Here they go again. The beer stylistas.
This time their target is the Baltic Porter from Old Dominion Brewing of Ashburn, Va. It seems that this —the brewery's 2008 winter seasonal— is not big enough and not fruity enough to be a Baltic Porter.
First of all, what is a Baltic Porter, and, secondly, who has the right to say what one is?
American beer judges?
Or should the model be actual modern Easter European interpretations?
Such as Utenos Porter from Lithuania?
Dominion's Baltic Porter contains 7% alcohol; its grist is that of a porter ale (with some rye thrown in), but the beer is fermented with lager yeast (as is the Utenos).
Brown-black darker than the Utenos, Dominion's Baltic Porter has more alcohol, more dark fruit character, more luscious malt character, and more roast than its Lithuanian counterpart (which is itself a fine beer).
But it is a lager, so it's smooth around the edges, with less fruitiness than an ale —a porter— would have.
I remember a winter beer tasting in 2004 held at the Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, Md.
Scott Dietrich, then Clipper City's head brewer (now production manager for Victory Brewing), walked through, and stopped to look at a few of the bottles. He picked up the Dominion winter beer —a Baltic porter, Dominion's first attempt at it— and declared, "What is this, a joke?"
Then he tasted it, and said, "That's good."
Yes ... and this year's is even better.
This grandson of of the Baltic (whose grandparents emigrated from Lithuania in the early 20th century) finds Dominion's 2008 winter Baltic Porter to be mighty tasty ... regardless of what those American beer stylistas —Scrooges all— may deem it to be.
Head brewer Favio Garcia and the brewers of Dominion keep on keeping on, despite the announced closure of their brewery. None of them are moving to Dover, Delaware when the Ashburn facility is shut in early 2009. But all are going out in glorious fashion.
l-r at the Brickskeller Winter Beer Tasting:
Emcee Bob Tupper; brewer Jesse Breneman; head brewer Favio Garcia.