – all the bases were covered.

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What is left of the old idea of alcohol as medicine? Very little. The image probably survives – just – of the St. Bernard rushing to rescue lost mountaineers with keg of brandy strapped under the chin. There is a vague idea still of alcohol as a reviver, a pick-me-up, especially as a hangover cure. Apart from that, all we read of is to avoid alcohol, or limit consumption, due to its many dangers when abused.

Yet, thank of cannabis. It has made inroads in this area, in fact it occupies today the field alcohol formerly held. An idea which once seemed impertinent, “medical marijuana”, is now taken for granted in society at large and in many medical circles. Many, but not all.

Will history repeat itself and kief finally be banned from the medical bag? Time will tell.

The handsome ad below is from Campbell Praed, a brewery which had absorbed Dulleys of Wellingborough. The stout shown may well have been the Dulleys recipe. Campbell Praed was later taken into Phipps of Northampton, an amalgam of breweries which lasted into the 70s.  Some of the Phipps brands have been restored by Albion Brewing, whose site is the source of the ad below, here. The site contains a good chronology of Phipps’ history.

One can see in the old ads a sign for Ratliff’s stout, and the legend reads, “For when you are tired”. Again the idea of stout as reviver and tonic. The line with medicine was somewhat indistinct even in the early 1900s. Guinness made good hay of it with its famed tag line, “Guinness Is Good For You”.

But just as the whisky bottle exited from the doctor’s bag later in the century, Guinness finally dropped a campaign which, despite the questionable veracity, shifted some lucre in its day.

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Note re images: the first two images above were sourced via HathiTrust, here. The last image was sourced from the page linked in the text. All rights therein or thereto belong to their sole owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Turn And Face The Strange …

Boak and Bailey’s current posting was kind enough to mention my recent article on pitched lager, and also drew attention to an interesting post, here, by English blogger Alec Latham. The writer explains that at 39, he feels betwixt and between in the beer scene.

He describes an incident where he really enjoyed a double IPA yet knows that such expensive and fashionable beers are often viewed as baubles by an older generation, stalwarts of fine cask bitter at a good price.

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And of course he likes those beers too, so feels rather torn, as he appreciates what each generation enjoys but feels fully part of neither.

I’m a quarter-century older than he, so I get it, but even more so. I’ve seen seven or eight shifts in the beer scene here since the 70s, and doubtless there will be a few more until we depart this vale.

My counsel to the writer is, you must decide at day’s end what is good and valuable. Stick to that, and the rest is the buzz and the fashion. Sure, it can be fun but will often spell nothing of permanent value.

Recently, an old pal told me, you talk too much about old beers, meaning probably some 80s-90s craft beers, Anchor Steam beer, Pilsner Urquell, classic English beers, and other stars of the “past”. To some, the valid experiences are those of now. Similarly, some whose formative beer experiences were in the 70s or 90s have firm favourites representative of that era, and will taste nothing else.

For those whose tastes were formed, and fixed, in a previous time, the cost of the newer beers sometimes puts them off. Often too it is their strangeness, which can take in the packaging or labelling, which gives them a gimcrack impermanence.

In truth though, one never knows what will be of enduring value. Beers that seemed weird or trendy when first issued can end by being classics. Many more will be flashes in the pan, destined for recording in soon-to-be-remaindered beer books but not much else.

I feel that at its best pumpkin beer, which really is spiced ale previous eras would have appreciated (but even setting that aside) is a great addition to the beer lexicon. It doesn’t bother me many don’t agree. A similar winner is black IPA. And ditto for those who think it is an abomination.

Yet I don’t stand by most sours. For me.

Etc.

The best advice is, stick to your guns and don’t apologize for what you think is good (or not so grand). You will end by being a composite of all the eras.

Where the blasts from the past are still on the market, buy them without fear or favour, that is, with a view to palate.

Obviously pocket book is important, few can afford to buy everything they want. But within your means, buy what you think offers the best taste experience. Whether the person next to you agrees with it or not is by the by.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the Signbuyer website, here. All rights therein or thereto belong to the sole owner or authorized users. Image believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

Beaujolais Nouveau

Let’s Make It Nouveau Again

I remember decades ago when those interested in things bibulous would look forward to the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau. It was the young wines that appeared in late November and intended to be consumed within a couple of months or so ideally, versus the established crus of the region. (Beaujolais is one of the four wine regions in Burgundy, not the most renowned).

The history is that a vin ordinaire, or perhaps any surplus to the standard crus sent out, was sold locally and quaffed to end another wine year and the harvest past. In the mid-30s, the law was changed to allow sale of this Beaujolais wine from November 15 vs. December 15 as the general start of sales. Some was sent in barrel to Paris and Lyon and a fashion grew for it. (Today, the release date is the third Thursday of November).

img_20161124_190802_editThis facilitated the nouveau getting known and in the 60s-70s, the bottling of it and export initially to England took off.

It became a thing, the rage. While serious wine fans saw that these wines were something diverting, fun but not to be taken too seriously, the trend caught on with the wine-buying public in general.

Restaurateurs and wine bars competed to get in enough stocks to trumpet the wine to avid patrons. I remember a time when, as today for a choice whisky or beer, LCBO customers would race to the stores to find a bottle of Mommessin or Duboeuf’s nouveau.

Often you couldn’t find any, it was sold out within a day or two of being placed on the floor in cases.

In time, to take advantage of the craze, similar primeur as nouveau is also called was marketed by wine countries other than France, Italy especially, and finally even by new world wineries. There really is no substitute for the best French ones though, at least in my experience

Then the trend dropped off and today the arrival of the wine barely causes a ripple in the drinks scene here (or anywhere), a pity since the wines are as good as ever. To get a sense of the original excitement and interest, read this 1976 report on the wines in New York Magazine.

The big French shippers dominate the business for our market. This year I saw the two mentioned above and Drouhin’s, and bought one of each.

The Mommessin is really good, it has the berry taste Beaujolais usually has but also reminded me of a Morgon, the most Burgundy-like of the Beaujolais. I like it half-chilled.

This is a beer and also a whisky blog, but I drink wine once in a while and nouveau is sympa with the beer world as you drink it in generous swallows, like beer. It can’t be tasted in sips, as Dickens famously wrote of beer.

 

 

Porter and Stout in a Rearview Mirror: This Saturday in the Beaches

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The porters and stouts to be tasted at the Rearview Mirror event this Saturday at Castro’s Lounge are:

1. Sleeman Porter
2. Durham Black Katt Stout on draught
3. Mackeson XXX Milk Stout
4. Flying Monkeys Cadillac Graveyard Oatmeal Stout
5. Wellington Imperial Russian Stout
6. Fuller Imperial Stout

I’ll be talking about porter and stout from an historical standpoint.

I’ve got some notes (talking points) done up, which I’ll post here after the event. The idea is not to focus obsessively on the beers  – valid as that might be in another context – but to have companionable and authentic examples to sip while I chat and interact with the group.

I wanted a balance of regular and higher-gravity beers, and something traditional to Ontario – Sleeman qualifies with its 19th century roots. Also, something that harks back to the heyday of stout in the 1800s (nos. 5-6), a milk stout (the classic Mackeson, 5% abv in our market, Caribbean-brewed), and a modern stout with a dry flavour where roasted barley or patent malt informs the taste – that’s Black Katt.

For 1700s porter, I feel no. 4 gets close both in gravity (6.5% abv approx.) and the dark brown colour and toasted but not expresso-like taste.

Nothing is flavoured*, as, i) I’m not a fan really of chocolate, coffee, chipotle, etc. stout, ii) they are not examples of the drink in its classic era.

It promises to be an enjoyable event. If you’re reading and want to have some fun and absorb some history too, Castro’s Lounge is the place, this Saturday is the day, 3:00 p.m. is the time.

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* The Fuller has some dried rosebud added but its effect is hardly detectable.