Saturday, 5 November 2016

The taste of porter in 1818

Having fallen behind on the backlog of beery things to read I've just got round to finishing the Spring edition of the Journal of the Brewery History Society. It's a good job I'm working my way through though, as there's an excellent article by A. Pryor on porter production which even contains some contemporaneous tasting notes from 1818:
"[the taste of porter] is made a little more clear by the evidence of Arthur Aikin ... He likened porter's taste to dry white wine, compared to that of ale which was more like sweet wine. When the Committee asked Aikin whether the taste of unwholesome ingredients could be tasted in porter he replied 'generally the empyreumatic flavour is so prevalent I do not perceive any other flavours in London porter'."
It seems empyreumatic is a word which is still used to describe wine.  The article continues:
"Another witness, Daniel Wheeler, had been introduced to the Committee as the patentee of a new malt colouring used the same word when he was asked about its taste. He replied 'empyreumatic - rather a burnt flavour - like toasted bread'. Thus, it seems that the traditional brown malt had created a flavour which had the pleasant bitterness of a dry wine, the new roasted malt flavouring gave the beer a more acrid, burnt flavour."
My attempts at making all brown malt porters have definitely had a touch of the empyreumatic about them, but no way as smoky as a rauchbier.

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