Over the past 7 years I have delved into the world of craft beer; every so often I encounter a brew I place aside to enjoy down the road. A good amount of these brews are of high alcohol content that were either too intimidating at the time or needed some rest to become properly enjoyable. Once in a blue moon I drink one of these such brews….today I open a brew from Microbrasseurs Les Trois Mousquetaires out of Brossard, Quebec. This bottle is the Porter Baltique a 9.2% strong porter from the Autumn of 2010. Three years of maturation inside of a bottle does wonders for such a beer allowing the in bottle yeast sediment to continue the carbonation process while allowing the flavour profile to mature.
I have previously drank this beer on several occasions so subtle details may become evident.Sometimes an aged beer has such pent up carbonation the cork will have a violent and rapid expulsion from the bottle…so be careful. Porter Baltique’s cork is a bit stuck at first but let go with a modest pop. Pouring out a slick, purely opaque black with a huge foamy tan head which settles to a thin layer a few mere bubbles thick at parts; this is true evidence of aging. A few quick swirls of the glass shows some minor alcohol legs on the glass that disappear quickly. The nose has a heavy roasted aroma with accents of vanilla bean, hazelnut coffee, used espresso beans, bourbon casks and a hint of sultry smoke. I have always said that the best beers are ones you just want to keep smelling and that Porter Baltique is one of those beers. The aroma has such a grabbing quality that in intoxicating. Taking the first sip Porter Baltique is smooth almost silken with a casked style flavour from the smoky notes as well notes of dark chocolate, espresso, toffee and a hint of dried fruits. A truly complex flavour profile with a palate as smooth as can be. A full bodied and heavy beer with an smooth mouthfeel and a heavy roasted malt isn’t rare but the execution of this beer is exceptional. The aging process has taken away some sweetness and changed the mouthfeel from syrupy to silky. Overall Porter Baltique is an exceptional brew that can and has stood the test of time. I look forward to trying my remaining bottle in a few more years.
If you are a true craft beer fan and have never heard of Danish gypsy brewer Mikkeller you must have been living under a rock for a few years. Mikkeller started in 2006 when homebrewers Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Kristian Klarup Keller decided to join forces and challenge the boundaries of craft brewing. Mikkeller soon got the reputation as a “phantom” or “gypsy” because they brew at a several different breweries and don’t house a brewery of their own. Instead of a brewery, Mikkeller uses its world famous Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen as its base for wacky new experiments. Since 2006, Mikkeller has brewed more unique beers than any other brewery eclipsing the 400 mark. Mikkeller has made a name for itself for its use of unique barrel woods and the use of ingredients as odd as hot peppers and civetcat coffee (coffee harvested after ingestion and excretion from civetcats, a weasel like creature).
Fra Til Christmas Porter is an 8% ABV Imperial/Baltic Porter by style brewed at De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium. The name is actually means From, To and the label is fashioned as a label on a Christmas present. Fra Til is brewed with a blend of unique spices as well as cassonade sugar.
Gently pouring this into a glass I am met with some of the most absurdly foamy, whipped head making it quite difficult to salvage a decent pour. After settling down a bit, Fra Til coats the glass with a ton of outrageous mocha coloured lacing. The body is an entirely opaque ebony black with a dying head of dark tan. Giving the glass a swirl, a solid stream of bubbles poke their way through the now thin cap of appetizing tan head. The first scent off the nose I get is a seriously intense roasted malt with huge chocolate and espresso notes. A hint of woody smoke, with a light spice blend including subtle scent of anise and gingerbread. The aroma is so appetizing and enticing with the warmth of a true Christmas ale.
Like a Baltic Porter or Imperial Porter should have, Fra Til has alot of sweetness and a syrupy mouthfeel throughout. A strong roasted malt character with pronounced anise, vanilla and a solid amount of a smoked malt blends well with a brown sugar and its accompanying sweetness. The spice notes are somewhat lost in the mix with a rather fervent smoke and ash flavour that drys the palate out towards the finish. The finish is rather sweet at first but a slow astrigency drys the palate and leaves a robust roast and smoked malt in the back of my mouth. This is an absurdly well crafted Baltic Porter with a unique Mikkeller twist; the robust smoked malts as well as the anise and gingerbread spices. That being said the sweetness and syrupy dark malts are spot on stylistically. Fra Til warms my heart on yet another chilly December evening.