By: David Wren
Have you ever loved a TV show, not because you connected with one particular character, but because you just really liked how they balanced each other? There’s beauty, drama and excitement in the way seemingly conflicting characters can interact. Growing up, for me, that show was Full House. Most are probably familiar with the show about a father, who after his wife passes, has his stand-up comic friend and night-life-loving brother-in-law move in to help him raise his three daughters. It was a huge hit because of the rich relationships that formed from the seemingly opposing characters. It was a testament to the idea that something can be greater than the sum of its parts.
For me, the same idea holds true for Baltic Porters. Baltic Porters are an interesting style because they blend the memorable characteristics of three other beer styles to create one superb beverage. If a Doppelbock, Barleywine and Stout had a baby, it would be a Baltic Porter. Thus, if you think along the lines of Full House, and mix the straightforward and strict roastiness of a stout (Danny Tanner) with the fun-loving sweetness of a Doppelbock (Uncle Joey) and the cool, dark, mysteriousness of a Barleywine (Uncle Jesse), you’d find that the flavor of a Baltic Porter was a nice mixture of the three.
Baltic Porters are a remnant from 18th century Europe, when trade routes and colonies meant power and royalty enjoyed strong beers. During this era, England was renowned worldwide for their prowess in brewing stout and porter ale. In expanding their influence and trade routes, they began shipping stronger than- normal porters to the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, among other northern ports. They brewed stronger porters to ship north just as they brewed stronger pale ales to ship to India (India Pale Ales). The stronger brew was meant to enable the beer to stay fresh during its long trip to its end destination. However, the stronger flavor became popular on its own and thus the Baltic Porter was born.
Baltic Porters are dark in color, ranging from deep red to pitch black and exhibit moderate to high sweetness. Flavors can vary dramatically from one to the next, but can include notes of coffee, toffee, chocolate, raisin, rum or port wine and dark fruits. They are typically higher in alcohol as well, clocking in between 5.5-9.5% ABV.
Beer and Food Pairing
Baltic Porters are uniquely perfect companions to food because while they bring diverse flavor points, they don’t overpower food flavors like doppelbocks and stouts have a penchant for doing. They can be enjoyed with any big flavored foods, but find a home with smoked meats, venison and aged cheeses. Save some for dessert, as well! They pair well with chocolate or pecan pie and cheesecake.
Beers to Try
Parkway Brewing Raven’s Roost
Pours dark black like the raven it is named for. If Edgar Allan Poe had this beer in his hand, his poetry might not have been so morose.
Devil’s Backbone Danzig
Named for the Polish city on the Baltic Coast, this powerful brew deservedly took home the bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in 2018.
Port City Baltic Porter
Available only on draft at Port City, this beer is worth the trip. Notes of chocolate, toffee and even port wine make this one not to miss.