Brewing a Beer from History – Obadiah Poundage

Brewing a Beer from History – Obadiah Poundage


When doing these types of things, I feel
it’s important to remember our history as a brewery, and we’ve been around for
31 years. You go back to the very beginning with Greg and John Hall, they
were inspired by English beer and brewing. I feel it’s important to us
as brewers with Goose Island these days to continue that thread that it’s in our
DNA, that inspiration. So we wanted to go back into history, way back into English brewing history. So we picked a recipe from 1840, a London Porter, that we’re calling Obadiah Poundage. In order to make this beer, we collaborated with beer historian Ron Pattinson who writes a blog called Shut up about Barclay
Perkins. We caught up with Ron in London recently to get his thoughts on that brewery and some of the history of porter. Well we’re here at the Anchor Tavern on
the south bank of the River Thames, which used to be the brewery tap of the
largest brewery in the world for a long time, Barclay Perkins. Which was
really important in the history of porter brewing, and in the history of
brewing in general. And for a period of about 100 years it was always either the largest, or the second, or third largest brewery in Britain. And that meant necessarily the whole world at the time, so it was a really important brewery in
its day. It’s one of the breweries where the original porter was developed. It made its fortune on porter and it was hugely influential in the industrialization of the whole brewing process Obadiah Poundage started out
with Ron and I wanting to do a beer together. Ron said let’s do a keeping porter after seeing these vats and then in my mind I felt like we needed a
London brewer, like a modern-day London brewer involved in this project, because London is such at the heart of this beer. And immediately we knew there was no
better person than Derek Prentiss who has been brewing in London for 50 years started at Truman’s, brewed at Young’s, brewed at Fuller’s, and now is it Wimbledon Brewery in London. We’re very close to where it started. Right on the corner in fact. We’re in the Golden Heart pub here in Shoreditch and the Truman brewery literally is no more than 50 meters, 50 yards in the old days, behind us over there, and this certainly was one of our locals. We would come in here quite a
bit. My first week of brewing and working in
the laboratory of the brewery convinced me that brewing was a fantastic career
and I want you to stay in it. So I started here in the summer of 1968. Brewing the site as it was then, it was still a very old, huge, rambling site and
it was almost an industrial giant in the middle of the city. And some
of the breweries still were- there were, there was still a lot of brewing going on in London in that period. Probably close to 7 million barrels being brewed. When I joined the company there was this strong history associated with Truman’s. Truman’s were one of the biggest Porter brewers. At one time in their history they were the largest porter brewery, they were largest brewery in the world. Britain at the time had a lot of armies and
elements in the empires and porter was exported throughout the world. We looked at various recipes from that period, they were all around the same period, around 1840 1850 period. All London breweries of course making porter and we decided on a Truman’s recipe because it looked like, it just looked the best recipe. So once we picked the recipe we started to go through process and ingredients. I learned a lot from Derek and Ron. I really got an understanding of how different a beer porter was 180 years ago than how it is now. And we identified really three critical
pillars to the success of it: the malt, the aging and the blending. London really was a center for darker beers largely governed by the water. So this process happened with pale and darker beers, but because London was a center for darker beers for two reasons: One is the water is better and suits brewing darker beers, they have a higher level of natural acidity.. But also brown malt was cheaper than
the pale ale malts that were being produced and the London brewers were
always looking to to make economies where possible. We’re a small malt house in the middle
of Massachusetts, and we started in 2009 with the idea that we wanted to connect
local farms, local grains with local craft breweries. Well I think a lot of times when you’re looking at historic styles of beer it’s one thing to be able
to recreate that beer with modern ingredients, it’s another thing to sort
of look at the raw materials that made up that beer and try to understand them. You know certainly the brown malt that you’re gonna get today is not the brown malt of the mid 18th century. So trying to recreate a brown malt
that’s more authentic to that time period really hopefully will make a
beer that’s more authentic to that time period. Mid 19th century porter, that London porter, they always have pretty much the
same grist. It’s almost always a combination of pale, brown, and black, sometimes amber in some of the more expensive beers, but they always have pale, brown, and black, always those three. And by that time you’ve got a different
sort of brown malt to the one they had in the 18th century, so they’ve gone away from having a diastatic brown malt which is what they had in the original porter
when it was a hundred percent brown malt beer. And they’d gone over to using this
highly flavored brown malt which was made a very specific way with the
hornbeam with very high temperature basically turning it into a popcorn at
the end of the process and that was the type of brown malt they were using at
this period. It’s called snapped malt, it’s called brown malt, but essentially it’s a type of malt that was made specifically for London Porter beers they have a smoky character to them from the fuel that we’re using to kiln the
malt and really the process is the same as making a pale malt
except for that final curing stage or that final killing stage rather than
having a low temperature high airflow to take off moisture you have low airflow
and high temperature and that high temperature that we’re doing is coming
from a specific type of wood that was documented being used there was a hard
wood called iron wood or hornbeam which would have been available in the
okay and also happens to be available in this area so we were able to harvest
this Ironwood last year let it cure and now we’re using that as a fuel source to
be able to dry down this barley and basically subject it to pretty high heat
that as it’s wet allows it to do a little bit of stewing to create some
sugars and then toward the end were just using temperature to really take the
rest of the moisture off and create some and develop some color. So the brown malt
is critical to making a London Porter we could not recreate London Porter
without Brown malt made this way and it provides a lot of flavor and character
to this beer but we needed a pale malt to really make up the majority of the
grain build and we wanted a malt that would be as authentic to period as
possible and thankfully we were able to find this through crisp molten group
they are floor malting a heritage variety of barley called Chevallier the
only reason this barley variety exists is through the work of dr. Christopher
Ridout who revived Chevallier from seed
Chevallier was pretty much the only mole available from about mid 1820s up until
the 1920s that’s nearly a hundred years a single variety of barley Alice’s
throughout the world and even when with modern plant breeding techniques
Chevallier had declined it was still winning those beer competitions held
here in London so it must have had something special about it and so we
were intrigued by that and we thought it would be a great idea just to bring it
back to life so we went to our seed collection with just literally with a
handful of seeds we brought it back into commercial production and so we’re able
to now recreate beers from that period with authentic Chevallier malt barley. the big innovation of Porter and that obadiah poundage makes that very clear
in his letter wasn’t necessarily the type of beer that
was being brewed but it was the way it was handled and so until Porter Brown
beer which was what it was sometimes it had been aged but it hadn’t
ever been aged by the brewery the brewery had always sent it out straight
after primary fermentation and any aging that was done was either done in a pub
cellar or even done by third parties who’d aged beer and then sell it on well
if you go back 300 years or so brewing really only took place during
the winter months because of the problems with infection but brewing beer
was very much the staple drink of the population and the weaker beers but to
get the weaker beers normally the brewing was done so that you produce a
strong beer and then a beer that from the second runnings in the same way that
you might make a pot of tea pour out the first one it’s quite strong yeah add
some water and you get a second one but the stronger beers will be laid down
some of the Brewers realized there was money to be made in this and they
started ageing the beer themselves and they found out that if they just aged a
beer for about six months then they could get quite a good effect some of
the aged character without having to keep it stored away for too long and
that’s what the original Porter was originally it was all beer that had been
aged a little bit not too long then you see gradually they get the idea that
it’s easier if instead of aging all of it. You just aged some for quite a long while and then blend it in with the
young Porter and then you get a similar effect but it’s cheaper to do and so
then they start brewing the two types of Porter you have the running Porter which
is the one that’s going to be sold young and you’ve got the keeping Porter which
is one that’s going to be aged ageing Porter isn’t something we really
consider today but that’s how it was made for a very long time I think what’s
so interesting about the history of Porter is how contemporary it really is
ageing beer and large oak vessels this is something we do here in Chicago but
generally with paler beers with lower hop rates trying to achieve a degree of
acidity this is what was called a keeping Porter
it’s a highly hop beer aged six to 12 months in large wood vats though the
great London breweries had that’s much larger than these
this beer contains Brettanomyces which means British fungus it was isolated
from English beer in the early 20th century known to be present beers at
that time so our beers aging with Brettanomyces claussenii
This beer is twelve months old its leathery got a lot of overripe fruit character to
it it’s got a degree of acidity but the the hopping really prevents it from
being a sour beer and that’s intentional that’s how these beers were made
blending is for this it was actually quite simple it was spelled out in the
book that Derek showed us that in 1840 it was one-third keeping Porter to two
thirds running Porter so we and we wanted to be true to that period that
specific year and so we knew out of the gate that it was gonna be one-third aged
beer and two thirds of fresh beer this method of blending an aged beer with a
fresh running beer did a number of things one it introduced strong beer
flavor but more importantly introduced fresh beer that would Sparkle it up that
will give it that extra fizz make it more presentable because obviously a
beer would have been stored and quite strong and possibly sound would be quite
flat and not you know on its own perhaps quite so appreciated by the porters and
the porters weren’t just in the market and we’re very close to the market
porters were a bit a bit like we now use couriers you know you call up a career
and they come and they collect they take a letter they take a parcel or they carry
part you know sacks they’ll deliver stuff you know so the porters were all
around not just associated with the markets now to store in small containers
is quite a is expensive for small containers and be they take up a lot of
space and so they built bigger and bigger and bigger and vats I mean that’s
that held tens of thousands of barrels I mean just ridiculously large vats and
data have row upon row of these and the Brewers were very proud of this it was
like a sort of who’s got the biggest type of game that they
so every what everyone wanted to have the largest Porter vat and you see all
these stories have had you know a party of twenty dining inside of that they
were so big that he could get dozens of people into them though I mean if you
see the drawings in Bernard of a porter vat that sometimes they put a character
figure in so you can see the scale you have a vat that’s like that big and
there’s a run that big at the bottom of it so it’s like this sort of five-story
building worth of wood and these were these were the Porter tonnes and they lived in a
Porter ton room and this thing stretched from the ground probably to 160 foot
high with a single span wooden beam building and these vessels went from
floor to top they were massive they were huge
for some reason in the 1860s the aged flavor seems to start going out of
fashion and what happens is you see that the production of keeping Porter’s keeps
dropping off year after year and eventually they just stop with it
so about 1870 it finished the idea for this beer originally came up when I was
in Chicago going round the barrel room and noticed there were some nice big
vats and thought mmm wouldn’t it be nice to put some Porter
in what are those so the name Obadiah poundage yeah he was a brewery employee
he wrote a letter to a London newspaper describing how porter was made in the
18th century beer historians like Ron used this letter to reference the
process of how Porter was made so it’s kind of a critical document so it’s not
just a funny name it actually has a lot of importance to the history of Porter
brewing well I think Obadiah poundage is a good day yeah well just because our
Obadia poundage is a good painful stop I don’t know where he came up with that
it’s not the guy’s real name no one knows who he was which is slightly
frustrating. What is known about Obadiah Poundage? they reckon was that
he was outdoor Cooper so an outdoor Cooper being the guy who went round and
checked on the pub cellars to make sure they were looking after the beer right
and so these were people who knew a lot about the industry from both sides so
from the brewery side and from the pub side and he seems to have quite a lot of
knowledge of all of it because he goes into it in great detail and some of the
terminology he uses is obviously an insider so the whole thing about the misunderstanding about three threads
which comes from people not understanding one of the brewery terms
they use which is starved which means laying down two maturer not
tapping which is what people assumed in the 19th century and that’s why come up
with that whole myth about three threads being the origins of Porter
whereas Obadiah poundage actually explains perfectly clearly what the
origins of Porter are it’s just that people didn’t read it properly I mean I
can understand it but then again I still have my head stuck in brewing records
most of the time you’re the living rosetta stone of brewing records well don’t know about that well Derek’s
pretty good as well he knows some weird stuff about brewing. Oh it’s I mean for
me it stems back to those early days when their gender joined the brewery
here I mean I just found the whole place the whole brewery and it was old it was
you know he could a big be as a lot of breweries it’d have been built and added
on over the years but it there was so much history there was so much romance I
mean I would sit because we’d be on shift and I’d be we used to move in for
the weekend we had a little flat and I would just sit up in the flat or go out
into the brewery and you could just sit and look at the roofs and it was just
magical yeah these old buildings there were rooms that people hadn’t been in
for years with old copper vessels in and full of cobwebs and you know
Forgotten corners there were there were the rooms were all named after famous
events you know one was called Mathur King and other was called old house and
that old slave vessel use but don’t go too mad because they will go yeah just
be careful this is quite likely to be lively Right. Gentlemen, could one of you get me a glass? it was just full of both wonderful
historic buildings full of romance and characters the people that you work with
all very soon to attract characters it’s really I think it’s quite pleasant
it’s got notes of the aged beer the Brettanomyces the leather tobacco
light acidity but the fresh beer brings some some roundness some malt character
to it a little bit of sweetness it’s quite nice it keeps you coming back for
more which is important though for me the best part of this project of this
two and a half years in the making to get this spirit to the bottle is really
the people we worked with Ron Derrick Andrea and Chris was a just an awesome
team of individuals that contributed their expertise in their given areas the
other great part about this brewing project about making Obadiah poundage
was the obvious right the beer in the glass we get to actually taste history
and we can look at records we can look at archives and how beers were made 200
years ago but we until we brew them we don’t know how they taste and so our
goal is to tell this really interesting story about the history of Porter and
how important it was to brewing history but the other day we want people to come
and taste the beer and enjoy it because I really think it’s it’s an amazing beer
Cheers

6 thoughts on “Brewing a Beer from History – Obadiah Poundage”

  1. What's the price of a 24 by 24 inch mirror and wood with metal framing Goose Island emblem sale for the one I have looks like it's been around for a while thank you for reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *