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Baltic Porters again

A little while ago, we wrote about a handful of Baltic porters we’d been able to get our grubby hands on. After much hunting and hoarding, plus a generous gift, we’ve got enough together for a second round.

D. Carnegie & Co Stark Porter (Sweden)

The label boasts that this was first brewed in 1836 and is still brewed to the same recipe, although now by Carlsberg Sweden. Michael Jackson penned an article over 10 years ago about the brewery’s founder, a Scot, which you can find here.

Once again though, for us this was a case of the history being more interesting than the beer. It’s a lovely opaque black, with a pillowy head. There’s a hint of coffee in the aroma, but not much else. The initial gulp is lovely — milk-chocolate and coffee flavours, some wine-like fruit and a good bitter kick at the end — but then it’s gone. What aftertaste is left is a bit like Marmite.

It’s pleasant enough and reminded us of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal stout. It’s definitely got a heavy stout-like body. It tastes stronger than it is (it’s “only” 5.5%).

Baltika no 6 “Porter” (Russia)

We’ve been looking for this little beauty for ages, ruthlessly scouring every new Russian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian shop to open in our manor. Finally, a new Lithuanian shop called “Tradicia” at the bottom of Walthamstow Market was able to deliver. [The shop has lots of other goodies too, which may fuel a blog post or two…]

It was worth the wait. It too is inky-black with a slightly off-white head. It has an oily, slightly bubbly texture, definitely lighter than the Carnegie. The aroma reminded me of creme caramel.

As for the taste, there’s a huge explosion of roasted malt, biscuits and molasses. It’s rich without being sickly sweet, and has a fruity aftertaste (cherry?) that lingers. It slips down way too easily for 7%.

I think this is what we were after when we went looking for a Baltic porter. Something where the English stout influence is clear, but that has evolved into something else. All the publicity says that this is brewed to a traditional English recipe and is bottom fermented, but there were definitely elements of Schwarzbier in there too.

Pardubicky Porter (Czech Republic)

In response to our first post on Baltic Porters, Evan Rail drew our attention to the tradition of Czech “baltic” porters, telling us that Pardubicky had been the only regular example for a while. Upon hearing that we couldn’t get it in London, he sent us a bottle in the post. Top man. Sorry it’s taken so long to review it…

This is definitely an interesting beast. On their website, this also claims a nineteenth century recipe. It looks great, with a fluffy head, and smells a bit Belgian — candy sugar and booze!

Tastewise, it has a pleasing sourness that the other two didn’t have, as well as notes of molasses and port. At 8% it’s also stronger than the other two. Overall we probably preferred the Baltika, but this one’s definitely worth trying, and also delivers the right mix of the familiar and the exotic…

Boak

11 replies on “Baltic Porters again”

You know I can’t get enough baltic porter coverage!

That heads-up about the Pardubicky Porter might come in handy for me in about a week, as I’ll be in Prague for a few days. And if you have any, I’d love some suggestions for other Czech beers (and bars) to check out!

Andy – we’ve got numbers 4 and 8 in the fridge as we speak…

Eric – I’m afraid I’m a bit rubbish when it comes to Prague, last time we were there (around three and a half years ago) we struggled to find good beer in places that weren’t tourist traps, but that was before beer-blogging!

Now I’m sure that if you checked out Evan Rail or Pivni Filosof you’d get lots of great tips, and links to more… Have a great trip, I’m very envious!

Porter has been brewed in Sweden for a long time – much longer than lager. I’ve a soft spot for Carnegie Porter. It ages very well, despite not being either bottle-conditioned or particularly strong.

It’s an interesting example of how a beer has to adapt to survive restrictive legislation. It’s just 5.6% ABV for a reason – for decades that was the maximum strength for beer in Sweden. In the 19th century Swedish Porter was much stronger – I’ve a set of analyses where the average OG is 1074 and the strongest 1096.

Despite having to be brewed much weaker than is usual for the style, Carnegie still retains many of the characteristics. It’s really quite a triumph. Though it would be nice if they brewed a stronger version now it’s allowed.

I don’t know if they still make the 3.5% ABV version of Carnegie Porter. That was weak enough to be sold in ordinary shops. Much better than you would expect.

Cheers Ron. 3.5% porter sounds fab – a lot of the flavours I like in a porter (sourness, smokiness) wouldn’t require a particularly high alcohol content, surely…

It certainly had a promising start, but just seemed to lack the finish. Might have been because it seemed to have been exported to the UK via the US…

Glad to see you got around to the Pardubice Porter! We’ve got about four beers roughly in this category in the Czech Republic at the moment, including a very nice version from Pilsner Urquell’s Master line. Pardubice’s is by far the best-known.

Also glad to see you found Carnegie Stark Porter. I didn’t notice the 3.5% at the Systembolaget alcohol monopoly last month (though of course it wouldn’t have to be there). But the 3.5% was recently rated at Ratebeer, so it looks like it’s still around:

http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/carnegie-porter-35/14982/

I brought home a couple of bottles of Carnegie Stark Porter from Stockholm; they didn’t last very long. The one remaining bottle from that trip is Slottskällans Imperial Stout — very good stuff.

Now where’s my bottle opener?

Boak – Just proves you can buy anything in London. I haven’t been to St Petersburg for a couple of years, though my wife and daughter spend 4 weeks there every summer (mostly on the Dacha). Maybe I’ll go back next year and do some detailled investigation.

Thanks for reminding me, it’s a great city and it’s not bad for beer.

Just been to Zywiec: their porter is pretty delicious and brewed away from the main brewery in a rundown establishment a few miles away — however, it’s lagered for several months in open fermenters and grips with its roasty, bitter, dry, creamy and licorice character. There were curious looks all around when we said this would go down well with beer lovers in the UK…

‘Ow be on, Adrian?

We’re constantly complaining — well, 10-12 hours a day — that we can’t get Zywiec Porter in the UK. Given that Zywiec has somehow or other become a “tip of the tongue” brand when you talk about beer with people who aren’t that into it, the porter could be a reasonable seller alongside things like Guinness Foreign Extra.

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