Baltic mild? Ochakovo premium dark (light)

We thought we might have dis­cov­ered a new beer style yes­ter­day – one not cov­ered by the Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­vals 75 (75!) cat­e­gori­sa­tions. This style is “Baltic mild” and we dis­cov­ered it by drink­ing “Ochako­vo pre­mi­um dark” yes­ter­day.

On our nev­er-end­ing quest for Baltic porter in Lon­don, we had exam­ined a bot­tle of this in Uto­beer (the excel­lent beer shop in Bor­ough Mar­ket, fea­tured in this blog a cou­ple of weeks ago). How­ev­er, from what we could deci­pher of the bot­tle (it’s all in Russ­ian), it did­n’t seem like it would be a porter, par­tic­u­lar­ly at 3.9%. So we put it back and went for some­thing else. We may have even madeOchakovo dark premium some unfair assump­tions, along the lines of “it’ll only be anoth­er taste­less dark lager”.

How­ev­er, we then went to the Rake bar, Uto­beer’s “sis­ter” pub round the cor­ner. What start­ed as a swift half or two rapid­ly became a ses­sion. (A table came free. It was a sign)

We noticed the Ochako­vo in there and asked the knowl­edge­able bar­man about it. He had­n’t tried it either and was­n’t sure what style it would be. We tried to deci­pher the label but there were no obvi­ous clues. So we gave it a go.

It looked good – very dark-brown colour with burnt meringue head. The aro­ma was very tempt­ing too – dark sug­ar and slight choco­late notes.

As for the taste – it ini­tial­ly tast­ed strong­ly of molasses; sweet, but not over­ly so. It was hard­ly bit­ter at all, and not par­tic­u­lar­ly fizzy for a dark lager. The bot­tle did­n’t say whether it was top or bot­tom fer­ment­ed, but we assumed bot­tom. A medi­um-full body – pret­ty good for some­thing that’s only 3.9%. It was very drink­able – could def­i­nite­ly have drunk a lot more of these.

The seem­ing­ly-con­tra­dic­to­ry “light” ref­er­ence in the title comes from the Russ­ian descrip­tion on the label and is pre­sum­ably a ref­er­ence to its “weak” strength. At the risk of mak­ing gross gen­er­al­i­sa­tions, it’s rare to find good East­ern Euro­pean beers under 5% (at least in the UK), and cer­tain­ly rare to find one this tasty.

So: dark colour, weak strength, low bit­ter­ness, strong malt flavour, prob­a­bly lagered – ladies and gen­tle­men, I give you Baltic Mild.

Of course, on sober reflec­tion the next day, I think this prob­a­bly falls fair­ly and square­ly into the cat­e­go­ry of “Schwarz­bier”;

These very dark brown to black beers have a mild roast­ed malt char­ac­ter with­out the asso­ci­at­ed bit­ter­ness. This is not a full-bod­ied beer, but rather a mod­er­ate body gen­tly enhances malt fla­vor and aro­ma with low to mod­er­ate lev­els of sweet­ness. Hop bit­ter­ness is low to medi­um in char­ac­ter. ”

But if the good folks behind the Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val can define a new style on the basis of one or two beers, then so can I.

Boak

Notes

  1. The Rake is at 14 Win­ches­ter Walk, Lon­don SE1 9AG (near Lon­don Bridge). It’s an excel­lent but tiny pub / bar, set up by the peo­ple at Uto­beer. They have around 10 beers on taps, in dif­fer­ent styles, and prob­a­bly a hun­dred in bot­tles. Friend­ly staff too. Beers cost around £3 – £3.50 a bot­tle. They do not appear to have a web­site, hence no link – will hap­pi­ly add one if some­one can pro­vide!
  2. Inter­net search­es have revealed that Ochako­vo are based in Moscow and are one of Rus­si­a’s biggest beer pro­duc­ers, but exports so far seem to be lim­it­ed to the ex-Sovi­et Union. Haven’t had any of their oth­er stuff, but I note that they were exper­i­ment­ing with an unfil­tered, unpas­teurised beer that lasts no more than 14 days. So per­haps we can add Baltic “real” ale / lager to the list too? You can cur­rent­ly get Ochako­vo pre­mi­um dark from Uto­beer and the Rake bar, togeth­er with anoth­er pale beer they do.
  3. The beer clas­si­fi­ca­tions comes from the Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val’s list­ing, which I found here. There was a good debate on Lew Bryson’s blog (Seen through a Glass) about the US v UK approach to cat­e­goris­ing beer. Per­son­al­ly, I’m not too both­ered about styles when I’m drink­ing beer, but I find it use­ful to read about more detailed clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tems when try­ing to brew the stuff.

5 thoughts on “Baltic mild? Ochakovo premium dark (light)”

  1. Glad to see you’ve adopt­ed spod­dish foot­notes like my good self!

    I’ll try this beer out. Czech dark beers (they nev­er call them schwarz­biers or dunkels so I won’t either) are often below 4% abv so this would fit with those.

  2. ps. I’ve just remem­bered that when my old man first vis­it­ed me in Prague and tried Kozel Cerne (Dark), he remarked it was very like the milds he remem­bers from the 60s.

  3. Think I need to try some more Czech darks. I’ve only had Bud­var dark to date, I think.

    I often find the Ger­man dunkels very dis­ap­point­ing – very lit­tle “dark” flavour – if you shut your eyes, you would­n’t know you were drink­ing a dark beer. Schwarz­bier is usu­al­ly more excit­ing, although even then, it can taste a lit­tle “clin­i­cal” (the down­side of the lager­ing process)

  4. Boak, I’ve much pre­ferred Czech dark lagers, although even among those there’s a lot of vari­a­tion. Bud­var Dark is odd crea­ture – it’s far dry­er than, say, the dark ver­sions of Kruso­vice, Staro­pra­men or Kozel. Then there’s Herold Black – wide­ly avail­able in the UK (you can buy it in Spoons) but very much an out­lier, with a high strength of 5.2%. The best Czech dark I’ve had was the own­brew at the Stra­hov micro­brew­ery in Prague.

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