Workman's Friend Porter

Brewing is alchemy. It is equal parts art and science, steeped in history and suffused in community. For me, brewing is almost more about the process than the finished product. When I brew, I feel I am participating in a dialog that spans scores of generations through the millennia. Of course, the particular techniques I apply in my kitchen are a far cry from the methods of my ancestors, but the basics remain the same. Steep grain. Boil wart. Ferment. Enjoy with friends.

This holiday weekend, I finally have a chance to brew another batch of beer. With Alivia’s encouragement, I decided to make a porter. I’ve spent some time doing my homework on this style of ale to craft a recipe. I found the chapter on porters in Daniels’ Designing Great Beers most helpful. In the grain bill, I am trying to recreate some aspects of the brown malt that was the backbone of porters in the 18th and 19th centuries. Brown malt fell out of favor after the 19th century because of its low yield compared to the combination of pale and roasted malts used in most dark ales today. I am hoping that a combination of pale, caramel, Munich and smoked malts will imbue my brew some of the characteristics of an 18th century British porter.

To contrast the faux-traditional malt profile, I am using a decidedly contemporary west coast hop profile. Inspired by Rogue’s Mocha Porter, I am using American Perle hops for bittering and Sterling for flavor and aroma. Here is the recipe for a 5.5 gallon batch:


  • 8 lb pale malt (2 row)
  • 1 lb caramel 60
  • 1 lb Munich
  • 8 oz chocolate
  • 3 oz black malt
  • 1.5 oz peat smoked malt


  • 1.5 oz American Perle (60 min)
  • 1 oz Sterling (30 min)
  • 1 oz Sterling (5 min)


  • British ale (Wyeast 1098)

I plan on doing a single temperature infusion mash at 152 degrees. If all goes according to plan, I should end up with an original gravity of 1.053 and bitterness of around 45 IBU. I am anticipating a final gravity of around 1.014 for an ABV of 5.1%.

I decided to name this beer The Workman’s Friend after Flann O’Brien’s poem of the same name:

When things go wrong and will not come right,

  • Though you do the best you can,*
  • When life looks black as the hour of night –*
  • A pint of plain is your only man.*

When money’s tight and hard to get

  • And your horse has also ran,*
  • When all you have is a heap of debt –*
  • A pint of plain is your only man.*

When health is bad and your heart feels strange,

  • And your face is pale and wan,*
  • When doctors say you need a change,*
  • A pint of plain is your only man.*

When food is scarce and your larder bare

  • And no rashers grease your pan,*
  • When hunger grows as your meals are rare –*
  • A pint of plain is your only man.*

In time of trouble and lousey strife,

  • You have still got a darlint plan*
  • You still can turn to a brighter life –*
  • A pint of plain is your only man.*

— Flann O’Brien

Will Rosenbaum

Saarbrücken, Germany

comments powered by Disqus