Everyone into craft beer has an early experience that locks them in as a “beer person.” For me, it wasn’t some hop-bomb IPA, stark German Pilsner, or florid Belgian ale. It was a thick Baltic porter. It was in a bottle with a gold-foil top and fancy label, as if it were designed for a Russian czar. It poured like motor oil and smelled like dark chocolate truffles. It was warming, full, and smooth, and it tasted like the love child of English toffee and Jamaican coffee. And it was so very, very clean and organized on the palate that it made the stout I’d just drunk taste like the flavor equivalent of a Jackson Pollock.
Yup, I was hooked.
Baltic porter is a strong beer with a history as rich as its flavor. Brewing it is a significant (but manageable) challenge, and it is one of the more satisfying styles to have on hand when the cold winds blow and the fireplace is raging. It’s not easy making a beer that’s dark in flavor but not overly “roasty”—one that’s high-strength and full-bodied but not overly sweet, despite fermenting at cooler temperatures. But it’s worth the trouble.