Historical Beer Pre-Prohibition Porter

27. Historical Beer: Pre-Prohibition Porter

Overall Impression:
An American adaptation of English Porter using American ingredients, including adjuncts.

Aroma:
Base grainy malt aroma with low levels of dark malt (slight burnt or chocolate notes). Low hop aroma. Low to moderate low levels of DMS acceptable. May show low levels of caramel and biscuit aroma. No to very low esters. Light adjunct (licorice, molasses) aroma acceptable. Diacetyl low to none. Clean lager profile acceptable.

Appearance:
Medium to dark brown, though some examples can be nearly black in color, with ruby or mahogany highlights. Relatively clear. Light to medium tan head which will persist in the glass.

Flavor:
Grainy base malt flavor, with low levels of chocolate or burnt black malt notes, along with low levels of caramel, biscuit, licorice, and toast notes. Corn/DMS flavor acceptable at low to moderate levels. American hop bitterness low to moderate and American hop flavor low to none. Balance is typically even between malt and hops, with a moderate dry finish.

Mouthfeel:
Medium light to medium body, moderate carbonation, low to moderate creaminess. May have a slight astringency from the dark malts.

Comments:
Also sometimes known as Pennsylvania Porter or East Coast Porter.

History:
Commercially brewed in Philadelphia during the revolutionary period, the beer gained wide acceptance in the newly formed mid-Atlantic states, and was endorsed by President George Washington.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Two and six row malt (or a combination of both) are used, along with low percentages of dark malts including black, chocolate, and brown malt (roasted barley is not typically used). Adjuncts are acceptable, including corn, brewers licorice, molasses, and porterine. More historical versions will have up to twenty percent adjuncts. Lager or ale yeast. Emphasis on historical or traditional American bittering hops (Cluster, Willamette, Cascade), though finishing and flavor hops may vary.

Style Comparison:
Smoother and less hoppy-bitter than a (modern) American Porter, less caramelly than an English Porter with more of an adjunct/lager character.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.046 – 1.060
IBUs: 20 – 30
FG: 1.010 – 1.016
SRM: 18 – 30
ABV: 4.5 – 6.0%

Commercial Examples:
Stegmaier Porter, Yuengling Porter

Biere de Garde

24C. Bière de Garde

Overall Impression:
A fairly strong, malt-accentuated, lagered artisanal beer with a range of malt flavors appropriate for the color. All are malty yet dry, with clean flavors and a smooth character.

Aroma:
Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate intensity toasty-bready-rich malt character. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy, peppery, or herbal). Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. Generally quite clean, although stronger versions may have a light, spicy alcohol note as it warms.

Appearance:
Three main variations exist (blond, amber and brown), so color can range from golden-blonde to reddish-bronze to chestnut brown. Clarity is brilliant to fair, although haze is not unexpected in this type of often unfiltered beer. Well-formed head, generally white to off-white (varies by beer color), average persistence.

Flavor:
Medium to high malt flavor often with a toasty-rich, biscuity, toffee-like or light caramel-sweet character. Malt flavors and complexity tend to increase with beer color. Low to moderate esters and alcohol flavors. Medium-low hop bitterness provides some support, but the balance is always tilted toward the malt. Darker versions will have more of an initial malty-sweet impression than paler versions, but all should be malty in the palate and finish. The malt flavor lasts into the finish, which is medium-dry to dry, never cloying. Low to no hop flavor (spicy, peppery, or herbal), although paler versions can have slightly higher levels of herbal or spicy hop flavor (which can also come from the yeast). Smooth, well-lagered character, even if made with ale yeast. Aftertaste of malt (character appropriate for the color) with some dryness and light alcohol.

Mouthfeel:
Medium to medium-light (lean) body, often with a smooth, creamy-silky character. Moderate to high carbonation. Moderate alcohol warming, but should be very smooth and never hot.

Comments:
Three main variations are included in the style: the brown (brune), the blond (blonde), and the amber (ambrée). The darker versions will have more malt character, while the paler versions can have more hops (but still are malt-focused beers). A related style is Bière de Mars, which is brewed in March (Mars) for present use and will not age as well. Attenuation rates are in the 80-85% range. Some fuller-bodied examples exist, but these are somewhat rare. Age and oxidation in imports often increases fruitiness, caramel flavors, and adds corked and musty notes; these are all signs of mishandling, not characteristic elements of the style.

History:
Name literally means “beer which has been kept or lagered.” A traditional artisanal ale from Northern France brewed in early spring and kept in cold cellars for consumption in warmer weather. It is now brewed year-round.

Characteristic Ingredients:
The “cellar” character commonly described in literature is more of a feature of mishandled commercial exports than fresh, authentic products. The somewhat moldy character comes from the corks and/or oxidation in commercial versions, and is incorrectly identified as “musty” or “cellar-like.” Base malts vary by beer color, but usually include pale, Vienna and Munich types. Darker versions will have richer malt complexity and sweetness from crystal-type malts. Sugar may be used to add flavor and aid in the dry finish. Lager or ale yeast fermented at cool ale temperatures, followed by long cold conditioning. Floral, herbal or spicy continental hops.

Style Comparison:
Related to the Belgian Saison style, the main difference is that the Bière de Garde is rounder, richer, malt-focused, and lacks the spicy, bitter character of a Saison.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.060 – 1.080
IBUs: 18 – 28 FG: 1.008 – 1.016
SRM: 6 – 19 ABV: 6.0 – 8.5%

Commercial Examples:
Ch’Ti (brown and blond), Jenlain (amber and blond), La Choulette (all 3 versions), St. Amand (brown), Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts (blond), Russian River Perdition

Blond Ale

18A. Blonde Ale

Overall Impression:
Easy-drinking, approachable, malt-oriented American craft beer, often with interesting fruit, hop, or character malt notes. Well-balanced and clean, is a refreshing pint without aggressive flavors.

Aroma:
Light to moderate sweet malty aroma, possibly with a light bready or caramelly note. Low to moderate fruitiness is optional, but acceptable. May have a low to medium hop aroma, and can reflect almost any hop variety although citrusy, floral, fruity, and spicy notes are common.

Appearance:
Light yellow to deep gold in color. Clear to brilliant. Low to medium white head with fair to good retention.

Flavor:
Initial soft malty sweetness, but optionally some light character malt flavor (e.g., bread, toast, biscuit, wheat) can also be present. Caramel flavors typically absent; if present, they are typically low-color caramel notes. Low to medium fruity esters optional, but are welcome. Light to moderate hop flavor (any variety), but shouldn’t be overly aggressive. Medium-low to medium bitterness, but the balance is normally towards the malt or even between malt and hops. Finishes medium-dry to slightly malty-sweet; impression of sweetness is often an expression of lower bitterness than actual residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-light to medium body. Medium to high carbonation. Smooth without being heavy.
Comments: Brewpub alternative to standard American lagers, typically offered as an entry-level craft beer.

History:
An American craft beer style produced by many microbreweries and brewpubs, particularly those who cannot produce lagers. Regional variations exist (many US West Coast brewpub examples are more assertive, like pale ales) but in most areas this beer is designed as the least challenging beer in their lineup.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Generally all malt, but can include up to 25% wheat malt and some sugar adjuncts. Any hop variety can be used. Clean American, lightly fruity English, or Kölsch yeast. May also be made with lager yeast, or cold-conditioned. Some versions may have honey, spices and/or fruit added, although if any of these ingredients are stronger than a background flavor they should be entered in those specialty categories instead.

Style Comparison:
Typically has more flavor than American Lagers and Cream Ales. Less bitterness than an American Pale Ale.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.038 – 1.054
IBUs: 15 – 28 FG: 1.008 – 1.013
SRM: 3 – 6 ABV: 3.8 – 5.5%

Commercial Examples:
Kona Big Wave Golden Ale, Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale, Russian River Aud Blonde, Victory Summer Love, Widmer Citra Summer Blonde Brew

Baltic Porter

9C. Baltic Porter
Overall Impression:
A Baltic Porter often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English porter and the restrained roast of a schwarzbier, but with a higher OG and alcohol content than either. Very complex, with multi-layered malt and dark fruit flavors.

Aroma:
Rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes. Complex alcohol and ester profile of moderate strength, and reminiscent of plums, prunes, raisins, cherries or currants, occasionally with a vinous Port-like quality. Some darker malt character that is deep chocolate, coffee or molasses but never burnt. No hops. No sourness. Very smooth.

Appearance:
Dark reddish-copper to opaque dark brown (not black). Thick, persistent tan-colored head. Clear, although darker versions can be opaque.

Flavor:
As with aroma, has a rich malty sweetness with a complex blend of deep malt, dried fruit esters, and alcohol. Has a prominent yet smooth schwarzbier-like roasted flavor that stops short of burnt. Mouth-filling and very smooth. Clean lager character. Starts sweet but darker malt flavors quickly dominates and persists through finish. Just a touch dry with a hint of roast coffee or licorice in the finish. Malt can have a caramel, toffee, nutty, molasses and/or licorice complexity. Light hints of black currant and dark fruits. Medium-low to medium bitterness from malt and hops, just to provide balance. Hop flavor from slightly spicy hops ranges from none to medium-low.

Mouthfeel:
Generally quite full-bodied and smooth, with a well-aged alcohol warmth. Medium to medium-high carbonation, making it seem even more mouth-filling. Not heavy on the tongue due to carbonation level.

Comments:
May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7-8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout.

History:
Traditional beer from countries bordering the Baltic Sea, developed indigenously after higher-gravity export brown or imperial stouts from England were established. Historically top-fermented, many breweries adapted the recipes for bottom-fermenting yeast along with the rest of their production.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Generally lager yeast (cold fermented if using ale yeast, as is required when brewed in Russia). Debittered chocolate or black malt. Munich or Vienna base malt. Continental hops (Saazer-type, typically). May contain crystal malts and/or adjuncts. Brown or amber malt common in historical recipes.

Style Comparison:
Much less roasted and smoother than an Imperial Stout, typically with less alcohol. Lacks the roasty qualities of stouts in general, more taking on the roasted-but-not-burnt characteristics of a schwarzbier. Quite fruity compared to other porters. Higher alcohol than other porters.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.060 – 1.090
IBUs: 20 – 40 FG: 1.016 – 1.024
SRM: 17 – 30 ABV: 6.5 – 9.5%

Commercial Examples:
Aldaris Porteris, Baltika #6 Porter, Devils Backbone Danzig, Okocim Porter, Sinebrychoff Porter, Zywiec Porter

American Wheat Beer

1D. American Wheat Beer
Overall Impression:
Refreshing wheat beers that can display more hop character and less yeast character than their German cousins. A clean fermentation character allows bready, doughy, or grainy wheat flavors to be complemented by hop flavor and bitterness rather than yeast qualities.

Aroma:
Low to moderate grainy, bready, or doughy wheat character. A light to moderate malty sweetness is acceptable. Esters can be moderate to none, although should reflect relatively neutral yeast strains; banana is inappropriate. Hop aroma may be low to moderate, and can have a citrusy, spicy, floral, or fruity character. No clove phenols.

Appearance:
Usually pale yellow to gold. Clarity may range from brilliant to hazy with yeast approximating the German weissbier style of beer. Big, long-lasting white head.

Flavor:
Light to moderately-strong bready, doughy, or grainy wheat flavor, which can linger into the finish. May have a moderate malty sweetness or finish quite dry. Low to moderate hop bitterness, which sometimes lasts into the finish. Balance is usually even, but may be slightly bitter. Low to moderate hop flavor (citrusy, spicy, floral, or fruity). Esters can be moderate to none, but should not include banana. No clove phenols. May have a slightly crisp finish.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-light to medium body. Medium-high to high carbonation. Slight creaminess is optional; wheat beers sometimes have a soft, ‘fluffy’ impression.
Comments: Different variations exist, from an easy-drinking fairly sweet beer to a dry, aggressively-hopped beer with a strong wheat flavor. American rye beers should be entered in the Alternative Fermentables specialty category.

History:
An American craft beer adaptation of the German weissbier style using a cleaner yeast and more hops, first widely popularized by Widmer in the mid-1980s.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Clean American ale or lager yeast (German weissbier yeast is inappropriate). Large proportion of wheat malt (often 30-50%, which is lower than is typical in German weissbiers). American, German, or New World hops are typical.
Style Comparison: More hop character and less yeast character than German weissbier. Never with the banana and clove character of German weissbier. Generally can have the same range and balance as Blonde Ales, but with a wheat character as the primary malt flavor.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.040 – 1.055
IBUs: 15 – 30 FG: 1.008 – 1.013
SRM: 3 – 6 ABV: 4.0 – 5.5%

Commercial Examples:
Bell’s Oberon, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Beer, Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Widmer Hefeweizen