Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today is a new book out by Terry Foster offering and in-depth look at porters and stouts. Like my last book review, of Farmhouse Ales, this book offers a very thorough look in a very narrow field. While the book does talk a fair bit about stouts it’s got a stronger tilt toward porters. Still, if you’re a lover of porters or stouts it’s worth reading, especially if you want to master brewing them at home.
The book starts by wading into the murky history of porters. It covers the common tale of a bar blending three ales together and that being enjoyed by a group of people who carried goods around London, those people being known as porters. What this section really covers is the slow, continual, development of a number of technologies that allowed creating stronger and darker beers. Unfortunately, the author does fall into the common trap of paragraphs full of “X brewery produced # barrels in year.”
The following is a complaint about many books involving brewing history: I don’t know why so many books do this when covering beer history, but it gets tedious to read. It doesn’t really add much to the overall story of porter/stout development but does show, somewhat, the extent to which breweries were making these beers. I really don’t enjoy reading these paragraphs of facts. But enough of that rant, back to this book.
Now we move into a breakdown of the plethora of sub-categories of the porter and stout styles. Flavor, aroma, malt bills, ABV, original gravity, and commercial examples are available for every style. Something interesting Brewing Porters & Stouts does that I haven’t seen before is the IBU/OG ratio. Instead of saying exactly how many IBUs a style should have it lists the number of IBUs in relation to the OG. So if you have a starting gravity (aka original gravity, hence OG) of 1.040 and an IBU/OG ratio of .5 then you should have an International Bitterness Unit (IBU) level of 20 IBUs. Why the author doesn’t just come out and say 20 IBUs I’m not exactly sure of, but it’s still a cool system.
Now we get to the real meat of the book. However, this is where anyone who doesn’t brew yet will lose interest. From here on out it’s all about bringing these beers to life. Beginning with wide coverage of the different malt varieties used in porters and stouts, along with what flavor and color contributions they add plus what percentage of the grist they represent. While the malt coverage is great the hops, water, yeast, and finings coverage is as basic as the first few pages of any introductory homebrewing book. If the malt section was wide then the recipe section is massive. 63 pages of recipes for every kind of porter and stout imaginable. Sure, all you need to do to find a homebrew recipe is spend 10 seconds Googling but this book provides a repository of recipes that is nice to have on hand.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I reached out to the publisher who was kind enough to hook me up with a free copy. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I will do my best to review it in a timely fashion and that and I will write a blog post about that review. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.