This beer is still brewed seasonally by The Granite Brewery in Toronto, a pioneering brewpub in town with over 30 years service in the cause of crafted beer.
It is one of a large range put out by the brewery, ever-larger today due to a second fermenter, a “conical”, installed about three years ago. The original, open, Ringwood fermentation system still powers the main range of the brewery, producing its (UK-style) India Pale Ale, Best Bitter, Keefe Stout (a dry Irish style), and more.
The Granite is a family operation. Founder Ron Keefe set it up all those years ago with a brother who had operated a branch in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
For over 10 years daughter Mary Beth Keefe has handled the brewing – read about her role, that of founder Ron, and more brewery history in the website.
I don’t get to the Granite as often as I’d like, a pattern with many of the town’s well-established locales (C’est What, beerbistro, Three Brewers, etc.). There are simply so many beer bar options now including “brewery taps”, a more basic version of the brewpub bar.
And beer retailers – brewery shops, Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlets, the Beer Store chain, many supermarkets, carry hundreds of brands from which to choose. Then, too, the Covid hiatus, mandating alternating closing and opening for bars and restaurants, kept patronage back.
But I did get to the Granite the other day. I had a superb Black IPA, its Darkside, seemingly refined to perfection in recent years. The bar just finished a mini-festival of porter and stouts for St. Patrick’s Day, in which this beer, and the 1812 Porter fit well.
I had a role in the formulation of the porter, as 10-12 years ago I contributed ideas that were incorporated in brewing. My input was to suggest that brown malt be used, a historic malt type used in porter for much of its English heyday.*
Also, I suggested a firm, neutral-type hopping be used, nothing citric or piney as associated with American craft brewing (as not sufficiently historical).
The Granite also took ideas from elsewhere including the use of molasses. It felt, quite correctly, that some early Upper Canada beer used molasses to supplement the barley malt.
So the porter really is a “colonial” interpretation of the English porter tradition.
What emerged has been quite consistent over the years. It is slightly sweet, certainly bitter enough, with a subtle tangy, almost acidulous note that may reflect fermentation of molasses.
The distinctive yeast of the Granite plays a role too, perhaps more restrained this year than in the past.
1812 Porter may well be a taste of history and if so, mission accomplished. But either way, people like it – it sells steadily and when I visited the other day, the draft was exhausted. There were still some cans in the shop though, and I took one home.
I can’t say the porter is my favourite among the range, that would be Darkside. After that, probably the American IPA, Hopping Mad.
But I’m glad it is still made. It is a reminder of the style’s long lineage, and the different strands that make up its history.
N.B. I think “1812” in the name derived from the 1812 War, between Canada and the United States, as in 2012 its bicentennial was celebrated.
*Its usage in Ireland was more limited from the early 1800s. This was due to a more enthusiastic reception for patent black malt, an alternate way to impart a toasted, sometimes smoky note, and the dark hue.