The Fixed Stars is a dry, intensely malty and refreshingly light Porter, brewed with yeast strains normally used for sour beers, which add a subtle fruity funkiness to this complex beer.
Epochal say “The Fixed Stars is a 6.2% Glasgow Light Porter. It’s based on the work of (arguably) Scotland’s top 19th Century porter brewer, James Steel. At the time Steel was working, London porter was characterised by large additions of brown malt. Steel, being a man of strong opinions, thought brown malt was “a mere waste of grain” and advocated using lots of amber malt instead, which has a more mellow roasted character.
“Another distinctive element of his approach is that, whilst a blend of 1/3 aged beer, 2/3 young had been the classic for aged porters, he preferred to use around 90% fully attenuated, funky mature beer with only enough fresh beer to bring (high) carbonation.
“The strategy of adding shit loads of amber malt but ensuring the beer is both dry and highly carbonated, and also funky, at the same time, gives a very distinctive and delicious combination of intensity of malt flavour, complexity of fermentation character and refreshing lightness. The lightness and complexity are also rounded out with firm but not obtrusive hopping.
“I have drawn on these ideas in creating The Fixed Stars, which is based on his recipe for what he calls a ‘light porter’ brewed for export to the West Indies and Nova Scotia. It uses fully 45% amber malt (?!), along with a small portion of black malt, both from Simpsons, with the remainder being Scottish pale ale malt from Crafty Maltsters in Auchtermuchty. It receives judicious hopping in the boil and a small dry hop, both with East Kent Goldings.
“After open fermentation with our house Saccharomyces, it undergoes a secondary fermentation in oak with resident Brettanomyces before blending with fresh beer and bottle (and keg) conditioning. In keeping with Steel’s suggestions, it was aged for 6 months before leaving the brewery and can be aged for many years if kept carefully.
“The house cultures have contributed a rich fruity character reminiscent of dark cherries and cassis, accented by a barely-detectable flutter of acetic acid – just enough to make the fruit smell fruitier. The amber malt brings a hobnob-like biscuity character and something akin to well-fired rye bread while the black malt brings more familiar roasted notes of chocolate and espresso. On the palate, it’s very light but still with a sense of fullness and richness and a clean, lingering bitterness.
“It’s very food friendly as well. The classic porter and oysters pairing comes from a period when porters tasted more like this than the sweeter, unaged porters more commonly brewed today, so that’s a pairing that’s well worth revisiting. It’s actually amazing with any sweet seafood, especially shellfish – scallops, langoustine, prawns, crab and so on. It’s delicious with the various kinds of game currently popping up in shop windows with the approach of Autumn, and very versatile with cheese – feel free to go sweet and nutty, rich and blue or full pong.”