Saturday, December 4, 2010

436. Great Divide Smoked Baltic Porter

It’s been a while, but Great Divide is back in the house. I had this on tap a while ago at South Park Tavern and really enjoyed, so I am happy to see it making it into the bottle—that means I can salt a few away along with the other Baltic Porters and Alaskan Smoked Porters I’ve got hidden in the basement. After all, these do get better with age. We’re one off the baker’s dozen with Great Divide—give us a little bit, and we’ll make that happen: 16th Anniversary Wood Aged DIPA, Hercules DIPA, Wild Raspberry Ale, Hibernation, Samurai Rice, Hoss, Oak Aged Yeti, Fresh Hop, Double Wit, 15th Anniversary DIPA, and Denver Pale Ale. Num num.

Described on the label as both “sultry” and “regal,” Smoked Baltic Porter pours a rich, deep chocolate brown; viewed through the light, there are some alluring garnet highlights. The head is a tannish ivory that is initially rather prominent, but quickly reduces to a ring with some slight overall coverage. In addition to the clearly discernable smoked malt presence in the nose, there is a bit of a muted dark fruitiness competing with the smoke character—it’s competing, but currently losing terribly. Flavors start smoky with just a touch of greasiness from the smoke—it is just below being bacon-y. There is also a light roastiness mixed with the rich malt before giving way to a dark fruit flavor in the middle that has black cherry characteristic to it—here, the fruit flavor is getting the upper hand on the smokiness. The finish features a return of the smoke flavor that mixes well with the clean finish from the lager yeast—everything else drops off, allowing the smokiness to tantalizingly linger on the tongue and the back of the mouth. As the beer warms, there are some nutty flavors that emerge in the front of the beer, and some light chocolate in the middle and finish. The body is surprisingly light when compared to the complexity of flavors; while part of this is due to the lager yeast (or at least cold fermented ale yeast), it is also possibly due to a lower ABV: only 6.2%, putting it on the lighter side of the style. While the slightly chewy and slick viscous (that slick smoky greasiness) mouthfeel may make the body feel bigger, it is still rather easy and clean on the palate. Carbonation does help emphasize the smoke in the finish—the bite in the final third cuts the fruit and cleans the palate, allowing the smoke flavors to reassert themselves in the finish. All in all, I am smitten with this beer—it might be able to give Alaskan Smoked Porter a run for the money. Well-balanced, subtle, and complex Smoked Baltic Porter is certainly worth seeking out; we’re making it a Top 10 Best contender. Oh, how I have missed you, Great Divide.

From the bottle: “Smoked Baltic Porter is the sultry sister of a storied style. Brewed with traditional German malts and hops, this dark lager gets its special twist from a hefty addition of Bamberg smoked malt. This smoldering, medium-bodied lager is sure to please. Smoked Baltic Porter is smooth, smoky, and dark...mysterious enough yet?”

ABV: 6.2%
Bottled on: August 6, 2010


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