Unlike English porters, Baltic porters are lagers, not ales. And as lagers, they are among the most difficult homebrews you’ll attempt. But they could also be the most rewarding. Norman Miller asked Jack Hendler of Jack’s Abby Brewing to offer a few tips for homebrewers.
Porters were the working man’s beer in eighteenth-century England. After a tough day at work, an Englishman would stop on his way home and grab a pint of his favorite dark beer. When England introduced the style to the Balkans region of Europe, the people fell in love with the style. However, most brewers in colder countries brewed with lager yeast, not the ale yeast used for traditional porters. These creative brewers used lager yeast and began brewing stronger and stronger versions of the English porter, creating what today is known as Baltic porter, which is still a popular style in many European countries.
A Baltic porter is almost a lager version of an imperial stout—a lot of roasted character, chocolaty notes, and hints of coffee and creaminess. While traditional English porters may be below 5 percent ABV and the stronger robust porters can be in the 6–7 percent ABV range, a Baltic porter is traditionally a stronger beer, usually 7–8.5 percent ABV. However, some classic examples of the style, such as the Zywiec Porter from Zywiec Breweries in Poland, come in at a hefty 9.5 percent ABV. Other traditional Baltic porters include
- Sinebrychoff, Oy Sinebrychoff AB, Finland, 7.2 percent ABV
- Okocim Porter, Browar Okocim, Poland, 8.1 percent ABV
- Baltika #6 Porter, Baltika Brewery, Russia, 7 percent ABV