Subscriber Exclusive

Porter, the Polish Way

Baltic porter survived the 20th century in Poland, and it stayed strong. Now a new generation of Polish brewers is pushing the envelope.

Joe Stange Feb 25, 2020 - 8 min read

Porter, the Polish Way Primary Image

If Poland has a national beer style, it is Baltic porter. The style’s history is rooted there, and many Polish breweries large and small produce one. Poland even has an annual Baltic Porter Day—usually the third Saturday in January—celebrated by a growing number of bars and breweries.

Go to Poland and visit any corner store, and you are likely to find high-gravity porters on the shelves right next to those pale lagers. They may or may not have the word “Baltic” (or Bałtycki) attached; Poland is a Baltic country, after all, so that part is obvious. (In fact it was well-traveled British beer writer Michael Jackson who first gave them the “Baltic” designation, to distinguish them from the porters he knew back home.)

Baltic porter in Poland tends to be bigger and thicker than American-brewed examples. Maybe it’s because our own brewers have emulated “lighter” examples from other countries in the region; or maybe it’s because they have emulated each other without really knowing the source material. Either way, Poland kept alive its tradition of the weightier beers that evolved from British-style strong porter and imperial stout. Notably, that tradition survived the Communist years; the classic Żywiec Porter, for example, is 9.5 percent ABV, brewed since 1881. Often the bottles proudly boast of their degrees Plato, similar to how American IPA brewers once boasted about IBUs. That gravity score is a way to communicate the beer’s body and richness to drinkers.

Make & Drink Better Beer

Subscribe today to access all of the premium brewing content available (including this article). With thousands of reviews, our subscribers call it "the perfect beer magazine" and "worth every penny." Your subscription is protected by a 100% money back guarantee.