The Peerless Saloon, circa 1903.
“Peerless Porter” is named after John Cassou’s Peerless Saloon at 106 N. Los Angeles Street (what we know as Anaheim Boulevard). According to advertisements in the Anaheim Gazette, the Peerless sold fine wines, liquors, and cigars, and “Anaheim Beer on draft.”
Anaheim Gazette,May 6. 1909
One could argue for quite a long time (over quite a few pints) about whether stout came before porter, or porter before stout. (As it happens, I’m one of the former.) According to Dr. Michael Lewis, in his book Stout, the first use of the word “stout” appears in a letter written in 1677. “we will drink to your health in both stout, and best wine,” it says. Some years, later, in 1722, Ralph Harwood, the owner of the Bell Brewhouse in Shoreditch, East London, is credited with “inventing” porter. Though there isn’t a lot of hard-fact proof, the story goes along these lines:
In the pubs of the day, beer was served cask-conditioned, usually poured from more than one cask into a mug or tankard. There were probably several reasons for this. Malting at the time was inconsistent, resulting in beer flavors that could be unpredictable. Blending from several (sometimes as many as six!) casks allowed the barman to mix these various flavors for a more predictable result. There’s also a tax angle – hops were much less taxed than malt and the coal used to make it. Barmen would blend highly hopped, lower strength (and less expensive) beers with sweeter, malty, expensive beers to make them go further. Some were known to blend in stale, slightly “off” beer, rather than dump it!
Ralph Harwood’s idea was to do the blending in the brewery, and he concocted a brew to replace these mixtures, saving time for the publican at the Blue Last, a working-class pub in Shoreditch. The brew contained large amounts of dark brown malt, resulting in a beer that was strong and dark. Many of the workers who frequented the Blue Last were “porters,” strong backs for hire who carried the loads of goods, from warehouses to the marketplaces. The name “porter” became attached to the beer, and it stuck.
Our “Peerless Porter”
Brewing porter fills the brewhouse with the most amazing aromas. We begin the brew with the finest North American two-row barley varieties, to provide sweet, malty aromas and very subtle nutty flavors. We add generous amounts of caramel and chocolate malts to create a full-bodied ale with smooth chocolaty flavor, but without the aggressive bite that sometimes come from roasted malts. The resulting color is deep and dark – think not-quite black with deep red highlights. Willamette hops provide a mild, slightly spicy bitterness to balance the malt flavor and sweetness. Our ale yeast adds a final hint of fruity aromatics.
Note: I was going to add a bit about pairing porter with food, when I came across the following words of wisdom. “Nuff said, I think:
“Beefsteaks and porter are good belly mortar.” — Scottish proverb, 1760