thoughts on porter, a recipe, and the yearly tradition of missing the GABF

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Hey, if it’s GABF weekend that must mean I’m at home, by myself. Screw it, I’m brewing.

Porter’s been on my mind lately, since my buddy Greg and I have been extolling its virtues as the temperature drops and darkness comes a little earlier each night. Given those parameters, one of the beautiful things about living in Minnesota is that porter season lasts about 9 months.

While delving down through the brown foam of our local, I’ve been telling my midwest beer nerd amigos about West Coast iterations I’ve had this year, like Heretic and Eel River: bittersweet, balanced … puissant, even. Roasty but not acrid. Hops and black malt tempered by generous malt and that clean, all-American yeast profile.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

Big shoulders, achieved by a three-pronged attack of beefy gravity plus mid-range saccharification temp and some crystal malt dextrins to keep the final product from drying out too much (and to protect the final gravity a bit from the attenuative yeast).

A single hop charge for bitterness on the low end of medium, letting the innate acidity of ย roasted malt make up the difference.

The ever-so-slightly off-neutral character of BRY97 (which has been a real workhorse for me this fall) to sprinkle some trace fermentation character behind the raisin-toffee and Ribena fruit lent by the malts.

Fast turnaround, because there’s no time like the present.

Burntwood Porter
Target OG: 1.058


  • 80% US Pale
  • 5% English Dark Crystal
  • 5% English Black Malt
  • 5% Pale Chocolate
  • 5% Carafoam

Single infusion mash at 155.
(It is important to start heating strike water and dough-in before dawn, so you’ll appreciate being warm and able to see when you drink the finished product)


  • Apollo (whole, 17% aa) to 35 IBU
    (as you can see in one of the photos, I first-wort hopped the addition, just because)


  • BRY-97 (3rd generation), pitch at 65F and free rise to 67-68F.

Then clean the hell up before the wife gets home. You know.

Have fun in Denver, losers. You missed out … or something. I guess. See you right here in the backyard in 2013.

34 thoughts on “thoughts on porter, a recipe, and the yearly tradition of missing the GABF

  1. I see tradition has legs here. I sure hope that you were toasting to the occasion with the requisite Schlitz/PBR/Coors Banquet/generic American lager, Mr. D. Perhaps a Joose clone is in store for next year’s gathering of The {Even} Great{er} American Beer Festival?

  2. What Timing! Just subscribed this morning and already a new post to read. Now you’ve got me jealous I didn’t brew a porter among my fall/holiday beers.

  3. This puts me in the mood for a porter, but I still have ingredients for a hefe sitting in the basement for a brew day that I never got to over the summer. Nothing like a Thanksgiving hefe… About the porter, I’m just wondering if heating the strike water after sunset has the same intended effect as heating it before dawn. Pennsylvania is no Minnesota, but it is chilly here these days.

    • I just did an american Wheat ale, adding 1 gallon of cider after a week in primary, if you’re looking to add some Fall flavor to that hefe, I would think it to be not far off my mad creation.

      • Not a bad idea! In the summer I was thinking of fermenting it on the warm side and possibly as an open fermentation to let the yeast really take over. Now I’m thinking of bringing the temps toward the cool side to subdue the yeast and trying something experimental with it. I like the idea of apples to add some fall to the flavor. Maybe I can go crazy and find some fresh cranberries too.

        • Just a side note, while I’m still determined to experiment, this first one is NOT good. It could be partly the sulfur-y well water I used (first time I realized this was such a detractor to my end product), but overall, I needed to add something else. Maybe the wheat beer was the problem, and I needed something with less protein already in it. But anyhow, tread carefully.

          • I found an old BYO recipe for brewing with cranberries, oranges, and apples. So, I took a perfectly good hefe and put in on 4.5 lbs fresh cranberries, 2 whole navel oranges (peel, pulp, juice, everything), and 2 granny smith apples. The fruit was chopped up in the blender, and the hefe was mixed with the fruit in the secondary. I let it sit on the fruit for 10 days and kegged.

            The beer went from a pale straw color to a pink lemonade color after the secondary. The head is a very light pink color. The taste is tart and refreshing. Most of the hefe character was blasted away by the fruit, and the cranberries and oranges dominate. Some granny smith kicks in as a component of the tartness contributed mostly by the cranberry. Is this beer balanced? Not quite. Does it taste great with turkey? Yep! Were several growlers sucked down by the family on Thanksgiving? Also, yes.

            I’d make this again for sure, but I think an English brown would make a better base for carrying all of that fruit.

  4. Have you noticed any issues with a slow start with the BRY-97, Mr.Dawson? I’ve used this yeast twice and both times had 36 hour lag times. These were 3.5g batches (1.056 and 1.052SG) and I pitched rehydrated yeast @ 65F. The final beer is fine, but the slow lag time bothers me.

    • No, not personally, although I’ve used my current crop just a handful of times. I started by pitching 2 packs (rehydrated) in 10 gallons of 1.048 wort, and harvested/washed the slurry about a week later, and that has been repitched into a succession of other worts. I’ve been collecting it from each new batch and storing at 35 F between brew days. In each batch I’ve seen airlock activity in under 24 hours and attenuation complete or almost complete in 2-3 days. The beers have been all-malt, no added nutrients, O2 with a diffusion stone prior to pitch.

      • Sorry, for ‘piggybacking’ to your conversation ๐Ÿ˜›
        Mr. D, Sir. Could you share some more info about BRY97, if you know of course, some ‘inner circle’ gossip, please ๐Ÿ™‚
        How does it look in comparsion with: US05 / 1056 / WLP001 / Chico (or other american ale strains) ? Is it Danstars version of those above mentioned? Ehmm , or is it Pacman, shhhh…..
        Anyway, I’m particularly interested in – how does it flocculate?
        Ya know, seeing all the time that US05s “sheepskin coat” – just ughhhh!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • If I was to compare it to an existing strain, I think it’s closer to WLP090 than Pacman … pretty attenuative, quick to ferment and then clean up after itself, relatively temperature tolerant, clean to just off-clean ferm character. I dig it.

  5. I do love those west coast porters, (heretic, hell yeah). I have been on a mid range saccrest, low ibu stout/porter kick all this year and I dont see things changing any time soon! Have you tried some Ninkasi Oatis? (not to change the porter subgect too much)

  6. Winter is coming (I’m in MN as well) as a Stark would say. I brewed an oatmeal stout last weekend as a fall-warmer of sorts, should really brew a porter one of these days. Nice pics of a brew day.

  7. On one hand, brewing a porter is a worthwhile endeavor. But being a Denverite, missing the GABF would be a sin. Seventeen hours to go, and I get to try so many of those beers from parts of the country I haven’t had the opportunity to go on a pub crawl (yet).

  8. I hope you were kicking some rocks and looking dejectedly at the ground when writing the end of that post. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hey, I was thinking of a beer to brew after my Steamin’ Wife Lager, using that yeast. Your post gave me an idea. How about a Robust Porter? And possibly make it a little extra hoppy? I like messing with stuff, as most of us do. Cheers man.

    • Not in the theme of robust porter but in the theme of messing with it to make it hoppy, I just made a dry Irish stout but finished it with a healthy kick of Sorachi Ace. The jury is out on whether or not lemony-roast is the best combination, but there was a unanimous verdict on it being awfully drinkable.

    • Check out the recipe for Firestone Walker Walker’s Reserve, they did it on can you brew it. There is a 0 min cascade addition with a one hour hot whirlpool. This is also fermented on oak. Supposed to be quite tasty.

  9. i did a shallow grave porter kit from more beer
    turned out fantastic
    did a side by side taste with heretic shallow grave and all conclude mine was better
    isn’t my wife nice
    miss u and keeler please do your own brewing vids-please

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  11. I enjoy your new blog Michael. You are a very entertaining and knowledgeable individual. I always enjoyed watching you on BTV. I was trying to decide between a porter and a dubbel today, and this post cinched it for me. I added a little special b, and went with some cluster as well as apollo. So I guess this was Burntwood inspired if not exactly Burntwood. Keep up the good work, and best of luck in your future endeavors.

  12. Dawson, as to hit the water chemistry thing, are you using a ph meter to adjust for the mash ph or just using one of zillion spreadsheets to hopefully project the mash and sparge ph to be somewhat within accurate. If you are using ph meter, would you mind pointing a fellow brewer in the direction of a decent value priced (if such a thing exists in the homebrew world) model? Great blog btw. Can’t ever have enough beer nerdery.

    • Cheers, thanks for reading – I’ll try to keep it entertaining and PG-13.

      I’ve been brewing with the same water in the same city for my entire homebrewing career, so it’s pretty dialed in … I haven’t actually taken any measurements in a few years. After dosing and measuring and then recording for a number of batches, I know how much acid I need to add and as long as there’s not a dip in efficiency or some other inexplicable problem, I don’t worry about it.

      I haven’t used the spreadsheets myself but I hear good things. I personally prefer high-quality pH papers (ColorpHast or the like) to digital pH meters – in my experience they’re better than cheapo digital meters, comparably accurate (or accurate enough for homebrewing purposes) to more expensive ones, \ easier to use than either, and – as long as, like me, you’re not measuring and re-measuring for every single batch for the rest of your life – cost less (even cheaper – I think Jamil made the suggestion on his show to snip the papers in half lengthwise, so effectively you get twice as many per pack).

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  15. Quick question on your choice of Apollo for the hops. Were you just looking for a clean bittering addition here, or was there something else you wanted to get from the Apollo? I have a pound of Warrior in my freezer, so if it was just for the bittering, I figured I’d sub.

  16. I brewed this recipe and freakin’ love it. I took the tasting notes to heart and used a different yeast – Wy1335. The outcome is dark, roasty, creamy goodness. The only problem is that no one takes my word that this is a porter – it falls in the grey area between porter and stout.

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