Baltic porter is a traditional style that was developed by the British in the 1800s for export to their buddies in the Russian court. I hear you can see Russia from Juneau, thus Alaskan is the perfect brewery to lead the way with this style. They make theirs with dark cherries, brown sugar, and hand-scraped vanilla beans before extended aging on chips of toasted French oak.
The Baltic porter is an interesting breed because although it's a porter in name and flavor, meaning they're brewed with a strain of yeast that ferments for longer periods at colder temperatures; this contributes a cleaner, crisper flavor to the brew.
Pour Alaskan Baltic Porter Ale into a snifter. From afar, the deep burgundy liquid seems to pulse with darkness, yet holding it to the light reveals surprising clarity. Big, cocoa powder-colored bubbles crackle and pop.
As you take in the aroma, you may picture a large plate precariously balanced on a stick. On the end there are piles of dark chocolate and maraschino cherry syrup; on the other, buttery oak. French vanilla ice cream, cocoa nibs, and high-proof brandy take up whatever space is left at the edges. Alaskan Baltic Porter is that plate. The proportions of the ingredients are perfect, keeping the plate perfectly balanced. It doesn't get better than this.
In the flavor, sugary dark fruits, unmasked alcohol, and vanilla combine to give the beer an almost bourbon-aged quality. Brown sugar, milk chocolate, and dark sweet cherries are also there, and a smooth smokiness permeates the background. A complain would be that the malts are a little too thin to support the adjuncts and could be kicked up a notch. The body, however, is a silk blanket. Soft carbonation tingles the tongue inside the supples liquid while ethanol heat warms the nostrils and throat.
Review originally printed in The Handbook of Porters and Stouts