Last week were we privileged to pick up two awards at the last ever London Drinker festival, one for The Smoked Brown and one for The Table Porter. Set up by John and Christine Cryne over 30 years ago, it’s fair to say the London Drinker is one of the more progressive CAMRA festivals, with a well stocked Keg bar and a good showing of Saisons, sours and mixed-ferm beers. This year the festival also added a Low ABV category to its competitions (open to Keg & Cask), sponsored by Drinkaware. This seemed to be a progressive, positive move, recognising both the consumers growing desire for interesting, well put together low strength beers and brewers growing abilities to produce them. It was a real honor to win this award, especially with The Table Porter, a beer that’s had a bit of a hard time in the past!
Originally conceived back in the home-brew days, The Table Porter was designed to be light and refreshing; an easy drinking beer with all the rich coffee roastyness of our standard Porter (essentially we were trying to work out how to sell Porter in the summer!). In the first year or so of the brewery, we brewed the Table Porter a number of times, and while it was somewhat of a favourite in-house, it never gained much traction with the public. At the time, we felt it was somewhat misunderstood. People who were after something low abv didn’t expect something dark, and people who were after something dark didn’t expect the low abv. It even got accused of being a mild on a few occasions! Ultimately we decided to pull it from the core range. When we found out about the Low ABV competition at this years festival, we all felt like it might the right time to revive the beer.
The Table Porter is loosely based on The Porter recipe but with a few more malt varieties added to retain the mouthfeel, body and complexity that is lost as the ABV level decreases. With dark beers especially we have found that mouthfeel can drop off quite quickly as the ABV drops below 5%. We have a feeling this might have something to do with the roast character requiring a good amount of body to stop it coming across astringent and thin (like stewed black tea). The addition of CaraPils, CaraMalt and Crystal Malt all help to boost body and mouthfeel by contributing dextrins, longer chain sugars and proteins to the beer. A higher than normal mash temperature also helps here as it promotes the production (or more accurately retention) of longer chain, complex sugars in the wort. These complex sugars are not as easily fermentable, so carry over into the finished beer. We also replaced East Kent Goldings with Willamette hops, to give just a little extra hop character and fruitiness to the beer.
As the beer market has developed over the last few years, there seems to be more interest than ever in low abv beers, and the number of breweries producing interesting, well made beers of modest strength has definitely increased. It seems a shame that such a progressive, open-minded CAMRA festival should come to an end, especially at such an exciting and vibrant time for the industry. It will indeed be missed!
The Table Porter is currently available in 30L Keg. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.eebriatrade.com/products/beer/anspach-hobday/9550-the-table-porter