These are a Few of My Favorite Things: Baltic Porter

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It is not exactly a common beer style, but I’ve come across a few Baltic Porters recently. Last month, Seattle’s Reuben’s Brews released Battersea Baltic Porter. Last week, Bellingham’s Wander Brewing released Global Mutt, its award-winning Baltic Porter. Last weekend at the Washington Winter Beer Fest, I found two Baltic Porters, one from Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery and the other from Boundary Bay Brewery.

Baltic Porter ranks as one of my personal favorite styles. If you are not yet familiar, I’d recommend finding one of the aforementioned beers, or any other Baltic Porter, and seeing if you agree with me.

On the most basic level, it fits somewhere between a Porter and an Imperial Stout. Sort of. Baltic Porter is dark, it is strong, and when properly executed, it is delicious. Here are some key points about Baltic Porter, followed by a deeper dive into the history and nature of the style.


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  • Baltic Porter is not an ale. It is fermented using lager yeast at lower temperatures. Like most lager-style beers, it is typically allowed more time to condition.
  • The malt bill is like that of a stout or a porter, so it is dark like those styles. Often, it is less opaque and more closely resembles a Doppelbock—very dark, nearly opaque brown. SRM ranging broadly from 17 to 30.
  • In terms of alcohol strength, Baltic Porter typically clocks in somewhere around 8 percent, though that can vary quite a bit. Some folks might refer to it as an Imperial Porter, and that is generally okay, but Baltic Porter is officially recognized as its own, unique style.
  • According to the official BJCP style guidelines, the aroma features “Rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes.”
  • The flavor, according to the same style guidelines, features “rich malty sweetness with a complex blend of deep malt, dried fruit esters, and alcohol. Has a prominent yet smooth schwarzbier-like roasted flavor that stops short of burnt. Mouth-filling and very smooth. Clean lager character. Starts sweet but darker malt flavors quickly dominates and persists through finish. Just a touch dry with a hint of roast coffee or licorice in the finish.”
  • The term Baltic refers to the region where the style was developed and gained popularity — Poland, Estonia, Finland, et al. The term Baltic Porter refers to beers of this style, not the place it was produced. Not all Baltic-brewed porters are Baltic Porter. Historically, and to this day, some brewers in the region brew English-Style Porter.
  • The style has been around for a couple hundred years, but the actual term Baltic Porter didn’t appear in publication until the 1990s.

Baltic Porter’s Background

Back in the late 1700s, Porter (Double Brown Stout, in the vernacular of the day) was a very popular style around London. It became a popular export product that found its way to Poland and other places around the Baltic Sea.

Political turmoil in the early 19th century interrupted the flow of beer from England to the Baltic region, so Baltic brewers began to make Double Brown Stout themselves. Because of the region’s colder temperatures, and the way those cooler temperatures impacted the brewing process, some of the more notable Polish breweries turned to lager yeast, which ferments at lower temperatures. Ale yeast would work, but it slowed the fermentation process. The resulting beer was both different and the same.


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Okocim’s Mistrzowski Porter. A Baltic Porter from a Polish brewery that’s brewed the style for a very long time.

Imported English Porter returned in the mid-1800s, but by then the region’s brewers, especially in Warsaw, had established their own version. Some of the brewers continued to model their versions after the English style, but the new lager-fermented version gained popularity.

And thus, a whole new style of beer was born: a version of Porter that was fundamentally the same but also fundamentally different. Michael Jackson, perhaps the world’s most influential beer writer, is credited with coining the term Baltic Porter, though he didn’t use the term in his own works. The first time Baltic Porter appeared in print was in 1994, in a book called Beers of the World, by Bill Yeene.

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Today, it’s simple. When American craft brewers call a beer a Baltic Porter, it is a strong, dark, Porter-like beer fermented like a lager. It is fermented at a lower temperature and often left to condition for a longer period. I’ve had some that lean toward the sticky sweet side of the flavor spectrum and others that are nearly bone dry. To my taste, the best Baltic Porter hits you with a cornucopia of malty flavors and then dries out on the finish, inviting you to re-whet your whistle.

If you are still thirsty for knowledge, you’ll find a lot more info about Baltic Porter in this article by Zythophile.

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