By Julia Burke, Beer Editor
Baltic porter is a beer style with a little mystery. Made as dark as the North Sea and strong enough to withstand the journey across its treacherous waters during the Industrial Revolution, this style owes its lineage to both the milder English porter and the robust Russian Imperial stout. Traditionally done with lager yeast for a long, cold fermentation, this porter at its best is intense but smooth.
I often find Baltic porters a little too sweet and thick for my taste, but I can never turn down a great porter, so I’ve kept trying this sub-style hoping for one to change my mind.
On the nose, Custom Brewcrafters Krysztoff shows a firm but clean roast, with hints of African coffee and intense bittersweet chocolate. The palate shows a faint sweetness but nowhere near the syrupy consistency that normally hinders the style, instead showing roasty licorice-dark malts and powerful molasses-toffee complexity.
As the beer warms to temperature (it peaked at about 55 degrees) it blossoms. Any hint of the 10% ABV melts seamlessly into an experience that’s disarming but not palate-coating, each sip balanced and restrained enough to beg another but packed with enough flavor and complexity to warrant attention. It’s made with Magnum and Mount Hood hops, and they don’t show on their own so much as lift up the back-palate and finish — exactly as they should with this style.
The finish is outstanding: fantastic length that gave me the sensation of being slowly toasted over campfire coals like that perfect golden-brown and melty-on-the-inside marshmallow that takes several minutes but makes the perfect s’more.
I haven’t mentioned the appearance of this beer. I don’t normally spend a lot of time on a beer’s looks (absent obvious flaws or problems), because to me all beer has an inherent sex appeal, but I need to mention the singular silhouette of this brew. In a V pilsner glass, it pours a blackish-brown so lightless it’s almost cobalt in color, with a ridiculously inviting mocha-foam one-finger head and beautiful lacing. Beautiful, enticing, with stylish delivery to boot, this is the most extraordinary effort I have tasted from CB brewmaster Bruce Lish, and my new favorite example of the style. I had this with German potato pancakes on a Sunday morning and it was outstanding, but I’d really like to see this with a smoked gouda or other smoky cheese.
Producer: Custom Brewcrafters
Style: Baltic Porter
Stemware: 16 oz. V pilsner glass, then snifter (I couldn’t resist the photo appeal, but this beer belongs in a snifter or wide goblet)
(Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended to Extraordinary, Can't Recommend it More)