Sometimes you just want to make something straightforward and simple. No tricks. No experiments. Just something plain and pure and seasonally appropriate. Like this American Porter, Tilde Porter:
After my last couple of brews, I needed to take the pressure off. I didn’t want to do anything “special” or creative or competitive and difficult. I just needed to strip my process down to the basics. Water plus malt plus hops plus yeast equals beer.
Brew day got underway nice and early when I got home from the gym that morning. I got the flame going on the kettle to heat the mash water and in the meantime, I inspected that lovely grist.
After almost an hour (the water started so cold!) I mashed in at 152.6°F and let it go for 75 minutes. No mash out, no sparge. I pulled the BIAB bag and squeezed like hell to maximize my wort. I had just shy of 6 gallons in the kettle sitting at 1.047.
I got the kettle to boiling and followed along with my hop schedule. The boil finished and I did my chilling; 12 minutes to get it down to 64°F. Post-boil science: 5.4 gallons of wort at 1.057 (after temperature calibration and offset adjustments).
Five gallons went into the fermentor. I shook to aerate. I pitched a single sachet of rehydrated US-05.
I cleaned up. I looked at the clock. It was a very smooth brew day.
I got the porter into the fermentation chamber at the end of the brew day and set the temperature controller to 64±1°F. I’ll admit it though, I got antsy while I waited for it to show signs of fermentation. It wasn’t until +45 hours that there was appreciable activity. So what? So it was a slow lag phase. Once it got going, it was going strong.
As it slowed down (approx. +91 hours) I ramped the temperature on the controller a little bit at a time, capping out at 70±1°F as of +166. By +213 it looked like I’d hit final gravity, so I dropped the controller to 34±1°F for cold crashing. (I skipped the gelatin fining on such a dark beer.)
As for packaging? I bottled 6 × 12 oz. bottles for competition (corn sugar tablets for carbonation) and ran off the rest into a keg. Swapped out Couples Massage to get it on gas and…
…it wasn’t bad!
AROMA. Moderately low aromas overall. Low cocoa, moderate roast malt, low nutty quality. Hop aromas earthy and low, background floral. Esters low and suggest black currant and dried dark cherry. Otherwise clean fermentation profile; no DMS, no diacetyl. As it warms, subtle smoky notes.
APPEARANCE. Color is very dark brown, almost black. Almost opaque with mahogany highlights. Tan-colored, dense head stands at 2 cm; all but collapsed after 3 minutes, but appreciable lacing.
FLAVOR. Leads with slight caramel sweetness but this is quickly overtaken by roast malt character. Notes like very dark toast. Mid-palate malt notes are moderate cocoa, and a very low nutty quality. “Almost burnt” toward the finish. Assertive bitterness with finishing balance leaning bitter over malty. Hop notes low overall and suggesting earthy and herbal qualities. Clean fermentation character.
MOUTHFEEL. Medium-full body. Moderate-high carbonation. No perceptible alcohol warmth nor creaminess. No astringency. Would be smooth but for the assertive bitterness.
OVERALL IMPRESSION. Decent American Porter with the right malt/hop balance and a solidly defined center, if lacking some complexity. If I were judging this in competition, I’d suggest looking at the grist to see if changes to the malt proportions could enhance the impression of “complexity”. Another possibility is to look at the hop schedule — something more “resiny” might complement the malt profile better. The smoke is an interesting twist and is subtle enough not to be distracting or off-putting.
I suspect that some subtle tweaks could turn this into an excellent “house” porter. As-is, it’s nothing special (though it wasn’t meant to be) — but I think it has a good “center” or “core” that, with the right feedback and experimentation, could become a fine example of the style. The US-05 yeast doesn’t bring much to the table; perhaps something with more character (e.g., Wyeast 1318 London III? or Wyeast 1272 American Ale II?) could help enhance what else is going on here. I’m hesitant to fuss with the malts too much — perhaps bump up the black malt to get a little more “almost burnt” without crossing over into harsh territory, and/or find a hop dose that could bring in some complementary “resiny” quality (e.g., Northern Brewer? Chinook? Simcoe?)
For something that was supposed to be stripped down and simple, I’m pleased. I’ve got a good foundation to build on here.
The all-grain (BIAB) recipe for Tilde Porter is as follows:
Starting with the Champlain Water District profile as a base… just use a Campden tablet or two to take care of any chloramines or whatever.
- 8 lb. Briess 2-row malt
- 1 lb. 12 oz. Briess Extra Special malt
- 14 oz. Briess Black malt
- 12 oz. Briess cherrywood smoked malt
- 6 oz. Great Western Crystal 60 malt
- 0.5 oz. Galena (60 min.)
- 1.5 oz. Willamette (10 min.)
Fermentis Safale US-05
- Collect 26.27 qt. water and heat to 161.4°F. Mash in; hold at 152.1°F for 75 minutes. No mash out.
- Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort. No sparge; just squeeze the BIAB bag like crazy to extract as much wort as possible. Pre-boil volume should be 5.7 gallons.
- Bring to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes; follow hop schedule as described above.
- Cool to 68°F as rapidly as possible. Post-boil volume should be approx. 5.2 gallons.
- Aerate wort; pitch rehydrated US-05 yeast.
- Start fermentation at 64°F.
Beyond Brew Day
- Allow fermentation to complete (approx. 2 weeks) at approx. 64±1°F.
- As fermentation slows, increase temperature 1°F every 12-24 hours until it reaches 70±1°F to encourage complete attenuation.
- After hitting final gravity, cold crash and rack to a keg. Make sure to purge the keg’s headspace with CO₂.
- When ready to carbonate, connect to CO₂ at approx. 25 PSI. After approx. 48 hours, shut off gas and purge headspace. Resume CO₂ at 12-14 PSI. After 2-4 days, shut off gas and purge headspace again. Resume CO₂ at serving pressure.
Tilde Porter, an American Porter by Tilde Gravitywerks