When one thinks of porter beer, Belgium does’t really come to mind. In first place would be London, the 18th century birthplace of the beer type. Then it was a direct descendant from brown ale and gained its name due to its popularity with the river and street porters.
The early porters were brewed exclusively from brown malt but this changed when malt usage was taxed and the technology of the day showed that brown malt, although cheaper, provided about 25% less fermentable material than pale malt. The dark colour and financial savings were maintained by the use of additives.
Not to be outdone, the government of the day introduced an English Reinheitsgebot which only allowed malt and hops to be used in the production of beer. Within a year Daniel Wheeler had come to the rescue with his patented development; black malt (barley malt that has been kilned to the point of carbonising at about 200 deg.) From that time on it was possible to brew porter with 95% pale malt and 5% black malt although most brewers used some brown malts as well to maintain flavour.
Porter as a beer type was virtually dead in the 1950’s but a revival started slowly in the late 70’s, gaining momentum until it was fully reestablished in the late 90’s. Today, traditional Porter is not only brewed in the UK but in many European countries and the USA.
Viven porter from the small brewery in Sijsele is typical of the type but relatively new on the scene, being first brewed in 2009.
Deep brown almost black in colour with a good dark beige head. No mistaking the roasted malts, together with aromas of coffee, fresh dark bread , dark chocolate and tobacco. The taste fully lives up to the expectation with a slight tang and medium bittereness. Good carbonation and balance with the alcohol (7% alc. Vol) nestling in the background.
If you like porter as a beer type you’ll like Viven; no great complexity but a well crafted and enjoyable beer.
And, by the way, if you’re wondering what the difference between porter and stout is; the answer is, not too much.
More next time.