You might think that the crack beer crew at American Craft Beer would be on top of “all things beer” but you’d be wrong.
In fact the “What the Hell Is?” series has saved us from the embarrassment of not knowing what we just put in our mouth too many times.
So welcome to the latest in our ongoing series (drum roll please…) “What the Hell is a Baltic Porter.
And we have to thank East Brother Beer Co. for their insightful post which we leaned on heavily here.
The origins of the Baltic Porter can be traced back 18th century England and working class (you guessed it) ‘porters’ who worked the city streets and dockyards around the country. It began as a take on the English Brown Ale that got deeper and darker eventually evolving into more of a high velocity brew.
As this style of beer became more popular, Porters became widely exported. In fact Porters were one of the first beer styles to extend beyond their regional roots to become a favorite across the world.
Porter exports took particular hold in the Baltic regions of Europe, that is until Napoleon cut off that pipeline in 1806 and regional brewers started making them locally.
But unlike the original English Porters that were imported, local brewers in these cold-weather countries which bordered the Baltic Sea, substituted bottom fermenting lager yeast which fared better in the region.
The use of this yeast, as opposed to the more warm weather-friendly ale yeast used by the Brits, is what most defines a Baltic Porter as opposed to a stouts.
Baltic Porters are cold-fermented and cold-lagered, which helps preserve their clean and complex flavors. They are lagers not ales and with that comes a smoother mouthfeel. And in keeping with cold-weather comes a much higher alcohol count similar to the Russian Imperial Stout.
Baltic Porters We Like and You Should Try
Not surprisingly the best Baltic Porters come from Baltic regions like the Zywiec Porter from Zywiec Breweries in Poland, which is deep, dark and clocks in at a hefty 9.5% ABV.
But for a true Baltic Porter made in the states look no further than Richmond California- based East Brother Beer Co. Available every fall/winter the brewery’s Baltic Porter is a classic 8.6% ABV take on the style.
Both refreshing and warming, East Brother Baltic Porter is made with a German Lager yeast and boasts flavors of dark fruits, like plums and cherries, chocolate, and molasses.
Baltic Porters fell out of fashion during the 1900’s, particularly during the Cold War. But this unique style has seen a resurgence in popularity over the last twenty years thanks to the craft beer movement and breweries like East Brother, who really understand what goes into crafting fine lagers.
Stouts are always going to command the lion’s share of attention when it comes to these sibling ales. Baltic Porters are lagers, and lagers take longer to make. And time is money as every brewer knows.
But a true Baltic Porter is something very special, especially during the wintertime.