Pre-Prohibition Porter: The History of Porter

Today we are going to take a look at the history of porter as we brew pre-prohibition porter.

We are going to be mashing this beer at 152 F. The other significant thing from just picking up the ingredients is that they need to be fresh. Mash is not looking very dark just from the grains yet. That is going to change when you leave it to mash for an hour.

To learn more about beer check our How is Beer made and its ingredients

The grain bill

What makes this beer pre-prohibition porter is 6 Row malt and flaked corn. Those are characteristics ingredients we are looking to build a beer with an original gravity of 1.057, around 5.5 % abv.

Our grain bill is

  • 68 % 6 Row Pale Malt
  • 17 % Flaked Corn
  • 9 % Flaked Rye
  • 4 % Caramel 60
  • 2 % Caraf 2

The history of porter

A glass of porter beer in an English pub.

The story of porter begins 300 years ago. Ralph Harwood, a London brewer in the 1730s and the father of porter. He became famous for the beer that he called Entire. Back then beer was often served as a blend of different beers. Each poured from a different cask. Each cask was called a but and each beer that came from that but was called a thread.

A mug of beer might consist of multiple threads. Entire became a stable of the blue-collar clientele many of whom worked as porters. Soon the beer itself became known as the folks that drink it. A porter. It is a nice story but not very likely to be true.

Beer writers have found mentions of porter dating back before Harwood’s creation. And the historians think the whole porter origin story may trace back to the misinterpretation from a letter written about beer taxation in the 1720s. It seems more likely that porter emerged as an aged version of brown beer. It is likely true that a name porter did indeed come from the beer’s popularity with the porters who worked carrying goods throughout London.

Adding the hops and pitching the yeast

Two mugs of porter beer.

For the hops for this beer, we are actually using a single packet of hops. We are using Galena hops which were developed in Idaho in 1968. They will fit the porter quite well.

  • 0.5 oz. Galena at 60 minutes
  • 0.5 oz. Galena at 5 minutes

In terms of yeast for this beer, we are using California Lager yeast. This is a white yeast 21 12. We will be fermenting the beer fairly warm for a lager. Yeast is typically designed for California common beer styles. We will ferment at 64 F for 4 weeks before tasting the beer.

In terms of color, the beer is very dark. It smells like roasted grains with a hint of malt. Nice balance between the maltiness and it’s not a bitter beer. The thing that makes it pre-prohibition is the corn. Which we would never think to add to this sort of style. Cheers.

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