Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Exploring the BJCP: Baltic Porter (12C)

Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by.  This is a post in a series of posts I am doing entitled "Exploring the BJCP," which highlights the different sections of the Beer Judge Certification Program, in no particular order.  Today, we look at Category 12C: Baltic Porters!  Here is the link to the BJCP page on Category 12C.  Enjoy!

Category 12 in the BJCP are porters, and they are divided into 3 subcategories:
  • 12A: Brown Porter
  • 12B: Robust Porter
  • 12C: Baltic Porter
The history of the baltic porter starts in the late 1700s, when numerous British brewers would ship stronger versions of their porter to the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea.

Over time, the Baltic countries began brewing their own strong porters.  This was sparked by brewers from Russia and England moving into the Baltic regions and starting new breweries.  Once lagering became popular, Baltic porters began to be brewed with the bottom fermenting yeast, which somewhat changed their character (less fruity esters in the final product).  For more info, check out this page on Baltic porters in The Oxford Companion to Beer (via Google Books).  It's on page 82.

Baltic porters are generally dark brown in color with a malt flavor that provides a caramel, licorice and/or nutty character.  There can be a medium hop bitterness, but you usually won't find burnt or smoky flavors. Alcohol content has a large range of 5.5% - 9.5% ABV.

Let's check out some of these commercial examples as listed by the BJCP.

Nøgne Ø Porter
7% ABV

Nøgne Ø is a brewery in Norway that was started in 2002 by a pair of local homebrewers.  They have a wide range of products, ranging from porters, bitters, wits, saisons and more.  Their porter was quite good, and is my favorite of the 3 that I have sampled for this project.  It poured a deep, dark brown color with a large, tan head. The roastiness of the porter was very aromatic, and it also had smells of coffee and chocolate.  The aroma translates beautifully into the flavor, providing a full bodied experience of more roastiness, coffee and chocolate. There was also a touch of smoke, which I didn't expect for this style.  Nøgne Ø's porter drank incredibly smooth and was very enjoyable.

Nøgne Ø Porter, Norway
Nøgne Ø Porter

Sinebrychoff Porter
7.2% ABV

Sinebrychoff has a long history, dating back to 1819.  Originally, Sinebrychoff was located in Helsinki, Finland, and was founded by the Russian Nicolai Sinebrychoff, but they have since relocated to Kerava, Finland.  Since 1972, they were in a cooperation with Carlsberg Breweries, however, in 1999, Sinebrychoff became fully owned by Carlsberg.  Sinebrychoff Porter was first released in 1957, and was a favorite of famed beer writer Michael Jackson.  The brewing of Sinebrychoff Porter is a little different from other Baltic porters, as it is fermented with ale yeast.   My bottle of porter poured quite dark, with a large, resilient brown head.  The aromas and flavors were full of sweet malt, candy, chocolate, dark fruits and soy sauce.  It drank incredibly smooth, yet it seemed to drink at a higher ABV than it's 7.2%.  I found it to be a bit of a sipper.  This was quite a treat of a beer, and I can understand why it is a classic representation of the Baltic porter style.

Source of information on Sinebrychoff Porter:  Tierney-Jones, Adrian, "1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die," New York: Universe Publishing, 2010, pg. 805.

Sinebrychoff Porter, Finland
Sinebrychoff Porter

Zywiec Porter
9.5% ABV

In the Zywiec Valley (part of what is now Poland), in 1881, the Zywiec Brewery released their first draft porter, and it was a big one.  In 2013, the beer is still being brewed and comes in at 9.5% ABV.  As you can see in the below picture, it poured a dark brown with a 2 finger width light tan head.  It left noticeable lacing on the glass as the head receded.  The aroma and flavor were boozy and roasty.  The beer definitely had a bit of a "warming" effect on me.  It didn't seem terribly complex, but it was still quite delicious.  Expect a full body on this one, but only a little bit of carbonation, aside from the head that's produced.

Zywiec Porter, Poland
Zywiec Porter

Check out my other Exploring the BJCP posts:
Brown Porters
Robust Porters


  1. Really enjoying this series (are you ever going to return to the Scottish section?) and porter is one of my fav styles. You've hit a few that I've had in these posts, but a couple that I haven't sounded really interesting. I'll have to keep an eye out for them then next time am in the foreign section of State Line. Cheers!

    1. Thanks Ed, I appreciate it! I certainly will be returning to the Scottish styles, probably this fall/winter at some point.

      I was unaware of some of the breweries as well, so I was happy that I was easily able to find them by me. Good luck in tracking the ones you want down!

      Again, thanks for reading!

  2. Stumbled on your blog searching for a lost blog post on BJCP Brown Porters.

    Unfortunately a lot of the BJCP style guides (and the OC beer book - see are based on very poorly/un-researched "history". You might find interesting for some well-researched info on the history of baltic porter (and the indivisibility of Porter and stout: a modern demarcation with around 30 years history, see

    When it comes to Scottish Beer Styles the BJCP guides are in Lord of the Rings/Beowulf/tartan territory - mostly myth, but a very interesting set of myths that have inspired some good beers - like tartan inspired some great mini-skirts maybe? is a good read for getting into beer history not mythstory

    Happy drinking - working your way through the BJCP style lists is a great way to be exposed to variety but don't take the groupings or styles as "gospel" they are anything but.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Steve. I read the Zythophile and Shut Up About Barlay Perkins pages occasionally, but I will be sure to check out those specific posts.

      It is a little sad that published literature can't be trusted when it comes to beer history, but I suppose the same can be said for many other subjects (historical wars, governments, religious movements). the only thing one can do is to read from as many different sources as they can, and try to piece together the most accurate representation of the past.

      Cheers Steve