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  • Writer's pictureCalgary Brewery Tour Guy

Baltic Porter - Two Alberta Breweries Win Canadian Medals by YYCTOURS Beer Tours.

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

The Baltic Porter has a long history and wide range of flavours depending on which country brews it (or in this case) , which Alberta Brewery.



Google map screenshot of the Baltic Sea region

In the late 1700s, Anchor Brewery of London was famous for its dark porter beer and many of them were shipped to Baltic countries. However, much of that beer was bound for Russia, whose empress, Catherine the Great, had developed a liking for it. It is said that she was so fond of the dark ale, that she repeatedly ordered very large quantities for her and her court. As the beer that was shipped by Anchor Brewery was stronger in alcohol than their local versions (10+% ABV), and as it was being shipped to the Empire, the beer style became known as imperial stout or Russian imperial stout.


At the time, brewers in the Baltic region were prolific lager brewers as the conditions and environment were favorable to cold fermentation. When Imperial Porter arrived, or ‘Thrales Entire’ as it was named after Anchor Brewery’s owner Henry Thrale, brewers around the region began to emulate the beer, however, their versions used cold fermentation lagering instead of warm fermentation like most ales.


Today, pending on where in the Baltic region it was brewed, the Baltic Porter is typically a dark, smooth, malty beer with complex dark fruit flavours, a roast character and high bitterness that would have been common in a beer designed to travel. This leaves plenty of room for judging as there can be some space for the brewers to have fun and incorporate different flavours such as licorice, currant and plum. However, one thing that should never occur in a Baltic Porter is ‘burnt’ flavour.



Year 4 baltic Porter medicine hat brewing Company Alberta gold medal at Canadian brewing awards

Faithful guide Baltic porter by the Establishment  brewing Company Alberta Bronze medal at Canadian brewing awards


At the June 3, 2023 Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference in Halifax, two Alberta Breweries took home medals. Gold went to the Medicine Hat Brewing Company’s ‘Year 4 Baltic Porter’ while Bronze went to The Establishment of Calgary for Faithful Guide.


When judging a Baltic Porter according to the 2021 BJCP guidelines, points are allocated as follows: Overall Impressions (10pts), Aroma (12pts), Appearance (3pts), Flavour (20pts) and Mouthfeel (5pts).


The Overall Impression of a Baltic Porter should be a strong, dark, smooth, warming, and richly malty, with complex dark fruit flavors and a roasted flavor without burnt notes.


The Aroma will provide a rich maltiness often containing caramel, toffee, nuts, deep toast, or licorice notes. It will have a complex alcohol and ester profile of moderate strength, and be reminiscent of plums, prunes, raisins, cherries, or currants, occasionally with a vinous Port-like quality. Deep malt accents of dark chocolate, coffee, or molasses can be noted, but should never be burnt.


The Appearance of the Baltic Porter should be a dark reddish-copper to opaque dark brown color, but not black. The head should be thick and long-lasting. It should also be somewhat clear when held to a light source, although darker versions can be opaque.


The Flavour can vary similar to that of the aroma. The malt can have a caramel, toffee, nutty, molasses, or licorice complexity. Prominent yet smooth Schwarzbier-like roasted flavor that stops short of burnt. Light hints of black currants and dark dried fruits. Smooth palate and full finish. Starts malty-sweet but darker malt flavors quickly dominate and persist through the dryish finish, leaving a hint of roast coffee or licorice and dried fruit in the aftertaste. Medium-low to medium bitterness, just to provide balance and prevent it from seeming excessively sweet or rich.


The Mouthfeel can be generally quite full-bodied and smooth, with a well-aged alcohol warmth that can be deceptive. Medium to medium-high carbonation, making it seem even more mouth-filling. Not heavy on the tongue due to carbonation level.


Most commercial versions are in the 7–8.5% ABV range. The best examples have a deceptive strength that makes them dangerously easy to drink. The character of these beers varies by country of origin, so one should be careful about generalizing based on a single example.


To learn more about beers such as Baltic Porter, be sure to sign up for a Calgary Brewery Tour and follow us on social media.


Cheers.


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