Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today
Brewing Porters and Stouts (Skyhorse Publishing, Paperback, $16.95, 224 pp) is a love story. But not for the romantic or faint of heart. It is a rigorous and passionate investigation into the life of porters and stouts. Foster is the perfect person for this subject. He combines a scientist’s rigor for data with a beer lover’s passion for knowledge. In the process, he has raised many questions about conventional wisdom concerning these beers and their classifications in amateur and professional competitions.
Foster has dissected much of the received lore surrounding these two beer styles, replacing it with a more solid understanding based on historical research. If we’re lucky, this book will spark an intense debate, shaking up the world of porters and stouts.
To begin with, the whole story of the birth of porter, beginning with Ralph Harwood in 1722, blending “three threads,” is factually wrong in every detail. Actually, the beer most likely emerged in London breweries as a response to pale ales from Burton-on-Trent and from the country. Foster also takes apart the theory that porter was made with just brown malt, suggesting that some pale malt had to have been used for its enzymes.
The oft-told story of how stouts arrived survives his research. A chapter is devoted to gathering together the porters and stouts from breweries across the British Isles and the United States. This labyrinthine research suggests the malleability of names as strength and market created name changes. For example, Guinness brewed a Town Porter (single stout) and an Extra Superior Porter (double stout).
After this survey, Foster raises questions about today’s style definitions, admitting their use concerns competitions and not drinking pleasure. For example, smoke most likely was an element of all porters, not a separate category, and imperial porters are actually stouts. The origins of the Baltic porter and the Russian imperial stout receive in-depth investigations.
The meat of the book actually is the extensive examination of ingredients, recipes and processes for homebrewers and commercial brewers. Don’t miss Foster’s top 10 favorites. A monster of a book, to be savored not guzzled.