Today I was up at my buddy Mike’s house in Menlo Park brewing my first ever porter. I guess I just haven’t been into brewing dark beers, (well, faux dark beers were my M.O. from the get go, but that’s another story…) and porter is one of those bastardized styles that no one can seem to agree on. Is it just another name for a stout? Smokey? Sour? Brown malt? Black malt? Eh… Porter can be many things these days, but you usually know what it is when you drink it; a dark ale (hell, I guess it can be a lager if we’re talking baltic porters) that is less roasty than a stout but more roasty than a brown ale, though it crosses over with both and even leap-frogs some sub-styles of stout. I’m looking at you, milk stout. Porter is confused. Or maybe we are just confused about porter.
It is because of this schizophrenic personality that I have been somewhat reluctant to jump in the porter game up until now. I’ll admit that it was Mike’s idea from the get-go, but it took a fair bit of brainstorming until we arrived at our final recipe. I feel that if you brew a porter, you’d better do something different. Sure, there are plenty of great, somewhat conservative examples of the style that are easy to find in California. Sierra Nevada Porter and Anchor Porter are two of the classics that every beer drinker should know and hopefully love. Deschutes Black Butte Porter is one that is easy to find and is a gateway to darker beers for many novice craft beer drinkers. It partially inspired our porter in its somewhat unique use of malted wheat for a small percentage of the grain bill in order to add a nice texture to the body and aid in head retention. Alaskan Smoked Porter is even more out there and is another one that you need to check out if you haven’t. If you have ever had a smoked porter and thought that you wouldn’t have known about the smoke unless someone told you, well, this was not that smoked porter. A beautifully dense layer of smoke sits atop a solid roasty malt base. If you dig smoked anything, like me, you need to check this one out. As much as I like it though, this was not the day for smoke, and none showed its face on our porter.
Three Floyds out in Munster Indiana brews a special porter for Christmas every year called Alpha Klaus, which is a strong porter at 7.5%abv, and has an extravagant amount of aroma hops, leading to a finished beer that tastes like a cross between a chocolate shake and a west coast IPA. Somehow this idea fell into our laps and we ended up settling on a strong porter brewed with almost a third malted wheat and a bunch of aroma hops. A couple of my favorite IPAs are Alpine Duet and Ballast Point Sculpin, both of which use a mix of Amarillo and Simcoe hops for their awesome hop aromas. I happened to have a few ounces of amarillo sitting around, so a couple ounces of simcoe were purchased at More Beer this morning along with our grains, and we were good to go. We decided to add the aroma hops in a relatively continuous stream during the last three minutes, which randomly happened because we were drinking a beer as the boil was nearing its end, and it reminded me of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, which uses continuous-hopping throughout its 90 minute boil. We might have only continuously hopped our beer for a thirtieth of the time as Dogfish Head does, but I think that we got a fair amount of hops in there. It was from this random chance of fate that 3 Minute Porter was born.
3 Minute Porter
For 5 gallons, extract with steeped grains, 90 minute boil:
5 lbs extra light liquid malt extract
3 lbs dry bavarian wheat extract (65% wheat, 35% pils malt)
.75 lbs crystal 60 malt
.75 lbs chocolate malt
.40 lbs black patent malt
We mixed the dry extract with 4.5 gallons of water in the kettle as we started to heat it up, while steeping the specialty grains in 1.5 gallons of water @160F in another kettle for 30 minutes. When we were done steeping we removed the grains, added the specialty malt tea back to the main kettle and let it come to a boil. Then we added the liquid extract, returned to boiling, and set the timer for 90 minutes.
1 oz amarillo @ 60 minutes (7.5%aa, 22 IBUs)
1 oz simcoe @ 10 minutes (12.3%aa, 13 IBUs)
2.3 oz amarillo and 1 oz simcoe continuously added from 3 minutes until flame out, which is hard to calculate, but probably around 4 IBUs
Yeast: 11.5 grams of Safale US-05, rehydrated and pitched around 65F
Our original gravity came out to 1.069, and calculated IBUs should be roughly 39. We were going for modest hop bitterness and a lot of hop aroma so that the malt could do its thing and add some dark chocolate to compliment the fruitiness of the hops. If fermentation goes well and we reach our target final gravity of 1.015, alcohol content will be 7%, which is in the upper reaches for a porter, but I never said this was a typical porter.
The addition of about 30% wheat to the grain bill is certainly not something that I have seen in a porter recipe, and will hopefully end up being a nice addition. Under all that roasted grain I doubt it will have much flavor impact, but mouthfeel and foam will certainly see noticeable differences. 4.3 ounces of hops in the last ten minutes of the boil is a bit much for porter, and honestly might make this come off more like an American stout, but I think that the more restrained character of the darker malts will let it stand out from those beers. The relatively modest 39 IBUs should also let the malt stand out more, which I always think of as a defining trait of porter. I should be back up at Mike’s in a couple weeks for bottling, and a couple weeks after that we’ll see how everything worked out.