Guest Review | Alaskan Baltic Porter

By Ryan Martinson

Given the fact that I am a guest writer for this blog, I thought it fitting to at least give a brief biography of myself, more specifically the history behind my newfound passion for that sudsy, refreshing and intoxicating liquid that is beer. When I first started drinking it wasn’t for the taste, rather it was for the fact that it made my head feel funny and I liked it. But it was because of that limited scope that I didn’t have any idea of the ocean that awaited my taste buds. I first began to branch out from the college beer staple of Budweiser after I met an Olympic shot-putter when I was employed at Home Depot (yes this is a true story).  It was through him that I tried Rogue’s XS Imperial Porter and was delighted and in awe of its unique taste; after that I went to my first beer festival and from then on the rest is history.  Now my best friend and beer brother  Scott and I enjoy countless brews that give us that starry-eyed feeling as well as leave us wondering what some people were thinking (I’m looking at you, Chelada!) We’ve gained a considerable amount of experience and knowledge about this wonderful world of malts and hops, as many of you can tell from his amazing blog (I promise I’m not brown-nosing), and that world is our oyster … or drink … or beerster? Either way there’s a lot more drinking to be done.

With that history lesson behind us, it is time to delve into my first review of a beer, and I must say it’s a very delectable one — the beer I mean.  It’s Alaskan Brewing Company’s Baltic Porter, and it’s arguably one of the better porters I have had in a long time.

Baltic Porters have a reputation of being higher in ABV than other porters; this is due to the fact that it had to be shipped across the North Sea, so naturally a more robust version had to be created to withstand the long trip.  It was dubbed the “Baltic” Porter because it was brewed in Eastern Europe in countries such as Latvia and Lithuania, but it is said that it was also introduced by Britain in the 18th century, which leads to a bit of confusion as to what its origin actually are. It was a top-fermenting ale when it was first introduced, but by the 19th century, when breweries began to brew more beers with lager yeast, the porter was made through bottom-fermentation.  It wasn’t until the late 20th century that German breweries relaunched the Baltic Porter, which had faded from existence because of World War II, as a response to an import porter renaissance of sorts.  Either way it is thanks to our friends in Europe and all of their brothers and sisters that we are blessed with this very complex, unusually drinkable beer that enraptures the senses and is generally easy on the wallet.

On to the tasting!

I managed to procure a bottle of this amazing porter at the local Total Wine which by most accounts is a beertopia, if you’ll excuse the hyperbole.  It cost me about $7 which isn’t too bad for a bomber of porter, and then it was taken home and put into my refrigerator because unfortunately it wasn’t time to drink until a couple of days later.  But let me tell you it was definitely worth the wait! The first thing Scott and I noticed was the color as it poured into our glasses; it was like black coffee.  Although common with porters, this particular variety had dark, reddish mahogany edges, which when held in front of a light source is surprisingly beautiful.  It had a very peculiar head in that it wasn’t long-lasting, but it persisted as a dark brown film that floated on the beer.  Next was the smell, which was multifaceted.  Beginning with breaths of licorice and intense cherries, the smell flowed into my nostrils followed by brown sugar and  robust molasses. Although some of its aroma was similar to other porters I’ve tried, it was unusually sweet, which added to its uniqueness. The taste was exceedingly more complex than most in that its first touch to the tongue greeted us with cherries, candied sugars and licorice, which together provided a very drinkable beer and, given its ABV, that is definitely hard to find. What we noticed next was a very prevalent oakiness that gives it a smoky aftertaste, which then coupled with a smooth vanilla and the familiar malty punch of a porter. As it warmed it remained as sweet as it was on the first taste, but the cherries became more pronounced; it’s almost like drinking a maraschino porter, which is pretty amazing in itself! The sweetness was offset by an earthiness that was very subtle at first but became more noticeable as it had a chance to sit.

Altogether Alaskan Brewing Company’s Baltic Porter is an extremely enjoyable craft beer that will excite lovers of the style and grab newcomers as well.  It is a juxtaposition because it succeeds in being sweet and tough at the same time, almost like a body builder with a heart tattooed on his shoulder.  I’m sure there are better and more profound analogies, but to put it plainly, it’s just a damn good beer.

And thus ends my first foray into the agony and ecstasy of beer reviewing. I hope that there is more in store because the world of brews is constantly changing, and I intend to change with it!

10 Responses to “Guest Review | Alaskan Baltic Porter”
  1. Shane says:

    Not bad Ryan! Its funny, I’ve tried this beer, but I definitely didn’t look that deep into it – you guys are good. If I ever write for this blog…I’ll stick to what I know: it will be on either Bud Light Lime, or the champagne of beers, Miller High Life.
    Good thing i’m across the country so you can’t hurt me right now.

    • Scott says:

      Ha, to each his own, my friend! But if I’m looking for a champagne-like beer, I’d probably go with something like a Belgian pale ale, biere de garde, or biere de champagne (yes, it exists!). Mmmmm.

      And good review, Ryan! I seriously enjoyed this beer.

  2. ifl says:

    Shane – maybe, but does your wife read Beer(Ein)stein? SHE could still hurt you 🙂
    Ryan – nice review, some stylistic differences from Scott’s writing but not bad at all. In fact, enough to make me want to try this. I like Alaska but normally not a porter fan (I loathe coffer flavors), but you had me at the intense cherries

  3. fil says:

    dang wordpress won’t let you edit your posts. It’s coffee I don’t like — I’ll take a coffer anytime, especially if there’s money in it

    • Scott says:

      Nice! I think you have to sign up for an account to edit posts … but yeah, the coffee (and coffer) flavors are pretty much absent in this one! You might like it.

  4. Shawn says:

    the baltic porter is my favorite alsakan beer – well, 2nd only (maybe) to their reserve of smoked porter…depends on the mood.

    any other baltic porters i should know about?

    • Scott says:

      I’ve had several others that are good, like Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter and Zywiec Porter, but I think overall this might be my favorite.

  5. Deb says:

    Ryan, I enjoyed reading your review. Scott, good luck with the new job! I’ll look forward to more reviews soon.

  6. Ryan says:

    Thanks a lot for the kind words guys! It’s greatly appreciate and I really enjoyed the baltic porter and it enhanced my interest in the style and made me wanna try more! So many good one’s I’ve had and shared already, thanks again!

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