Perhaps the only more restrained black beer is Swartz Bier, but the delicate nature of Baltic Porter makes it a challenge to brew. This style needs to ride the line between flavorful and refined, alcoholic and dry, Complex and subtle. Essentially, everything and nothing at all. Each element needs to be identifiable, by taste while maintaining that essential restraint. The water just right, the hops noble, the malts gently present, and the yeast present to the point below distracting. It is a difficult beer to make because it is so easy to slip over that line into a robust or even an American porter (pass the hops please).
The tips and tricks that went into making a first place awarded Baltic in the Porter category were there:
- Late addition black malt, a heavier then expected does (0.5# per malt) at the end of the mash for 10 minutes.
- Pale Continental malt blended with some Pilsner to give it some snap.
- Some flaked wheat for head retention, and a little interesting twist.
- Filtered water with just gypsum added to it.
- Neutral hops for the boil, and German hops at the end.
- A little more age then you might expect, as it seems to drink well 4 week after packaging, and still was solid 4 months after brewing.
- Lastly, California Common yeast to ride that larger line.
The result was a delightfully drinkable, rich ruby to brown beer that you can peer endlessly through. The flavors were all there, none competing, but all present. IT deceives you a bit as your mind prepares for a chew that is not there, and not part of the style. Perhaps these reasons are why so many craft brewers are making this style.