Post by Joseph Schumacher

Hello Beer Blog readers! Today’s Beer 201 is on the topic of Baltic Porters. Let’s get started on this advanced topic!

First, what are the origins of the Baltic Porter? The Baltic Porter style originated in Britain in the 18th century, reflecting both the character of original British Porters and the sweeter, highly alcoholic Russian Imperial Stouts. The style originated in England and was exported to several Baltic and Scandinavian states. Eventually the Baltic States decided to make it themselves. After the Baltic States started brewing it themselves English breweries almost entirely stopped making it.

Coincidentally, the early to mid-19th century was the period in which bottom fermentation and lagering were becoming the norm, as was the fine-tuning of malt production and scientific brewing techniques. This made for a perfect storm in the development of Baltic porter.

The first Baltic brewery to specialize in porter was opened by Nikolai Sinebrychoff in Helsinki, Finland, in 1819. Its excellent porter is still made today, a remnant of the English imperial version with loads of roasted character and a base of kilned lager malts and German and Czech hops.

In Germany, Baltic porter was brewed from the mid-19th century to German reunification. Baltic Porters were largely forgotten in the West until the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 1980’s when craft brewers reintroduced the style.

What are characteristics of a Baltic Porter? They have an ABV ranging from 6.5%- to 9.5% with 20-40 IBUs. Colors range from a dark reddish-copper to opaque dark brown. They are generally made with Lager yeast, unlike other Porters, which use an ale yeast. If ale yeast is used, then it is cold fermented. A Baltic porter is typically higher strength than other Porters. They utilize a lot of roasted grain, higher gravities, and bold flavor profiles. They usually have less roastiness than a Stout, with more chocolate and dark fruit notes.

They have a full body, medium to medium-high carbonation, and a thick, persistent tan-colored head. The aroma has a rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes. The flavor is a complex blend of deep malt, dried fruit esters, and alcohol. Caramel, toffee or currant flavors add to complexity. Complexity also comes from use of Continental malts such as the kilned Munich or Vienna types.

Baltic Porters generally have a Medium-low to medium bitterness from malt and hops, just to provide balance. Hoppiness ranges from none to medium-low. They also generally have a very smooth, clean lager character.

If you are interested, try a Baltic Porter the next time you come to The Pizza Press! Green Flash’s Cosmic Ristretto Porter will be available on tap very soon. Cosmic Ristretto has an intense coffee flavor via the addition of espresso extract, plus caramel characteristics derived from Candico, a caramelized Belgian candy sugar that is added directly to the kettle and fermented out. Fortunately, the coffee flavors do not distract from the characteristics that make the Porter a Baltic one.

Thanks for reading! Check for an updated beer list for any of our locations.