I Like Beer: February 2010

“Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. — Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask — leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working — Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.”
        –From George Washington’s personal papers, kept at the New York Public Library

    Ah, February. Love is in the air, cherubs everywhere, and card and candy companies dive into a pile of money like Scrooge McDuck taking his afternoon swim.

    Not here, my readers. I will leave Valentine’s Day to my writing compatriots at Twin; here, February means the birthday of the Father of our Country, George Washington. George Washington was a patriot, a keen military man, and a fellow who knew the value of good beer.
“We have already been too long subject to British prejudices. I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality.” (Washington, in a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, January 29, 1789)

    When Washington had his druthers, he was a porter (and for the definition, check out this month’s BVB) drinker. His orders – often a gross at a time — from Philadelphia brewers Robert Hare and Benjamin W. Morris are well documented. So in honor of the upcoming 278th anniversary of his birth, let’s check out the current state of American porters.

    While it is unlikely that Washington and the late Hunter S. Thompson would have seen eye to eye on much of anything, they might have been able to ignore their differences over a Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog Breweries in Maryland. This beer, weighing in at a hefty 85 IBUs and 7.8% ABV, has strong notes of cappuccino, chocolate, and a touch of licorice. The big ABV is typical of Baltic Porters, that were brewed to survive long shipping treks across the North Sea. Twin Liquors can help you get gonzo with a four-pack for $8.99.   

Feeling lucky? If you are, maybe it’s time for some Black Jack Porter, from Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, Colorado. Black Jack is a touch lighter and less alcoholic than some porters, and uses Kent Goldings hops from England (don’t tell George; he might not approve). It has a flavor profile that is a touch sweet with strong chocolate malt flavors.

    Finally, if you’ve had porters and you want something new – take a chance and try Stone Smoked Porter from Stone Brewing in San Diego. For this unique brew, Stone smokes part of the malt over peat – the identical process used in the manufacture of Scotch whisky. The smoke in Stone’s brew is subtle; unlike a German smoked beer, it is only part of the flavor rather than the defining flavor. Stone Smoked Porter is sold in 22oz bombers for $4.39 at the Twin Liquor Marketplaces.

    So in the midst of all the hearts and flowers, remember to step out and pick up a porter. Fathering our country was thirsty work.
As always, keep your head up, your lace delicate, your malts toasty, and your hops snappy.

THIS MONTH’S BVB (Beer Vocabulary Builder):
    Porter: “Most traditional British brewing documentation from the 1700’s state that Porter was a blend of three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale), with various combinations of blending and staleness. The end result was also commonly known as “Entire Butt” or “Three Threads” and had a pleasing taste of neither new nor old. It was the first truly engineered beer, catering to the public’s taste, playing a critical role in quenching the thirst of the UK’s Industrial Revolution and lending an arm in building the mega-breweries of today.” (From Beer Advocate.com).

    Duke’s Take: Call it Baltic, English, or American, Porters have certain things in common; dark, toasty flavors, sturdy alcohol content, and just a trace of sweetness.