There was a full house in the upstairs lecture room at the Polish Regional Brewery festival in Łódź for a tutored horizontal tasting of the beer Poland considers its own: Baltic Porter. Eight examples were set out, sequenced to place the award-winners, and multi-award-winners at the end.
So, starting in the wooden-spoon zone on the right of the picture: Grand Imperial Porter. It's grand, like. Really. Light-bodied but with lots of warm, Horlicks-like, malt on the nose and a sweet main flavour: mostly chocolate plus a very understated bitterness. Moving left to Witnicki Porter Lubuskie and espresso is the dominant theme here: a thick and oily roasted quality, mainly in the aroma but coming out in the taste, next to higher-alcohol marker pens and a softer brown sugar caramel thing. It's intense stuff and I was surprised to discover it's one of the weakest beers in show at only 8.5% ABV. Lwówek Baltic Porter was quite the palate cleanser after that, or maybe its attributes were simply drowned out by the foregoing. It's a simple, plain little number, some light liquorice bitterness but nothing more troubling than that. And bringing us to the half way mark, Cornelius Baltic Porter, a 9%-er and rather hot with it, though smooth enough to keep its drinkability intact. There's low-key liquorice again and no sharp edges. It's a slow sipper, but an enjoyable one. More from Cornelius in the next post, when we flip the tasting from horizontal to vertical.
I'm certain Grand Imperial Porter: Chili was put in to wake us up at this point. As you'd expect, this is based on the first beer and still tastes very much like it. But they haven't been shy with the chilli and the beer is big enough to bear the heat. The end result is a lovely late burn and a catch in the back of the throat. There's no real flavour contribution from the chilli but the extra heat alone makes it a more interesting beer than the original. This was followed by one from the big boys: Perła Porter Bałtycki. Though Perła is part of Danish giant Royal Unibrew, its Baltic Porter certainly seems well-regarded by the locals, and I liked it too. While the style has a certain tendency to dourness, this one is fun, with giggly notes of strawberry milkshake in with the chocolate and coffee. There's nothing off-style about the 9.2% ABV, however, even if it is very well hidden.
The two medal winning beers left for the end were, first, Kormoran's Porter Warmiński, a deftly balanced beer which takes the weight off its dense body with light and dry coffee and cocoa complexities. And to see us out: Komes Porter Bałtycki by the Fortuna brewery in Miłosław. This one won its plaudits through complexities, adding more than a strawberry milkshake into the Baltic Porter flavour repertoire. The aroma is an apothecary shop of bittersweet herbs, while the flavour packs in classic smooth chocolate and assertively bitter liquorice. It's like every element of the flavour has been taken out, examined, polished and put back in place. No shortcuts here.
I'll confess I went into the tasting as not the biggest fan of Baltic Porter, but I enjoyed the session and came out of it a lot more likely to choose one when the opportunity arises. I guess that was the point of the event.
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