The beer industry is one of the top industries in the world today. Once upon a time, the different types of beer, liquor, and wine were limited. In modern times, however, there seem to be too many different styles to wrap your head around. The Baltic Porter is one of these many beer styles that doesn’t get talked about enough.
If you’re curious about what a Baltic Porter tastes like and whether or not it’s worth your while to try one, you’ve come to the right place.
What is a Baltic Porter?
Porters, in general, are usually darker in color and appearance than other types of beer. The porter style originates in European countries such as England, Poland, and Germany in the 1700s and 1800s. You should note that the terms porter and stout often refer to the same type of beer and are often used interchangeably. The Baltic Porter is one of the earliest derivations of a classic porter but holds to the traditional style.
Baltic Porters are named for the region in which they were developed around the Baltic Sea. It’s a dark style of beer that adheres very closely to the original porters and stouts of England and Germany. In fact, brewers around the Baltic region of Europe used English and German porters to craft their own versions, which became collectively known as Baltic Porters.
History of the Baltic Porter
The history of the Baltic Porter is a long, murky, and sometimes tragic one. These porters were first brewed in the 1700s and 1800s, soon after the first European porters. This specific porter received its name because of its proximity to the Baltic Sea and Baltic states like Finland, Poland, and Russia.
It quickly made its way from the Baltic region to other European countries, namely England. The Baltic Porter was a massive hit among London’s working class, specifically those who worked in the shipyards. Porters made in this style were once among the most popular beers in European countries in the 1800s, but they nearly disappeared after World War II.
However, the fall of the Iron Curtain in Germany did more than reunite East and West Germany. It also reunited Baltic Porters with the rest of the world outside Western Europe. Today, Baltic Porters are produced in countries worldwide, including the United States, England, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and others.
Characteristics of a Baltic Porter
Baltic Porters retain a good amount of the traditional porter qualities. They’re dark in complexion, bordering on brown or dark brown. They’re also usually somewhat sweet, smooth, and cold fermented and cold lagered with lager yeast. They’re notorious for their high alcohol content, some of them reaching as high as 10%.
This style has the malt flavors of a brown porter and the roast of a schwarzbier, but is bigger in alcohol and body. Baltic porters typically take a few months to a year to mature and develop their strong tastes and aromas, so patience is critical when making your own.
While Baltic Porters tend to be very dark, they should never quite be black in appearance. They should look more like hot chocolate than dark coffee.
Flavor and Aroma
These porters are very low on the hops and esters they use, which means they have low to medium bitterness. They’re about as far from an IPA as you can get. The prominent taste and aroma that you’ll get will be from the malt varieties added to your porter. There should also be an exceptional and tangible taste of alcohol when you sip a classic Baltic Porter.
Distinctive malt aromas of caramelized sugars, licorice, and chocolate-like notes of roasted malts and dark sugars are present. Roasted dark malts sometimes contribute a coffee-like roasted barley aroma and flavor. There might also be a subtle smoky flavor and aroma to a Baltic Porter. Additionally, debittered roasted malts are best used for this style.
One of the most notable differences between a Baltic Porter and other porter and stout varieties is the type of yeast used. You should use lager yeast or cold-fermented ale yeast to make this kind of porter, as this is one of their defining characteristics. Other ingredients include debittered chocolate or black malt, Munich or Vienna base malt, and occasionally crystal malts.
Hops aren’t featured in Baltic Porters, but they’re still used. They should always be Continental hops, meaning that they’re grown and produced in the Baltic region. Saazar is one of the more common hop varieties used in Baltic Porters. For a truly traditional Baltic Porter, you should also incorporate a touch of brown or amber malts.
Baltic Porters are darker and heavier beers that go well with savory and meaty dishes. Burgers, prime rib, red meat, pork chops, and everything in between goes well with them. You can try lighter foods such as gouda, brie, or pepper jack cheese and chicken, but heavier foods are ideal for the dark and heavy Baltic Porter.
Best Way to Serve a Baltic Porter
Baltic Porters should be served very cold, bordering on ice cold. The perfect temperature is between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but you should always choose colder over warmer. Any type of standard pint glass is ideal for serving this beer, as it lets you take in its darkness and flavor.
The different ingredients and brewing style used to create Baltic Porters makes it a style all its own. They’re slightly less alcoholic and roastier than an Imperial Stout, they’re less roasted and smoother than other stouts, and slightly fruitier than other porters. They also have a higher alcohol content than porters. The closest comparison that most people make to this style of porter would have to be a German shwarzbier. This beer is also comparable to Robust Porters and the German-Style Doppelbock.
Where Can I Get a Good Baltic Porter?
If you’re in the mood for anaward-winning Baltic Porter, here are some of the top options to try.
- The Dust Bowl Brewing Company makes the gold medal winning Public Enemy Baltic Porter
- The Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company makes the Danzig, another gold medal winner
- For a silver medal finalist, try Herd of Turtles made by the Bagby Beer Company
- Powers Of Observation from Ocelot Brewing Company is another great option
- La Cumbre Brewing Company out of Albuquerque makes the bronze winning beer, Sybirian Silk .
A Baltic Porter often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English porter and the restrained roast of a schwarzbier, but with a higher OG and alcohol content than either. It’s very complex, with multiple layers of malt and dark fruit flavors. It’s a unique and complicated beer that takes months to create and years to perfect. If you lack the patience to make your own brew, you will do well to at least sample one of the options above!
To learn about other kinds of beer, click here for our other beer styles blog posts.