Miscellany of Beer Reviews, January 2022

Some quick notes Gatling-style on beers I haven’t mentioned on Twitter, or only summarily:

Duvel 666. One of the line extensions in recent years from Duvel (Moortgat) in Belgium. A famous golden ale, the bigger brother has an evident imprint in this lighter version (6.66% abv, with a revised hop bill).

To us, the Belgian yeast character dominates both. I call it clove, beer reviews in the rating sites state that as well, plus coriander, pepper, orange. I don’t get much hop character under the yeast, personally, and it appears no spices are added by the brewery. See its page on the beer. A point in its favour is dry-hopping (perhaps some character lifts off with export).

Body light and carbonic. Overrated in my view, as the bigger bro.

Kertsmis Bier, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto. Described as a “Belgian Dark Ale”, at 10.5% abv. Revival of a brand dating from early 2000s (at least) although different in make-up then. Spices in recipe, see brewery page for description. Nice claret colour, the clove from the (presumed) Belgian yeast fits in well. Similar in style, I would say, to Belgian St-Feuillien Christmas Beer.  Any fan of Belgian ales will admire, but we are not fans of the Belgian yeast character.

Ecossaise. Scottish-style beer from Alchimiste in Joliette, Quebec, a craft running for some 20 years now. Lightly aromatic, caramel-toned malt, possibly a light peated addition. An interesting acerbic tang, not sour but forecloses the malt richness many beers in this style have. 5.8% abv. See brewery page. Good effort, but not stellar, imo.

Guinness Extra Stout, Canadian licensed version. Interestingly, despite being brewed by the Labatt unit of AB InBev, this beer seems to change slightly from time to time – perhaps any beer does, made anywhere. (Quality control is less of a science than many are led to believe). This brew seems drier than the last batch I tasted with a more assertive roast malt character. The yeast background seems similar though to Irish Guinness which lends a largely uniform stamp (i.e., an experienced taster would see the Guinness signature). Still solid.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Classic early craft lager, exported here probably from Pennsylvania (label states brewed there or in Boston). Although I was just talking about seeming variations in established beers, this brew retains to a remarkable degree its character from the very first bottles all those years ago. A characteristic firmness from the yeast, and interesting hop smack – German with a twist, I’d say – evident. Retains its darkish, Vienna-lager cast. See brewery page for more.

Trooper, Robinson’s, UK. British premium ale or bitter, 4.8% abv. The Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden) collab with old-school brewer Robinson’s. Light body, decent hop character with a lemon citric emphasis. Some New World hop in there with Golding I understand. Reminded me of Meantime London Pale Ale in its relative mildness, but latter more craft-like. A good option for macro lager drinkers, as a transition brew. I’m sure it has many devotees in general, but not for me.

Spearhead Brewery Oatmeal Cream Ale, from Spearhead Brewing Company, Kingston, Ontario. I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday but will add here, the hop taste to my mind is on a trad UK vector. Combined with the rich malty character, almost like a top English special bitter.  Uses some unmalted grains per label but at no cost to the malty character. See Canadian Brewing News entry for more information.

Hop Valley Bubble Stash IPA Cryo Hops. From a unit of Molson-Coors, brewed at Creemore Brewery in Ontario. The hop is Mosaic and the concentrated effect of the cryo(genic) processing format is to lend an intense but clean, natural hop character, no doubt assisted by the specific hopping regime. Balanced by good sweet malt. Great effort, great beer, enough said.

Fracture Imperial IPA. From Amsterdam Brewing (see its site above in entry for Kertsmis Bier). 9% abv. Double dry-hopped for a very full yet clean hop character. Good malt sweetness to balance. This is a classic strong ale of the craft renaissance. At its most refined (a relative term) this year, New World hop character shines while eliding the feisty grapefruit tones of earlier years.*

*A welcome note of peach seems in lieu.

Chimay Trappist Beer Today

I have written about Chimay numerous times, including for its strength in the 19th century, and all-malt character c. 1970.

The remarks below were composed a few months ago but I hadn’t gotten around to polishing it for publication, until today.

I am sampling Chimay Rouge, or red cap, still the best-known Trappist beer anywhere. Its fame was launched outside tiny connoisseur circles in Belgium and Holland by Michael Jackson’s 1977 The World Guide to Beer (Briton Jackson, the famous beer writer, 1942-2007).

Chimay, of all the Trappist beers and indeed all the Belgian beers, had an outsize influence in forming attitudes to Belgian beer in craft brewing circles between, say, 1980 and 2000.

The story of cloistered monks and brewing, for Chimay and other monastic brewers, was hard to resist. The beers’ distinctive character helped a lot too.

My history with Chimay started long before this blog inaugurated in 2015. My first Chimay was in a stone-flagged bar in Montreal, Quebec around 1980, served in the stemmed “chalice” long associated with the brand.

I was in Vieux Montréal, the oldest part of the city whose mix of old French and Victorian British architecture contrived to offer a “European” atmosphere (still does).

I still recall the perfumey, sweetish taste, which the beer (all labels) retains to this day. I visited the brewery’s taproom once, a pilgrimage well-worth making even if, as most, you won’t get into the monastery or brewhouse.

The beers were extra-good onsite, of course. The one thing they seemed to have over exported bottles was an extra-hoppy note, but otherwise it was the same Chimay.

Around me was a troop of ruddy, blue-smocked farmers, in from the green paysage surrounding, downing 7% abv beer like nobody’s business. Many preferred the white cap (Triple), I noticed.

A Belgian beer bar can be a hushed experience with classical music accompanying decorous sipping. The Chimay tap was anything but, that day, bustling and loud, monastery aside or no.

I feel, and I don’t think I’m alone, that the three main labels, red, blue, and white, went through a rough patch for quite a few years after the brewhouse was re-designed in the 1990s. Some speculate the yeast behaved differently in the new equipment.

The beers for a long time seemed yeasty with strong banana and phenolic notes – rather harsh in sum. The winey, blackcurrant note Michael Jackson lauded in his early books seemed all but lost. But lately the beers are much improved, to my mind certainly.

The red, in particular, reminds me of that first Chimay in Montreal 40 years ago. It is worthy of the Chimay name. Some readers know later iterations of Chimay: the Blue aged in a rum barrel, the spicy Gold label, maybe even the new Green label released last summer (haven’t tried it yet).

All Chimay is good and its sales do good work for the fathers’ mission. Nowadays when many types of businesses, not just breweries, promote social goals, it is well to remember that Chimay of Scourmont, with other abbey brewers, set the pattern – to the max.

That is a satisfaction that comes along with a taste produced since the 19th century, whether religion is your thing or not.

Pictured below is a handsome presentation of Chimay blue label. I took the photo in 2019 in Boulogne, France.

 

 

 

Porter and Paignton

The Taste of Café

The taste of any food or drink can evoke an endless series of impressions, allusions, feelings. They vary widely, too, since tasting is by definition personal. And everyone has, needless to say, a personal history.

As regimented as modern life can be, enforced to a degree by social institutions – not least social media of 2021 – everyone is rooted in a different history. Different family life, social-economic level, ethnic/national origin, education, and on it goes.

While tasting vocabulary for wine and beer has been standardized to a degree, this can never be a perfect system, nor should it. To communicate effectively, a core vocabulary has developed understood by initiates. A Rhone wine touched by “animal”, a beer touched by Brettanomyces, disclose a telltale barnyard scent.

Similarly, a “mineral” note in hops, or a gunflint taste in French white wine, convey meaningful data to the informed reader.

That said, much room is left to the personal again, for what taste discloses in a way so unique to the taster few or no others can twig to it.

An example results from a recent YouTube video, where an Englishman reviews a beer, Black Sheep Milk Stout. I posted another video by this person before, his channel bears the wry name “I’ve had Worse”.

He is always interesting to listen to, as he knows beer well but has no pretentions to technical knowledge. He has an easygoing, friendly manner, characteristic of many English people in my experience, or perhaps more a certain generation.*

The person filming, probably his domestic partner, throws in a comment or two that adds to the fun.

 

 

While I have not had this beer, his review conveys much good information. He finds the body somewhat light, which causes consternation. Earlier, he knew only Mackeson Stout, which he seems clearly to prefer. Also, the carbonation seems wrong to him, like the kind when jam starts to turn, he says.

Personally, I like this kind of “prickly” carbonation, which some cask beer has, but it is not to his taste clearly. These remarks, again, convey much to his audience (specialized or not) but then he hits one to left field.

He says the coffee note in the beer reminds him of a café in Paignton, when visiting his grandmother who lived in the town. Paignton is on the coast of Devon, a resort popular enough to earn the sobriquet English Riviera.

This beer from a northern brewer evoked for him the “lashing sea” and odours from a café on the beach. As he also noted “vanilla” in the beer, I don’t rule out that wayward draughts from confectionary and pub doorways contributed to his impression.

The beer was, of a sort, his Proustian madeleine. The taste of an English milk stout contrived, finally, to evoke a complex, highly personal association.

You can’t beat that. I’ve never been to Paignton. Even if I had, his experience is probably unique to himself. If a band of beer experts congregated in Paignton for a parley, it is doubtful any one would come up with that specific analogy.

It is his indelible personal history and experience that deliver a unique taste impression. I can’t confirm it, or of course disagree, but am fascinated to hear the record of it.

*Think also jaunty, cheerful.

Note re image: sourced from Wikipedia entry on Paignton linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed,

 

 

 

Creemore Discovery Series Imperial Stout

Creemore Batch on Victoria Street in Toronto, currently closed, was a brewpub of craft-style Creemore Brewery, long owned as many know by the mega-brewer Molson-Coors Beverage Co.

Creemore lager and its line extensions, as well as various ales and dark beers, have been brewed either in Creemore, Ontario, the small-town home of Creemore Brewery, or at Batch in Toronto when it operated.

The winter before Covid-19 got legs in March 2020 an Imperial Porter Winter Warmer was brewed at Batch, 8.6% abv according to its Ratebeer listing.

At the end of last year, Creemore released an Imperial Stout at 8.3% abv. I’d think the two beers are related in recipe, as they taste quite similar: silky, with a fine bitterness and chocolate overtones.

Creemore calls the new beer New World Style, but I don’t see that: there is no citric or tropical hop taste, more a classic, flinty-stone hopping that dances on the tongue in the aftertaste.

There are no fruited or other additions, such as coffee or cocoa, to suggest a New World influence.

However, I was slightly let down by the beer. While high quality in ingredients and the brewing itself, the total flavour impact is quite restrained, at least drunk cold from the fridge (I’ll try it again at room temperature).

To my mind, a beer even at this strength – an export or double stout style in old terms – should show more taste impact. Possibly the idea was not to offend customers, not to offer anything full-bore.

But I’ve had many porters at 5-6% abv with more taste impact than this beer. If the same flavours in the beer now were simply boosted, say by 20%, the beer would be outstanding.

For its part, the Creemore line (lager, pilsener, kolsch, etc.) has retained full flavour characteristics. Indeed as I recall it, the Imperial Porter Winter Warmer was more assertive than this Imperial Stout.

So it is not as if the brewery is chary to make its beers full-tasted, but for whatever reason, that is not the case here, as I see it.

 

Rum Reverie

It is the rainy season currently in Fiji Islands, where the rum shown was made, but much warmer than right now in Toronto! It is produced from Fijian sugar cane by a local distillery, Rum Co. of Fiji, and bottled by Maison Ferrand, the famous Cognac house of France.

The rum receives two years aging in Fiji, in bourbon casks. Thence it sails to France, through rocking warm seas, where Ferrand applies further aging in French oak.

The result is full of flavour – flowers, spice, grasses – with an evident heavy or pot still, if you will, component. More specifically, it is evident the rum, or a portion, is distilled to a relatively low proof, like bourbon, brandy, tequila, and malt whisky, hence retaining values from the fermentable material used.

Plantation is the name of a line of rums marketed by Ferrand. Others available in Ontario originate in Jamaica and Barbados.

Quality stuff here, and fairly priced too considering what spirits can fetch these days.

 

 

Good raw materials. Distilling expertise in distant Melanesia. French finesse at batch selection and maturation. All contrive to make a grateful drink, one appreciated by your writer, certainly, perhaps more so in these troubling times.

Somehow, finally, our winter sunshine, evanescent may it be, complements the sunny character of the rum as it goes down.

Pub ale or pub Bitter?

Just Make it Proper

There has been discussion on social media recently about a pub ale phenomenon, well, brewing in the United States. Some say a trend is manifest to sell an English-style, lower gravity (c. 4%) ale as “pub ale”. Some feel the term will be used to describe a pub’s basic ale offering, whether an English brewing approach is followed or not.

If the trend centres on an all-English malt and hopped brew I’m all for it, but I’ve had too many tepid examples – including in the U.K. – to be much excited.

I don’t mind the low ABV, but too many such beers show excessive caution both for hopping level and final gravity.* One may think this odd given the vigorous hopping evident in IPA over the years including in West Coast, latter-day East Coast, and Black IPA, but the idea is widespread in craft culture here that traditional English beer is “mild” in taste.

This idea derives, in fairness, from modern-day English brewing particularly export “keg” examples (filtered, pasteurised) and bottled or canned UK beer, which is a form of keg beer. This reflects to be a sure a world-wide trend in industrial brewing to reduce hop levels, which craft brewing has only partially corrected.

So all to say, if the trend bruited results in hopping with an eye more to historical levels, especially 19th and early 20th century, and finishing to a gravity where you can taste the malts, I’m in favour. I’ve called for it repeatedly over the years in these pages, most recently a few months ago.

On the marketing level, a discussion continues why the term bitter and its variants such as special bitter need replacement by euphemistic formulations such as “pub ale”. Once again the UK has lead the way with its “amber ale” phenomenon: most of the old-line bitter-labeled brands have been replaced by amber formulations.

(This is not quite the same as the anodyne “pub ale”, as “amber ale” or “amber beer” have a long, intermittent history in British brewing usage, but it’s broadly the same issue).

Certainly in export markets, British brewers were alert early on to attune names to market expectations. Boddington’s Pub Ale, a good seller in many markets is a stronger version of Boddington’s Bitter marketed for export since 1993.

Back in the 1980s the now defunct regional brewer Greenall Whitley sold a Cheshire English Pub Beer in the U.S. I recall it especially in the Northeastern market.

My recollection is of a good solid brew, yet I notice in his 1982 The Pocket Guide to Beer, legendary beer author Michael Jackson gave it a low score, adding the beer “has little to do with the resonance of its name”.

In the recess of my mind, something suggests the Cheshire English Pub Beer may have been a lager, but I cannot find any substantiation. I suspect Jackson wrote up the beer in the also-now-defunct U.S. beer magazine All About Beer, but its archive is no longer extant, or at least publicly available I understand.

Certainly in the 1980s Greenall’s marketed an ale as such in the U.S., Chester Golden Ale. It is mentioned in the 1988 Analysis of Beer prepared for assay purposes by the State of Connecticut. The Cheshire English Pub Beer is there too.

 

 

Were these the same beer, differently branded? Their abv was not quite the same. The Golden Ale was 5.43%, the English Pub Beer 5%. They may have been different ales, or the same with the Pub Beer lowered to 5% abv for that branding.

Or possibly again, the Pub Beer may have been a lager, a version of cleverly-named Grünhalle Lager, brewed by Warrington-based Greenall’s at the time. The self-descriptive Beer-Coasters site has a fine collection of Grünhalle labels and coasters.

Included is an amusing series in comedic pidgin (Germanified) English. Either way, lager or ale, the Cheshire English Pub beer had a fine, evocative label, as you see in this Untappd page.

It sold plenty of units, I recall seeing the beer for years in specialty retailers. I’d buy it again just for the label, pace St. Michael of beer writing.

Whether pub bitter, pub ale, pub beer, is down to marketing needs. I defer to the business call of the brewers on that. Just make it taste right, proper, if you will.

*Often too low, for my taste.

 

 

 

 

Dry January

The Long Hand of Max Weber?

A few words on Dry January, the movement to encourage abstinence from alcohol in January. I don’t practice it, personally. Sometimes I go for periods during the year without booze, and seem to manage fine. I don’t see the need to designate January for this.

I am all for it, for those who wish to do it. Anyone with a in-depth interest in alcohol has to be mindful (especially) not to overdo it. I feel I always have, or at least in my way I have. Getting older helps, simply because for many of us a built-in limitation kicks in.

A pint of beer is fine these days, two occasionally, but never more. It is just too much to digest beyond that. Somewhat in tune with this, in 2021 Dry January seems led by craft beer devotees, and no doubt their counterparts in wine and food generally.*

There is a good irony in that 30 years ago when lawyering on Bay Street in Toronto, I noticed that skipping alcohol in January was the not infrequent practice of an upper echelon.

I cannot recall any popular movement then to ape that custom. There was no advice in newspapers or other media to stow away the booze for dark January.

The elite did it to counter the Holiday over-indulgence, probably a facet of the old Protestant ethic still extant then. It was a counter also to the freewheeling, postwar martini culture, itself a reaction to Prohibition rectitude. (The cycle goes on forever).

I remember at the time some called it the “white month”, apparently after a Scandinavian term for a period on the wagon.

Forsaking booze for January showed where your priorities lay, finally. Over the years, the upper class habit percolated down to hipster circles, as not a few other fashions in food, wine, travel, and clothes. Parental influence undoubtedly played a big part in this.

Many keynote figures associated with wine and gastronomy have lived into their 90s. Some were lucky, some reached that exalted stage through lifestyle management.

That a drinking culture inherently harbors the spirit of abandon cannot be denied, but the less is more ethic proves its worth to many involved in the field.

You can have your pastry stout and drink it too, if you manage it right.

N.B. First link in text is to Wikipedia’s entry “The Protestant Ethic and Capitalism”. The second is to a recent article in Hop Culture.

*I elaborate in the Comments.

 

Index to Gary Gillman’s Writing on Porter and Stout

1. Introduction

I prepared earlier an Index of my posts relating to beer and breweries in the British Mandate for Palestine, and a second Index for Jewish-owned breweries in pre-Second World War Central and East Europe.

In this post I do similar for porter and stout, indexing writing on this site since the site began in July 2015. This represents a large body of study and investigation, relying frequently on original research.

Not every post that mentions porter or stout is included, as some can be viewed as relatively minor or preliminary in nature, but the significant ones are covered.

Because of the notoriety and historical importance of Guinness Stout, many (not all) Guinness posts are collected as one group. This category will exhibit some crossover of topics, as indeed all categories to a degree, but still the groupings will assist readers to perceive the scope of the work done and identify areas of interest.

In the national section (no. 9), the posts describe a notable relationship of porter to each country or sub-unit, whether brewed in the country or not.

(Generally, the term porter as used in this Index includes stout, as historically they are the same type of beer. The difference was, basically, that sometimes stout was stronger. In the Guinness section though I usually use the term stout).

I will update this Index as new posts are produced, and fill any gaps or omissions in the picture as drawn to date. I will prepare as well in months to come a similar index for pale ale, steam beer, English pubs, Canadian whisky, and other topics useful to index.

A note re sources: Among the many sources used in the research is the Fulton History resource, a vast repository of American and some Canadian archival newspapers. If a link to Fulton seems inoperative, this does not mean the source has been removed.

Due to ongoing maintenance of the Fulton website, sometimes the original URL no longer functions and a newer one is needed. Usually a quick word search in Fulton can reveal the source, but if a reader needs assistance, I should be able to help.

2. The Name Origins of Porter 

Spitalfields Weavers, Three Threads and Porter, September 20, 2015. Argues for derivation of porter’s name from London weaving trade. Expanded by Addenda in Comments under post.

More On the Theory London Silk Weaving Gave Porter and Three Threads Their Names, September 25, 2015.  Develops further the argument for derivation of porter’s name as mentioned.

Textiles, Threads, London Beer, November 29, 2016. Continues/elaborates analysis as above.

Ned Ward’s Two-Threads of Beer, July 7, 2017. Discussion on possible meanings of this reference to a two-threads beer.

New Article on Naming Origins of Porter, April 13, 2021. Records publication of my porter-naming argument in April 2021 issue of the UK-based food studies journal Petits Propos Culinaires.

3. The Malts of Porter

From Oak and Alder to Porter, December 11, 2015. Examines Norfolk roots of wood-smoked malt for porter and connections to three threads and other thread beers.

Brown Malt and 1700s Porter: new Insight, March 14, 2016. Describes a 1760 book on malting not previously canvassed in literature that offers new insight on evolution of brown malt and porter mashing.

The Malts in Porter and Stout, March 15, 2016. Discusses malts of porter via a historical lens including with reference to kilning and mashing.

Back to the Future of Porter, via Michael Donovan, March 17, 2016. Evolution of porter mashing until early 1800s according to an Irish-based apothecary.

Draughts of Danish and the Ghosts of London Porter, January 16, 2018. Uncovers evidence that wood-smoked malt links early porter and Danish beer.

4. The Wood Casks Used for Porter

CMOS Brewing, March 18, 2018. Summarizes British attitude to casks for ale and porter up to World War II, namely that, in general, Memel oak from Baltic was favoured vs. vanillin-flavoured American oak barrels.

American Oak Over There, March 28, 2018. Further discussion and background to the wood preferred for British beer barrels.

(See also “A Right Royal Porter” in no. 9 below, confirming Whitbread in London used Memel oak for its classic porter).

5. Dispense Methods of Porter

“Donovan’s Apothecary Porter”, March 21, 2016. Irishman Michael Donovan, writing in early 1800s, projects use of metal barrels to dispense porter.

Handpumped Guinness in Living Colour, March 14, 2018. Irish archival film showing naturally conditioned Guinness.

Rich and Creamy Porter and Stout, Part I, May 3, 2020. Series discusses late-1800s blending practice for porter with reference to approved dispense methods including for British Army canteens.

Rich and Creamy Porter and Stout, Part II, May 8, 2020. Ditto.

Rich and Creamy Porter and Stout, Part III, May 22, 2020. Ditto.

See also in various entries under “Guinness Stout” (no. 5) re its nitrogen innovation and abandonment of natural conditioning.

6. Guinness Stout

Some Thoughts On Guinness, January 21, 2016. Assessing Guinness’ historic decision to abandon natural conditioning c. 1960.

The Classic Taste of Guinness Stout, January 22, 2016. The character of Guinness in the early 20th century, “real ale” days.

Guinness, Bottles, An Addendum, January 23, 2016. Bottled Guinness offering a superior, more traditional character than draught Guinness.

Guinness of My Dreams, April 24, 2017. Envisaging a recreation of historical Guinness.

My Early Experience With Guinness Stout, June 22, 2017. My recollections of Guinness flavour in the 1970s.

Guinness Special Export Stout, June 23, 2017. Some 20th century background on this iteration of Guinness.

Guinness Comes Alive in a 2009 Book, June 30, 2017. Many insights on Guinness in retired Diageo microbiologist’s book.

The Wood For British Beer; an Anglo Russian Pact, March 27, 2018. Confirms via consular reporting that porter generally in Ireland in late-1800s was stored in North American oak.

Use by Guinness of American Stave Barrels in Late 1800s, March 28, 2018. Consular report for late 1800s showing “Dublin”, so Guinness mainly, used American oak staves for barrels.

Confectionately Yours, February 23, 2021. Witty 1950s ad compares Guinness to a confection made by a Guinness affiliate, not quite pastry stout before its time, but still.

7. Imperial Stout

Russian Stout and 1975 Canada, November 30, 2017. A Canadian writes a literate, pre-Michael Jackson assessment of Courage Imperial Russian Stout.

Cyril on Stout, October 28, 2021. Discussion of a landmark 1960s essay on imperial stout by English wine writer Cyril Ray, and his remarks from a different source on Guinness stout.

8. (Representative) Taste Reviews of Porter and Stout

A True Flavour of Porter – Black Creek Porter, March 10, 2016. Reviews this Ontario brand.

Innis & Gunn VP01 Imperial Stout, November 29, 2017. The Scottish brewery’s limited edition release.

Imperial Stout – Great Divide’s Classic Version, February 12, 2018. Traditional imperial stout from the Denver, Colorado brewery.

Porter Ponderings,  September 7, 2018. Reviews Maverick Stout from Toronto in light of 19th century readings of porter final gravity.

Guinness Extra Stout – Canadian Version, December 9, 2020. My comments on the bottled (non-widget) Guinness brewed in Canada under license from Diageo.

Avling Øresund Porter, April 9, 2021. A porter from Toronto’s Avling brewery and restaurant.

Porter Pursuit, Part I., October 15, 2021. Assessment of Founder’s Porter with contextual remarks on other brands and porter history.

Porter Pursuit, Part II October 15, 2021. Review of Cameron’s Crooked Nose Stout from Oakville, Ontario.

Porter Pursuit, Part III October 16, 2021. Assessment of a more recent Canadian-brewed Guinness stout.

2021 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Imperial Stout, November 27, 2021. The famed Goose Island BCB Imperial Stout tasted at Goose Island, Toronto.

Creemore Discovery Series Imperial Stout, January 14, 2022. I find a stab at the style by the craft unit of a mega-brewer wanting.

Porter and Paignton. January 15, 2022. My comments on an Englishman’s review of Black Sheep Milk Stout.

9. Porter in Different Countries 

Britain

A Victorian Meets London Porter, January 25, 2017. Writer and journalist George Sala describes porter characteristics in 1859.

A Right Royal Porter, April 8, 2018. Reviews a period account of the King and Queen’s visit to Whitbread Brewery in 1787.

When Black IPA Rules, March 22, 2020. Considers Black IPA (the modern craft style) in light of Frank Faulkner’s late-1800s typing of Burton-brewed porter.

France

British Beer in Boulogne, c. 1850, December 30, 2016. Irish porter brewer Lane finds a ready market for its beer in the French Channel port of Boulogne, mid-1850s.

Germany

Brewing British on the Moselle, July, 25, 2018. Describes a venture to brew British-style beer in German wine country in the 1850s. (Appreciation to German beer historian Andreas Krennmair who provided German-language interpretation).

Sweden

Carnegie Porter, Part I, March 14, 2021. Series on famed Carnegie Porter, developed in Sweden by a Scottish trading family.

Carnegie Porter, Part II, March 15, 2021. Ditto.

Carnegie Porter, Part III, March 17, 2021. Ditto.

Poland

Edward Hall, English Porter Brewery Warsaw, Part I, May 27, 2021. Briton Edward Hall establishes early porter brewery in Warsaw, Poland.

Edward Hall, English Porter Brewery Warsaw, Part II, May 27, 2021. Further analysis of this subject.

A Lviv Idyll, 1936, June 2, 2021. Porter, still commercially viable in interwar Poland, forms centrepiece of a melancholy meditation on a multi-ethic Poland that might have been.

Lviv Porter, 1924-1939, June 3, 2021. Examines Imperial porter in former Lviv, Poland (now Lvov, Ukraine), with reference to likely evolution from top- to bottom-fermentation.

Arc of the Jelen Brewery, June 9, 2021. Discusses pre- and post-World World II history of the Jelen Brewery including the current Perla porter produced, broadly in the Imperial style.

Ale and Porter on the Polish Main – Zwierzyniec Brewery, June 13, 2021. Early implantation of English-style ale and porter brewing in Poland.

Quebec, Canada

Ale and Porter – “Bière et Porter”, August 14, 2015. Discusses the main beer types, ale and porter, sold in Quebec in the postwar period as recalled from my adolescence.

Early Brewery in Quebec Leaves a Recipe, c. 1800. February 16, 2016. I unearthed a commercial recipe covering both ale and porter from a British Jewish family in Canada. They had arrived with the British forces who took Quebec, and later established a brewery.

The Hart Brewery’s c. 1800 Recipe and Recreation, October 20, 2016. This discusses the ale recreation but is of interest for porter as well due to the transcription I provide of the “joint” recipe.

A Taste of the Old Country in 1941 Montreal, June 15, 2017. Guinness Foreign Export Stout is touted in a war-mobilized Canada.

Quebec Ale and Porter – the 1940s Heyday, July 10, 2018. Discussion of Quebec ale and porter brands legion in this period, from National Breweries Ltd.

The Sand Porter of Montreal, Part I, January 24, 2020. I identified an intriguing designation of porter sold in 19th century Quebec. I concluded finally that the sand term likely was derived from the practice of Guinness at this time to place sand on its vat lids to reduce ingress of air.

The Sand Porter of Montreal, Part II, January 25, 2020. Ditto.

The Sand Porter of Montreal, Part III, December 7, 2020. Ditto.

A Case of Champlain, February 27, 2021. Discusses various beer types including porter and stout by a Quebec City brewery of the interwar period, with reference to certain cultural considerations.

British Columbia, Canada

Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters Distant Shores, Part I, March 9, 2019. London-based Barclay Perkins ships its porter to British Columbia, especially Victoria where many Britons resided for naval work.

Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters Distant Shores, Part II, March 9, 2019. Ditto.

Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters Distant Shores, Part III, March 14, 2019. Ditto.

Rallying Against British Stout, March 14, 2019. Local stout in British Columbia takes a stand against imported stout, raising quality issues and desirability to support local business.

Victoria Loved Them All, March 16, 2019. Swedish-originated Carnegie Porter makes a strong pitch in distant Victoria, British Columbia.

Ontario, Canada

Roistering in Toronto the Good, 1949, June 15, 2019. With Canadian industrial brewing well-established, English oyster stout is acclaimed at an international trade exhibition in Toronto.

Ireland

Guinness Stout in the Wood Barrel Days, June 14, 2017. Comments by an Irishman comparing 1960s wood barrel Guinness to bottled form, and cooled nitrogenated Guinness when released.

American Wood, Cork Porter, March 26, 2018. Reviews evidence of the 1880s that an Irish cooperage built vessels of American oak for porter brewing in Cork but used classic European oak for ale brewers.

Hops in the Pint, a 1930s Look, June 7, 2021. I discuss the impressively high hopping rate for Irish beer in the 1930s, then almost all stout and porter, with comparatives to other countries, using statistics in a Polish brewing journal.

United States

The 1936 Wine and Oyster Tasting in New York: an Attendee Reports, October 17, 2017. Guinness is included as a select “black wine” in a prophetic oyster- and wine-tasting event held by the New York Wine and Food Society.

Historic 1942 Beer and Food Tasting, November 2, 2017. Five porters or stouts, domestic and imported, were included among 42 beers in a landmark tasting event held during the war by the New York Wine and Food Society.

Relay, Something’s Brewing, March 17, 2018. Guinness recommences brewing in North America, this time in Relay, Maryland.

Guinness’s Shot Across the Bows, October 14, 2018. Describes attempt of Guinness to market a version of Guinness stout made in Long Island, New York, and its make-up.

The “First” Draught Guinness in North America, October 15, 2018. Describes launch of modern (nitro-dispense) draft Guinness in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1965.

Russian Imperial Stout in Truman’s America, March 3, 2019. Describes plan to import Barclay Perkins’ Russian Imperial Stout to America in 1950.

Donald F. Hyde Visits Barclay Perkins, 1950, March 4, 2019. Further background on the plan to import Barclay Perkins’ Russian Imperial Stout to the U.S. in 1950.

The Origins of Robust Porter, February 20, 2021. I explore the history of the emergence of this modern category of the porter family.

Beamish Stout Journeys to America, February 22, 2021. Describes plan to export Beamish stout to New York c. 1950 with related information on competition from Guinness and its newly established brewery in Long Island.

Iraq

Mild ale on the Main, Part II, or the Iraq Brewery, August 12, 2020. Discusses Diana Stout brewed by this brewery, among other brands, in 1940s and 1950s Baghdad, Iraq.

A Stout Supply of Beer, August 18, 2020. Discusses auction of surplus stores of Guinness by Royal Air Force at Margil, Iraq in 1948 with a tracing of stout brands available in Iraq since the 1920s.

Sudan

The Blue Nile Brewery (1956-1983), July 27, 2020. Discussion of the stout among other brands made by this brewery, established in the early 1950s by Barclay Perkins of London.

Gibraltar

A Porter of Gibraltar, May 12, 2020. Recounts an incident where a British officer on field work in Gibraltar, early 1800s, secreted a cache of porter, possibly still on “the Rock”.

Australia

Fate of Springfield Brewery, Mitcham, March 13, 2021. Discusses traditional features of the porter brewed by this brewery in South Australia in 1941.

Former British Malaya

New Writing on Malaya Beer History, January 23, 2021. This post describes in summary form my article “An Outline on Beers and Breweries in British Malaya. Part I” published recently in the U.K.-based journal Brewery History (currently print-only, available by subscription). That article describes the stouts inaugurated in the 1930s in Singapore by two breweries, Archipelago Brewery and Malayan Breweries Ltd.

British Mandate for Palestine

Imported Beer in Mandate Palestine, Part VIII, July 27, 2020. Both Guinness and British milk stout are available in a Jerusalem restaurant in 1935 connected to German Templars.

10. Porter Blending and Miscellaneous

The Black Watkins, Porter-and-Elderberry, August 16, 2017. Elderberry has an early connection to porter, among the porter “additives”, which I explore via George Watkins’ enlightening, early porter discussion (1770s).

Dry-Hopping of Porter and Stout, April 3, 2018. Considers to what extent porter and stout were dry-hopped, historically.

A Black and Tan Please, May 30, 2018. Describes some history of this mixture of stout and pale ale, with description of my home-made version.

The Three Angels, September 19, 2020. Russian Imperial Stout features in an upscale London beer cocktail, early 20th century.

The Broadway Blend, December 7, 2021. Porter blending in gas-lamp America including a rare branded example of Guinness and Bass Pale Ale.

Note: in no. 8 above, in “Historic 1942 Beer and Food Tasting”, the menu provides examples of mixed porter and ale, continuing a pre-Prohibition practice of some American brewers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spice in Your Beer

Since the onset of craft brewing spiced beers are a regular part of the scene. Initially one tended to see them at close of the year, as a festive offering. The iconic Anchor Brewing in San Francisco lead the way with its annual Our Special Ale, a series now almost 50 years old, and many brewers followed.

These days the popularity of so-called pastry stout and the ever-ranging spirit of investigation result in many beers laden with spice year round.

Belgian brewing, which never gave up on spicing beer even at the apogee of industrial brewing, played some role in this. While I have always felt its ales were overrated, and have explained why on numerous occasions – the monochromatic yeast flavour in much of it – I will say the Belgians handle the spicing with more finesse than we have seen in craft brewing until recently.

A good example is St-Feuillien Cuvée de Noel, a Christmas beer with a delicious yet natural beer taste informed by a selection of herbs and spices. I detect light anise and orange, in particular.

Centuries of experience have shown them that less is more, frequently. Whereas too often craft brewing has delivered the spicing with a Tommy gun. The results to be sure were often enthusiastically received, but the value of the productions left much in doubt, imo.

(Below is a an antique portrait of the nutmeg bush, via Wikipedia Commons).

 

 

I must say though craft brewers are learning how to handle spicing better, at least judging by Ontario spiced beers in the last few years. A vanilla porter from Beau, or Charles Maclean’s Cherry Porter, show a more subtle approach that makes the final result particularly enjoyable. It is recognizably porter still, but set off in some way from the usual result.

Some might say they cannot notice the flavour added but if it wasn’t there the result would be different – the whole trick lies in using the spice, or other flavour added, to achieve a good synergistic effect.

I was writing this week of the English food author Elizabeth David, of her inspiriting, romantic style of writing and (I should add) particular dry humour. But as I also noted, the books are replete with sound culinary knowledge and tips.

She understood very well what good flavour was and how to achieve it. ln her 1977 English Bread and Yeast Cookery, she included an excerpt from an American baking manual that stressed the importance of nicety in balancing flavours, but the words apply no less in the brewing arts.

The passage appeared in J. Thompson Gill’s 1881 The Complete Bread, Cake and Cracker Baker, 5th ed., and, in full, reads as follows:

 

 

While the word nauseating is a bit excessive perhaps, one gets the point Gill was making. A deft balance of spices or other flavouring in beer, as in baking and confectionary, can make all the difference to palatability – to a dazzling product vs. the commonplace.*

Brewers should know this from the fact of modern hops presenting often themselves a wide variety of flavours. Hops have always been used to get a good balance and pleasing final result, whether the taste aimed for is assertive or nuanced.

It should be no different with spices. An ale using coriander should not reek of the stuff. The spice should inform, interleave, intrigue, not inundate. Pop gun, not the Sten. Yes?

*Take a product such as Coca Cola, or Heinz Ketchup, albeit neither is beer or baking. Their success undoubtedly is due to a careful balancing of spice and other flavours.

 

Elizabeth David’s Romantic Spirit. Part II.

In Part I I discussed how David contrasted Near and Far East cookery* with (aspects of) the “brandest-new” 1970 London supermarket.

I instance below a further example of David’s particular temperament, which blended passion with engaging social and cultural observation. She references a book of cookery by Sir Harry Luke, a British diplomat of the early 20th century.

Luke seems to have been of that numberless group of mid-level Colonial Officers who peppered Empire and environs in that period. He found time to compose books on travel and foreign cultures, with one on cookery as noted, The Tenth Muse (Putnams, 1954).

David was much taken with this production and composed notes on the book published in the Spectator in December 1962. A portion appeared in her 1970 Spices, Sales and Aromatics in the English Kitchen, including these lines:

Sir Harry collected recipes from British Residences and Government Houses, from their chatelaines, their cooks – cooks Maltese and Cypriot, Hindu and Persian and Assyrian, cooks Goanese and Polynesian, cooks naval, military, and consular, cooks in Union Clubs at La Paz and Santiago di Chile, cooks of French pioneers and Brazilian countesses, Turkish Grand Viziers, and Coptic Archimandrites….

Sir Harry must have been an ideal guest. The wife of the British Resident in Brunei prefers to mix her own curry powders, so off Harry goes with her to market, noting that she buys, separately and in varying quantities, black pepper, aniseed, cardamon, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, mace, nutmeg, poppyseed, saffron, tamarind, turmeric…

David reproduces a number of his recipes in the book including that for Cyprus Sausages. Luke wrote it was a village recipe from Paphos, a mountain district of Cyprus where he was once Commissioner. Chopped young pork is macerated for 48 hours with salt, pepper, coriander, herbs, and red wine.

Cleaned gut soaked in vinegar is filled with the meat, tied at intervals of about three inches, hung to drain a few days, and eaten “after 7-10 days, fried or grilled”. (Greek or Greek-influenced sausage often contains orange rind. One can see coriander fitting within this scheme, or the other way around, I suppose).

It would be a mistake to conclude David knew only rudiments of cookery and ingredients and the books relied for their appeal on her romantic temperament. One needs to read the books and collected essays in toto to understand how well she understood food and cooking, the basics if you will.

She simply approached them in her own way, which gave an extra allure. But when I see on television, say, a Jamie Oliver handle food, with a deftness and savoir faire born of years of experience, I know from reading her work she had no less, as ditto a James Beard, Julia Child, Graham Kerr (yes), Nigella Lawson, Delia Smith, et al.

Where she sets off from these estimable figures is her original way to present the material, or particular tone, which benefitted too from her historical researches, a factor that deepened as the years passed.

Her 1970s English Bread and Yeast Cookery presents all facets of her writing personality to a t: detailed attention to ingredients and technique, the historical depth, and flashes of passion and daring.

It is a cliché to say a writer is one of a kind, but this was very true of Elizabeth David. She was born Elizabeth Gwynne, issue of minor Sussex gentry although she claimed also some Indonesian ancestry.

Before turning to food writing she was a theatre actress, model, traveler (1938-1940 and postwar), and British civil servant (Alexandria during the war). She hobnobbed with writers and Bohemia in earlier years, including in Capri c. 1950.

She had lived in Greece as well earlier, first arriving after the outbreak of WW II when escaping the Axis in course of a Mediterranean trek with a London boyfriend, Charles Gibson Cowan. In 1944 she married Anthony (Tony) David, an Army officer, with whom she lived in India after the war.

She returned to England alone to reside in London. Her husband later joined her, but they divorced in 1948, whence her writing career blossomed, resulting in her first book Mediterranean Food, in 1950.

Her interest in France derived probably from a spell as a schoolgirl with a French family, absorbing fundamentals of housekeeping and bourgeois French cookery. She also spent time in Corsica in the late 1930s.

Every part of her early years contributed to the masterful, highly original writer she became. There can never be another, but she can stand as inspiration to her posterity.

*Specifically, Muslim India and Levant.