Baltic Porter is an offshoot of Porter beer which was popular in England in the late seventeenth century. Porter beer went round towards the Balkan Island, and voila, the people bought into the idea. However, while Porter is an ale beer, Baltic Porter evolved as a lager beer.
You would be tempted to ask why an ale beer transformed into a lager beer – the conditions of the Balkan Islands necessitated that development.
Baltic Porter is a smooth cold lager brewed with lager yeast. It has a high ABV and contains very low complex alcohol flavors such as berries, plums, and grapes. Porter is an ale drink that has rich chocolatey notes, hints of coffee, and at times, smokiness.
With these in mind, let us delve into the Baltic Porter and Porter specifics. This article will explore the origins, aroma, brewing processes, and alcohol volume of these delightful liquid companions.
The history of Baltic Porter’s can be traced back to the 18th century. Naturally, it started with Porters, pale ale beers that gained popularity in Britain and went round to the Balkan Islands until the latter began tweaking the beer to get their own unique taste. The beer became popular among the river porter and street workers. It was the popularity that earned the beer its name; porter. The popularity was not restricted to the river porters and street workers in its homeland. The beer went across the globe, starting from neighboring countries. Porters were shipped to the Baltic Sea and made their way to willing markets of the Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Danish, Swedes, Poles, Russians, Estonians, and Germans.
The Baltic sea region countries welcomed the dark and stronger porters, and the Russian Imperial court soon adopted the beer as their Imperial stout.
The first brewing of Porter was famously attributed to Shoreditch brewer, a certain Ralph Harwood, who did so from the Bell Brewhouse in 1721. Before 1700, the brewers from London sent their beers out as Milds, and it was perfected into stales by publicans and mixologists who then sold them to the general public. It sounds like a division of labor, but no doubt, the brewers would be at a loss. Porter was practically part of the first styles brewed and aged in the brewery and then dispatched to be consumed immediately.
Even by today’s standards, the early Porters made in London were strong beers with an original gravity of 1.071 and alcohol volume of 6.6%. Subsequent alterations were made with taxes imposed on the beer.
Baltic Porter, inspired by the porter who made its way to the Balkans, would soon commence experiments in 1791 as they tried their hands at inventing local versions of the beer. The Swedes led the line with the first porter brewer being William Knox, a Scots man who had migrated to Gotenborg.
Regional brewing of porter was even more encouraged after the Continental Blockade policy of Napoleon in 1806. The blockade was lifted in 1819, but it did not stop the emergence of brewers in 1819. Nikoli Sinebrychoff, a Russian, founded his brewery in Finland that year and began production of porters. In 1822, a different brewery popped up in St. Petersburg, a place where the Russian natives believed it was impossible to brew porter in their country.
Today, Baltic porter has found its way into the modern setting as there is a growing interest in craft beer these days. Breweries in Poland continue to brew Baltic Porters and even have a ‘Baltic Porter Day’ celebrated annually. Porters are still popular today even though they are said to be the forebear of modern stouts. They have been around for so long and are undoubtedly some people’s favorite.
Baltic Porter has a deep malty feel, with a sweet complexity of flavors like licorice, toffee, molasses, nut, and caramel. Whispers of chocolate and coffee also hang around in the drying finish of the delightful beer. However, you won’t find banana flavor and warm temperature fermentation is a no-no for Baltic Porter.
On the other hand, English porter is characterized by a rich malty flavor, riding behind a light ‘roastiness’ alongside chocolate and nutty flavor.
All these are present to give the beer an interesting and tasty mouthfeel when you empty the content of your bottle.
The English Porter has a medium to light mouthfeel and is in no way near the heaviness characterized by the Baltic Porter. It has an IBU range of 18-35. You will likely taste strong malt, roast, chocolate, and caramel, the malt being the prevalent flavor on your tongue. It is the softest of all three Porters that exist today.
The Baltic Porter is full-bodied with moderately high carbonation. It is relatively light on the palate and smooth to taste, with an IBU range of 20-40. The roasty flavors in it are smooth and not burnt. The prevailing flavor is malt.
English Porter, also known as brown porter, gives you a welcoming and cool malt aroma with very low chocolate notes. You may also encounter non-roasted characteristics of grain, caramel, and bread with a very little hint of hop aroma, if at all present.
In Baltic Porter, Hops or sourness are not detectable. Toffees, deep toast, licorice, chocolate, and nut should be present, but all the elements combined should not be burnt.
Brewing Process and Ingredients
For Baltic Porter, you need base malts; either of a pale or pilsner malt. About 50 to 70percent. Some dark malts are put into the fray to give the desired roast or chocolate complexities. The specialty malts are calculated to be about 10 percent. After that, a mini-mash is done before the general mash where the saccharification temperature is lowered between 148˚F – 153˚F.
Boiling the mix comes next, ranging from 60 to 120 minutes. A longer boil definitely deepens and gives richer and more complex flavors.
Use lager yeast such as the Wyeast 2206 or Wyeast 2633. After the boil, crash-cool as best as possible. Pitch the precise amount of yeast for the beer’s gravity.
Ensure the conditions are perfect. For optimum results, the right temperature, the correct measure of yeast, and perfect aerations are needed to achieve an excellent brew. Fermentation can last two weeks. After that, attenuation is attained, the beer should be kept for a minimum of six weeks. The Baltic Porter ages well, so you should be in for a fun ride.
Brewing English Porters should be done with an all English ingredients to get the best out of it. Pale malt should be used for 90 percent of the mash. The other 10 percent is most times roast, black or chocolate malt. Before now, dark sugar gotten from boiling down wort was employed to darken porters.
Aim for gravity of between 1.040 and 1.052. Ale yeast should be used in the fermentation process. It could be English or Irish. English hops such as Goldings or Williamette work well for the bittering.
Alcohol volume is used to measure the amount of alcohol in beers. The measurement is termed ABV meaning Alcohol by Volume.
The English Porter has an ABV level of 4.0 – 5.4%, while the Baltic Porters contains a larger amount of alcohol compared to its progenitor at 6.5 – 9.5%.
The Baltic Porter should not appear black even though the color is very close to black ranging from a deep mahogany to opaque dark brown. The opaque version might not be as clear, but the other one must come with good clarity. The head comes thick, creamy, enduring and close to a tan color range.
An English Porter appears with the full spectrum of brown unashamedly and has hints of mahogany surrounding it by the edges. Clarity must be good.
The popular examples of the Baltic Porter include:
- Public Enemy Baltic Porter from Dust Bowl Brewing Company in Turlock, CA. The beer won gold in Great American Beer Festival in December 2017.
- Apogee from Morgan Territory Brewing Company, Tracy, CA. Gold winner at the World Beer Cup, 2016.
- Power of Observation from Ocelot Brewing Company, Dulles, VA. Bronze winner at the Great American Beer Festival in 2017.
- Herd of Turtles from Bagby Bear Company, Oceanside, CA. Silver winner at the Great American Beer Festival in 2017.
- Danzig from Devils Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, VA. Gold winner at the Great American Beer Festival in 2016.
The English Porter has popular examples as well, and they are as follows:
- Tavern Porter by Daniel Thwaites PLC, United Kingdom.
- Blind Jake by Pinthouse Pizza, Texas.
- St. Charles Porter by Blackstone Brewing Company, Tennessee.
- Peter Brown Tribute Ale by Beer Republic Brewing, California.
- Pluff Mud Porter by Holy City Brewing, North Charleston.
These are all notable examples of Baltic Porter and English Porter. It is down to you as an individual to experiment and discover which beer sticks your fancy. After all, the taste is in the pudding. Trust your palate to do justice to these amazing craft beers.