I have not always been a consumer of 22-ounce bottled beers. I used to think that you only bought a bottle that big if you were going to share it with someone else. And my wife does not drink - although she’s tempted to start given the daily tribulations of her profession. The idea of drinking that much beer by myself, in one sitting, seemed a little, um, excessive. But these days I suffer from no such inhibitions. If I order a draught beer at Outback steak house and they ask me, “Do you want the 16 or the 22?”, of course I ask for the 22. So if I’m willing to pay $5 for 22 ounces of some swill like Fosters, why not spring for an extra dollar and get the same amount of a really great beer? I was perusing the refrigerated section at Marino’s Beverage Depot in Sylvania, Ohio (a store I like to refer to as the Greatest Place in the World) and spotted a big old bottle of Smuttynose Baltic Porter. I knew right off I had to have it. It did not let me down.
Having enjoyed both the Smuttynose Baltic Porter and Victory’s extraordinary Baltic Thunder, I’m thinking the Baltic porter may be my favorite beer style of them all. The traditional porter has always been a huge favorite mine, but the Baltic porter is even better. It’s like porter on steroids! The Baltic porter has its origins in the 18th Century, when makers of British porter brewed a stronger version of their product that could endure the long shipment across the North Sea. Today the Baltic porter is a popular style in such places as Finland, Estonia, The Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. These porters are made with a lager yeast and taste of dark fruit. In keeping with this tradition, the Smuttynose Baltic Porter is bottom fermented with a lager yeast - giving it a different character than a British-style porter. And at 9 percent alcohol, this is definitely not your granddaddy’s porter. Down a whole bottle, and you’ll be feeling no pain. But man, oh, man, is this one delicious beer! It’s ultra creamy and ridiculously drinkable considering its ABV, the malty flavor full of coffee and chocolate notes, infused with dark fruit and raisin, and balanced by more than a little hop bitterness. It’s truly the best of both worlds: the roasted toffee taste of the classic porter meets the dark fruity notes of its Baltic cousin. It is, as advertised, a big beer. But it’s every bit as smooth - it ought to be illegal for a 22-ounce bottle to go down so easy! Like a lot of beers I’ve been enjoying over the past couple months, it’s a winter seasonal that I won’t see again until late 2011. Why did I only buy one bottle? Why?!!!