Beer Types – Baltic Porter

Porters of the late 1700’s were quite strong compared to today?s standards, easily surpassing 7% alcohol by volume. Some brewers made a stronger, more robust version, to be shipped across the North Sea, dubbed a Baltic Porter. In general, the style?s dark brown color covered up cloudiness and the smoky/roasted brown malts and bitter tastes masked brewing imperfections. The addition of stale ale also lent a pleasant acidic flavor to the style, which made it quite popular. These issues were quite important given that most breweries were getting away from pub brewing and opening up breweries that could ship beer across the world.

It is usually  brewed in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Denmark and Sweden. Baltic porter was introduced from Britain in the 18th century as a top-fermenting beer and remained so until the second half of the 19th century when many breweries began to brew their porter with a lager yeast. Now the style is brewed in the US & Canada. In Germany, Baltic porter was brewed from the mid-19th century to German reunification. In 1990, all German porter producing breweries were in former East Germany, and none survived the transition to a market economy. The late 1990s saw to the re-launch of Baltic porters by several German breweries.

Baltic porter began undergoing something of a rebirth during the last 5-6 years, as there is a trend to imperialize many beer styles. Some are brewed to approximate the original British ales, while others are true to the Baltic lager construct. Few beers fit the season like a Baltic porter does winter and early spring. Baltic porters are deep, dense and thoughtful beers. As they borrow much from other, more familiar styles, they have many layers of flavors. Sweet, soothing maltiness akin to the finest German bocks is present. Rummy, raisin and licorice notes similar to an old ale reside in the profile. The character also has hints of chocolate and coffee, and at times, a roasted background. All co-mingle into a smooth, silky flavor that is contemplative but robust. Hops rates are noticeable in the dark versions but understated in the lighter-colored ones. It’s so complex and flavorful on its own, that you really need foods with substance to keep from drowning their qualities out.  Experts recommend smoked or grilled red meats, sweet potatoes, and rich & creamy desserts and with a cigar.

Some examples of Baltic Porters are Smuttynose Baltic Porter, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, Baltica # 6 Porter & Les Trois Mousquetaires Brewery Porter Baltique (pictured above).

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