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Beer Reviews

Baltic Porter

Capital Brewery
Middleton, WI

Style: Porter

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Tonight’s tongue-tingling tasting is Baltic Porter, one of Capital Brewing’s Capital Square Series, limited-run brews that push the boundaries of their normal German lager modus operandi. So what, exactly, makes a porter “Baltic”? Let’s go to the closest thing we have to a definitive source, the Brewers Association Great American Beer Fest Style List:
A true lager beer, black to very deep ruby/garnet in color. Overall, Baltic porters have a very smooth lagered character with distinctive character of roasted malts and dark sugars. Because of its alcoholic strength aroma includes gentle lager fruitiness (berries, grapes, plums; not banana), complex alcohols, cocoa-like, roast malt (and sometimes coffee-like roast barley). Hop aroma is very low, though a hint of hop aroma can complement aromatics and flavor without dominance. Baltic porters range from having medium to full body complemented with a medium-low to medium level of malty sweetness. Caramelized-type sugar flavors (light caramel to toffee-like, even licorice-like) can be integrated into the overall complexity of flavor profile. Hop bitterness is low to medium-low. Baltic Porters are not hop bitter dominated. Carbonized roasted dark malts may contribute some bitterness. A low degree of smokiness may be evident. Low to medium low estery fruitiness. No butterscotch-like diacetyl nor sweet corn-like dimethylsulfide (DMS) should be apparent in aroma or flavor.
Glad they didn’t get too specific. I’ll leave it up to you to find out what a non-Baltic porter is, because this review is too long already.

Capital’s Baltic pours a dark, reddish-tinted brown with a light-tan head that starts off pretty decent but diminishes to a thin trace that leaves next to no lacing. The aroma is a big slug of grainy malt (nothing new from Capital) and fusel alcohols with subdued coffee notes at the edges of the scent. All in all it’s a big-ass nose for a brew that doesn’t sport a noticeable hop profile.

The sip is definitely an expertly lagered brew: a smooth, sublime, soft palate. As you’d guess from the nose, the beginning is a big dose of sweet malt that morphs into highlights of coffee roastiness. That grainy sweetness returns toward the end, with a finish that comes in a little weak and maybe even a little watery, before the beer warms.

This one is damn near a four-mugger, but those fusel alcohols and tepid finish hold it just shy. A little aging—maybe until late fall/early winter—would smooth this brew out even more, maybe pushing it up a notch. Either way, pour this beer closer to room temperature than not to get the most of it.

It’d be interesting to taste this alongside Capital’s Autumnal Fire to see what sets this beer apart from their much-celebrated doppelbock, another big, malty lager. Hmmm … maybe I’ll slide a bottle or two into the beer closet next to my Autumnal Fire stash and do a side-by-side sip session this fall. Maybe …

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on July 1, 2008.
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