Monday, July 10, 2006

Baltic, Russian and Ukrainian bottled beer blast: Porter and more.

Some will suggest that Baltic Porter isn’t appropriate for the hot and sticky Ohio Valley summer, but my view is that any time of the year, different styles of beer work in different contexts.

While mowing the lawn? Well, I’ve never consumed beer while cutting grass, so I wouldn’t know. Perhaps Samichlaus isn’t the best choice for such an occasion.

Afterwards, following a spell of rest and regeneration in the air conditioning? It seems to me that once the heat and humidity have been removed from the equation, almost any beer has a chance of tasting good.

It’s all in the mind, anyway. To hell with tiki bars and palm fronds; think pebbly beaches with cool summer breezes, brick-laden seaports and trays of smoked eel and pickled herring.

At any rate, I’m a longtime of Baltic Porter precisely because the style is nebulous and all over the stylistic map. As the BJCP description indicates, English-style Porter and strong Stout may well have been the original impetus for dark beers brewed in these countries, but German lager brewing techniques have long since modified the plan, with results that vary from place to place an provide much tasting adventure.

Bottles of Baltic Porter currently stocked at the Public House include these (an * indicates a newly added choice):

Alderis Porteris (Latvia)
Baltika 6 (Russia)
*Utenos Porter (Lithuania)
*Obolon Porter (Ukraine)
*Okocim Porter (Poland)
Sinebrychoff Porter (Finland)

For good measure, here are two other specialty beers from the general region:

Baltika 9 (Russia)
*Svyturys Baltijos (Lithuania)

Baltijos probably should be considered an Oktoberfest/Marzen style (6% abv), while Baltika 9 is a strong lager (circa 8%; think “malt liquor” without the usual American imagery).

Because these beers (except for Sinebrychoff) are produced outside the Euro zone, they’re excellent value for half liter bottles.

Here’s the style definition from the Beer Judge Certification Program.

12C. Baltic Porter

Aroma: Rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes. Complex alcohol and ester profile of moderate strength, and reminiscent of plums, prunes, raisins, cherries or currants, occasionally with a vinous Port-like quality. Some darker malt character that is deep chocolate, coffee or molasses but never burnt. No hops. No sourness. Very smooth.

Appearance: Dark reddish copper to opaque dark brown (not black). Thick, persistent tan-colored head. Clear, although darker versions can be opaque.
Flavor: As with aroma, has a 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; no diacetyl. 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. Malt can have a caramel, toffee, nutty, molasses and/or licorice complexity. Light hints of black currant and dark fruits. Medium-low to medium bitterness from malt and hops, just to provide balance. Perhaps a hint of hop flavor.

Mouthfeel: Generally quite full-bodied and smooth, with a well-
aged alcohol warmth (although the rarer lower gravity Carnegie-style versions will have a medium body and less warmth). Medium to medium-high carbonation, making it seem even more mouth-filling. Not heavy on the tongue due to carbonation level.

Overall Impression: A Baltic Porter often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English brown porter and the restrained roast of a schwarzbier, but with a higher OG and alcohol content than either. Very complex, with multi-layered flavors.

History: Traditional beer from countries bordering the Baltic Sea. Derived from English porters but influenced by Russian Imperial Stouts.

Comments: May also be described as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions should be entered as either Imperial Stouts or specialty beers. An ABV of 7 - 8.5% is most typical.

Ingredients: Generally lager yeast (cold fermented if using ale yeast). Debittered chocolate or black malt. Munich or Vienna base malt. Continental hops. May contain crystal malts and/or adjuncts. Brown or amber malt common in historical recipes.

Vital Statistics:

OG 1.060 - 1.090
FG 1.016 - 1.024
IBUs 20 - 40
SRM 17 - 30
ABV 5.5 - 9.5%

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