If you’re taking a flier on a new bottled porter, it can’t hurt to try something from Deschutes. The Oregon brewer has been bottling its signature Black Butte Porter for 25 years. Like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Dogfish Head 60 Minute, this beer has brought many new drinkers into the craft beer fold by giving them a balanced and lovable example of a classic beer category. Fast-forward to 2019, and the brewer’s “Just Tapped” series has bottled a seasonal run of a favorite recipe from its taproom, complete with chalkboard art from above the bar. Most Deschutes fans will simply wonder how the Baltic differs from Black Butte (in short, it’s sweeter and boozier), and which is preferable for late winter sipping.
This porter shows a pretty, slightly lighter-than-expected chestnut brown color. It’s a fairly opaque beer, with a moderate foam collar and slow-rising bubbles. The bottle’s visual of a dragon drawn on a taproom chalkboard does a nice job of tying the “just tapped” premise to the beer.
As expected, there’s a sweet, malty aroma to this porter, with roasted and chocolate notes leading the charge. The oak-smoked wheat malt (used in Polish Grodziskie beers) gives the nose a big smoky flavor with a bit of wheat beer clove, while the Northern Brewer hops highlight the wood and smoke and add a bit of pine. Porter fans will also find some dark fruit accents of cherry, fig, and plum.
Fans of heavy dark malt and old guard porters will find this to their liking.”
For a dark and sweet style, this Baltic Porter hides an 8.0% ABV well. This may be due to a slightly bitter hop backbone, which reinforces the green, woody influence of the hops. The carbonation here is done with a light hand, and stylistically feels more British than Pacific Northwest. The Deschutes house porter style of roasty chocolate and caramel is definitely in play, and the overall feel is smooth, smoky, and warming.
Deschutes has honored the Polish and British accents of the Baltic Porter style with this seasonal. With that said, we’d prefer a bit more carbonation to sharpen the flavors. (One can reasonably argue that to do that takes it out of the Baltic wheelhouse—and fair enough.) Fans of heavy dark malt and old guard porters will find this to their liking; others might simply stick with the classic Black Butte.