Showing posts with label baltic porter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label baltic porter. Show all posts

Friday, March 4, 2016

#TheSession - Head East Young Man

The subject for this iteration of The Session, the 109th of its ilk, is being hosted by Mark Lindner over at By the Barrel and the theme is 'porter'.

Forgive me if I am being cynical, but I imagine that many a post on this topic will find its way to London, to tales of three threads, entire butt, and industrial romances involving the working men of that great entrep?t. I want to leave London behind though, I also want to disregard Dublin and its history of porter brewing, and head to lands where beers morph from the original into something distinctly native, and are then re-exported to the wider world.

Naturally, being an intelligent reader, you immediately knew that the lands of which I refer were in the east rather than across the Atlantic. Sure, not as far to the east as India, but east to the Baltic Sea, on to Russia, the once key market for many a British brewer to send strong warm fermented dark beers, and the court of Catherine the Great (hence the name 'Russian Imperial Stout' - not made in Russia, but for the Russian imperial court).

During the reign of Catherine the Great, the great cities of the Hanseatic League were still major trading ports on the route from Britain to Russia, cities evocative in mercantile history like Hamburg, Lübeck, Stettin, and Danzig. As the strong dark beer made its way from the ports of England to Russia, I imagine the ships' captains stopped into various cities along the way. Perhaps as they plied their trade along the Baltic coast they sold some of their stock of beer, and a taste for strong dark beer took hold. It is not so great a stretch of the imagination to think that enterprising brewers in these cities created their own version for local sale, using ingredients and methods local to them, and thus out of the strong stout porters sent to Russia was born Baltic Porter.

Generally speaking the local ingredients and methods were heavily influenced by the lager brewing traditions of Central Europe, and so on the southern side of the Baltic, their porter was cold fermented and lagered, while those made on the northern side, in Sweden, maintained the warm fermentation approach. Eventually Baltic Porter became associated mainly with cities in modern day Poland, though examples of the 'style' (for want of a better word) can be found throughout central and eastern Europe. Clearly I am about to argue from silence, but I imagine the ?eskobudějovicky Porter advertised below had more in common with Gdańsk than London.


The history of porter is in many ways the forerunner of the pale lager revolution of the mid 19th to mid 20th century kicked off by Josef Groll and his Pilsner, and is a powerful reminder of the power of trade to shape societies far from the original source of the product being traded. So in drinking porter look beyond London and head east young man.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mmmmm.....Lager.

You know me by now, unless this is your first visit to Fuggled, in which case welcome, I am a lager drinker, nay a lover of lager. Whether it is a Bohemian Pilsner, Schwarzbier, Vienna or Baltic Porter, the lager 'family' of beers is the one I like to spend as much drinking time as possible with. That's not to say that warm fermented beers aren't wonderful as well, but just that beer that takes its own sweet time to be ready is my preferred tipple. Given a bank of taps pouring pale ales in various states of Indianess, stouts, porters, brown ales and wheat beers, if there is a solitary good lager available then I will gladly ignore everything else, even if it is super rare, super strong and aged in gorilla snot barrels.

Without being mean, any brewer can chuck more hops into the kettle, or add spices to secondary and get something that is at least drinkable, but it takes a master brewer to have the confidence to brew a great lager, such as Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, Victory Prima Pils, or Kout na ?umavě 18° (it also takes a master brewer to do the whole extra hops and spice thing well without turning the beer into a flavour mess). We can argue all day about the merits or otherwise of decoction mashing, for the record I think it makes a better beer though I know at least one of my favourite lagers is done with infusion mashing, but one thing is clear, lager is a labour of love, and if a brewery does it properly then it ties up capital and equipment for a very long time.


Take Budvar for example. I remember reading that each batch of their flagship 12° lager takes 102 days to make, from start to finish. Primary fermentation lasts 12 days and then the beer sits in the lagering tanks for 90 days, that's three months, 12 weeks (1 week for each degree of Plato as used to be the norm), just sitting around. Would most people recognise a difference if they brought it out after 60 days? Probably not, but some traditions are worth keeping regardless of what science tells us with numbers.

Brewing, any brewing, is not just about the numbers. Sure your pilsner might have a starting gravity of 1.048 (12° Plato), you might even have gone crazy and hopped it to 40 IBUs but it might still suck because there is too much alcohol from the yeast over attenuating and making it thin in the body (more alcohol is not always a good thing). Perhaps you used some high alpha hops for bittering rather than Saaz all the way through. Perhaps you didn't wait for the lager to tell you when it was ready and just pulled it from the tanks after 28 days regardless. Lager, in  my thoroughly unhumble opinion is not something to be taken lightly, and one of the reasons I brew them so infrequently is simply because I want to do them justice and I don't really have the equipment to do so.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy living in this part of Virginia, I have access to great local lager whenever I want it, made by brewers who do it properly and rightly win awards as a result.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What's in a Name?

Whilst looking through the pictures that are already on Fuggled, I rediscovered this little delight:


I took the picture at Hotel Pegas, a hotel and brewpub in the centre of Brno, the second city of the Czech Republic, during a trip down to Moravia in 2009. The sign was in fact one of a pair, unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the other, or if I did, I can't find it. The second picture though was a German version of the Czech sign, which translates roughly in English as "Original Porter from ?eské Budějovice" - or Budweis as it is also known.

You can see from picture that the brewery making this porter was Mě??ansky Pivovar, the brewery that today is known generally as Samson, though was originally called "Die Budweiser Br?uberechtigten - Bürgerliches Br?uhaus-Gegründet 1795 - Budweis". I am guessing from the fact that the sign was in both German and Czech that it dates from the period known as the Czech National Revival, which led to Josef Jungmann publishing the first Czech dictionary and eventually the building of the Czech National Theatre in June 1881 - the original building burnt down in August 1881 and was re-built and opened in 1883.

I don't know about you, but I find that sign fascinating on so many levels. Firstly the fact that it was made in both Czech and German pointing to the multi-cultural nature of Bohemia. Secondly, the brewery that produced the beer was using Budweiser as an appellation, and this before Budvar was even created in 1895 (so if anyone say Budvar is the original Budweiser they are wrong). Thirdly, and perhaps most intriguing was that the brewery was making a porter, a style more commonly associated with London and the Baltic region.

In the modern Czech brewing law, a porter is a dark beer brewed to greater than 18o Plato, about 1.076. However, it is dangerous to read the modern Czech interpretation of porter back into the 19th century, so what was this beer? I would like to posit a theory, and I am perfectly happy for it to be complete bullshit, but I think without much more evidence available (until I finally get round to reading a book I have on brewing in ?eské Budějovice pre 1895) I think it holds water.

As discussed elsewhere, tmavé up until the late 19th century was warm fermented. Even today if you go to the legendary beer hall U Flek?, their tmavé is distinctly stout like. From what I understand of that beer, the recipe is largely the same today as it was in the 1890s, but it is cold fermented and lagered. What is today called tmavé in the Czech lands bears an uncanny resemblance to porter, whether Baltic or otherwise. Was it then a version of porter that was poured down the drains of Plzeň that eventually led to Pilsner?

Obviously without the brewing records it is impossible to know for sure was Budweiser Porter was, but I am thinking that a little homebrew project to brew a Czech Porter would be interesting, and I have to do something with the 5 extra ounces of Saaz that I have knocking about in the fridge. When it comes to the yeast strain, I think a German ale strain is in order, something from Dusseldorf for example. I imagine that the beer would have enjoyed a long cool conditioning phase, somewhat akin to Scottish beers, and so once fermented in will sit in the cellar for a while.

Another project for an every growing list.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Lazy Look at the Cellar

For some reason, my brain has all the activity of an arthritic slug today. I am sure the cause is not having worked in the Starr Hill tasting room on both Saturday and Sunday, and being asked what specialty beer I would brew to follow the Double IPA which is currently gracing the taps - my answer was a Baltic Porter, something hefty and akin to either the Pardubicky Porter or Primátor's lovely Double from back in the Czech Republic. Part of the reason could be the lack of beery joy since June 1st as I decided to take a month off the beer, so rather than witter on today, I thought I'd just put some pictures up of my cellar and some of the delights that await for Thursday and beyond.


The Cellar, large amounts of homebrew in there, and a case of Budvar to boot.


Stout - my favourite beer "style"


A sample of my Unibroue collection.


Some more dark beers, perhaps to save for the rainy days of autumn and chill of winter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh for crying out loud!!

Love 'em or hate 'em, beer styles are part and parcel of life for the beer aficionado. Styles should be a product of a communal consensus as to what makes, for example, a stout a stout rather than a porter, and while I sympathise with those who see limited value in styles, they do give a frame of reference, a sitz im leben if you want to get hermeneutic, for what are the accepted parameters for a beer.

The one thing though that makes me rant and rave about beer styles is when beers are misplaced within the beer category world. Take for example the current edition of All About Beer, which I pick up from time to time at my local Barnes and Noble. This edition has a "Buyer's Guide for Beer Lovers" about the many varied strains of lager out there on the market place, such styles as "pale lager", "pilsner" (I promise not to get into provenance and authenticity here), as well as a few bock variants.

Gripe number 1 is putting Primátor Premium Lager in the pale lager category, while Staropramen Lager apparently belongs in the pilsner category. Now, those of us who know something of the Czech brewing scene, and if I am mistaken I am sure emails will be arriving fairly quickly, will know that when a brewery from outside Plzen labels their beer "premium", then you can be fairly sure that it is their 12o version of the original, especially when said brewery also has a lower gravity lager available.

Gripe 2, when giving a history lesson, please, please, please get your history right. When describing the Baltic Porter category, apparently "traditional lager-making breweries along the export route [from the UK to Russia] developed their own version of the style". Firstly, the style was developed in the UK and was picked up as a top fermented beer in the 18th century by brewers on the route. It wasn't until many breweries switched over to bottom fermenting in the second half of the 19th century that Baltic Porter became a predominantly "lager" style beer, though some places still make it as a top fermented ale, mostly in Sweden.

Gripe 3 - this is a quote from a review for Colorado K?lsch, which describes k?lsch as being a "response to the popular pilsners being produced in the Czech Republic in the 1840s". Historically speaking, bollocks, bollocks and more bollocks. There was only 1 pilsner being brewed in Bohemia in the 1840s, strangely it was a beer called Pilsner, from the town of Pilsen, to use the name of the city at the time. There were no doubt other lagers aplenty, but only one pilsner. Secondly, there was no Czech Republic in the 1840s, there was Bohemia, a multi-ethnic part of the Austrian Empire (the Austro-Hungarian bit turned up in 1867), the Czech Republic however didn't exist until 1993 to be strict about these things.

My last gripe, or rather the last gripe that I will share with you good people, came from the regional winners of the USBTC winner for the "Bitter/ESB" category in the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast region. The beer in question is one I have written about before, Starr Hill's Pale Ale. Now, Starr Hill Pale Ale is a perfectly decent pale ale, it has plenty of the citrus hoppiness you would expect from a pale ale made in the US - anybody else seeing my issue here? If I were to put Fuller's style defining ESB next to Pale Ale, they simply would not be considered expressions of the same style. Whoever decided to label this beer a Bitter/ESB (and don't get me started on the differences between Bitter, Best Bitter and ESB), really needs a trip to the UK to discover the glories of Bitter in its natural environment.

Here endeth the lesson. The lesson being "get your bloody facts right!"

Now that I have calmed myself a bit, I am planning which beer to have this evening as the doctor says I can have a beer a couple of times a week - will it be homebrew, Budvar or a nice hoppy American IPA?

The agonies of choice.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Porter and Stout

I have said many times that I am a stout man. Mr first love in the world of beer was Guinness, and I have always had a soft spot for the black stuff, and stout is one of those beers which is relatively easy to make, but rather difficult to make really, really well. Porter on the other hand is something that I have come to appreciate more over the past year, whether that be the top fermented British styles or bottom fermented Baltic Porter.

From the many stouts and porters I have indulged in over 2009 the following have stood out:
The La Granja Stout from N?rrebro is made with coffee beans and boy does it tell, big, yet smooth, coffee flavours, rich chocolatey background and a subtle warming glow make this a simply gorgeous big hitter of a sweet stout. The first bottle I had of this beer cost me the equivalent of $20, crazy perhaps to pay an inflated price, but worth it for the lovely beer I got to enjoy, thankfully there was another place in Prague selling it at far more reasonable price, so indulge more I did.

Stout and Ireland go together like fish and chips, Wallace and Gromit or apple crumble and custard. Of the Irish stouts I have enjoyed, as well as "Irish style" stouts from the Czech Republic, UK or US, O'Hara's is head and shoulders above, simple as.

General Washington's Tavern Porter, from Yard's Brewing in Philadelphia, was a gift from a very good friend, and when gifts are this good you know that you have a good friend with excellent taste in beer. Big alcoholic glow and a flavour which packed a punch and a half, while still being eminently drinkable makes Tavern Porter one of the best beers I have discovered since I moved to the US.

Of the three, the one walking away with my utmost appreciation is
  1. O'Hara's Celtic Stout
Sometimes, despite all the innovation, experimentation and generally messing about in the beer world only a classic hits the spot, O'Hara's is that Classic.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Tipsy Terrace Tasting

One of the most pressing things to get done this week before moving on was polishing off the varied beers still sitting around Mrs Velkyal and I's flat. My problem though was how to do it? I had basically three options:

  1. sell them
  2. give them away
  3. drink them

Admittedly I did give a few bottles away. However, I decided that the most prudent way of dealing with the situation was to drink them, but better to gather a few friends keen to try different beers from around Europe and introduce them to some of these delights. Thus it was that last night I went round to my good friend place to sit on his expansive balcony with another couple of guys and attempt to get through 25 beers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Scotland, England and Denmark.

Unfortunately we only managed to get through 14 of the beers, some pictures of which grace this post.

There was however one other beer on the list which I wanted the guys to try, the uninfected, though wildly over-carbonated, version of my Skippy Porter. I had previously only tried this beer with Evan Rail, who was very complimentary about it even though it erupted all over his kitchen floor. This time I was prepared, and opened the bottle in a flower pot, without flowers of course. Once again Skippy was a hit, with the guys saying it was one their favourite beers of the night, the smooth chocolate flavours I was aiming for were right up there, and the Fuggles bitterness was just right to add some bite. I initially thought that I wouldn't be brewing this beer very often, but given the reaction it gets I think I will have to simply refine the recipe and start making it in preparation for winter. I am finding now that I get more pleasure from my friends enjoying my beer than hoarding it all to myself in some attempt to save money on beer.

Thankfully I know that Mark and his family will be in the States for a few months at the end of the year, so our beer tasting will no doubt be repeated, hopefully with the added bonus of a couple of bottles of Strahov's Autumn Dark Special! On the menu already for when we sit on the patio in our new place will be my planned American style IPA loaded with Amarillo hops, also some more Skippy Porter as well as my first Irish Red Ale, tentatively called Mrs Velkyal's Red Hat.

Every prospect pleases!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From East to West

A few days before Saruman pitched up in Prague, I went through my Little Cellar to pull out various beers I wanted to try, and that I wanted him to try. Not to mention drawing up a mental list of pubs and lagers that I wanted him to try. The reason being that he had admitted to not being much of a lager fan, and given that the available selection when Mrs Velkyal and I were in Ireland was pretty dire, I decided that the issue needed to be addressed.

As well as the golden lagers that I wanted him try, I decided that it would be interesting to do a taste comparison of the Baltic Porters sitting in my flat, of which I had the following:

In deciding with order to drink them in, we went for the east to west option, so obviously we started with the Russian Baltika 6.

Whilst not the strongest by any means in terms of alcohol, at 7% ABV, this was certainly the sweetest and most cloying - my initial reaction was to think if this is a standard Baltic Porter then this is a style that I would not be drinking very often. I also think the lack of carbonation helped to make it feel almost like watered down treacle. As Goldilocks might have put it, this one is too sweet!

Next up was Krajan Porter, and this one is a big hitter on the alcohol front at a whopping 9.5%ABV! For a beer with so much booze in it, I was surprised at how easy it was to drink, very smooth and a treat for me was the distinct liquorice flavours that abound - yes Bertie Bassett is one of my best friends! Certainly a step up from the Baltika in my book.

Finally coming to the Neuzeller Porter from Germany, which is slightly stronger than the Baltika 6 at 7.2%ABV, but a completely different beast in my book, and was almost like Christmas cake - lots of dark maltiness, with a dose of fruitiness and a nice alcoholic after glow. Have that cake with a good strong coffee and you are in the right ballpark when it comes to this beer. What makes this stand out from the other Baltic Porters we tried was that it was very smooth, even silky.

For both of us the Neuzeller Porter was the one we liked the most, followed by Krajan and then the Baltika 6, hence the picture:

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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