As a connoisseur and critic of beer, life can sometimes be difficult. You spend your time searching endlessly for that truly epic bottle of beer. And when you find it, words fail you. How do you describe something that is nothing short of indescribable? And having done that, how do you find that next beer whose epicness can even compare to the one you just had, never mind outshine it? Yes indeed, life can sometimes be very trying.
Hailing from Three Musketeers Brewing in Quebec, Porter Baltique Grande Cuvee (hereafter referred to as PBGC) is a rare brew indeed. The first reason this beer stands out is its price compared to other north American craft brews. At $13 for a single bottle, this beer commands a price usually reserved for six packs rather than single bottles. Which for this author begs a simple yet important question. Can a beer be worthy of such a price?
Perhaps it would help if we knew something about the Baltic porter. Baltic porter has its roots deep within the British brewing tradition, tracing its way back to the Russian imperial stouts favored by Catherine the Great of Russia. Porter, along with strong stout was shipped through Baltic Europe on the way to Russia. Along the way this malty, formidable brew was introduced to beer loving ports throughout that part of Europe.
As the popularity of this strong brew became popular, local brewers began trying their hand at producing what would eventually become a style all its own. The combination of cooler brewing temperatures, higher alcoholic strength, and full bodied maltiness created a beer with great flavor and depth. Today Baltic porters provide a softer maltiness than English examples, almost velvety smoothness, and an alcohol content coming in anywhere from7-9.5% abv. All of which conspire to produce a great beer to enjoy while fending off winter’s chill.
Pouring PBGC into a glass reveals an amazingly dark porter. It’s deeply, deeply ruby-brown to the point of blackness. Head is dense, tan, and lasting. The aromas of this beer are deeply complex, not to mention intense and yet not so much so as to render it inaccessible. Vinous notes come through in the foreground coupled with aromas of fresh squeezed grapes. These are supported by earthy, chocolaty notes, combined with hints of liquorice. These are all tied together by a faint oakiness, adding its own qualities to the mix.
PBGC is smooth, velvety, and lushly full bodied. Malts dominate on the palate a little more than they did on the nose, starting chocolaty sweet in front, moving into a rounded center and ending with a short, dry roasted finish. Oaky qualities combine with flavors of strong coffee in the center to help give the beer a palate pleasing girth. Finish is only barely alcoholic in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of a way.
Somehow the word “impressive” seems to fall short. To find a beer this full, complex, intense, and alcoholic and have it be delicious in its accessibility is an uncommon thing. And in the end that’s what this beer is: A deliciously uncommon thing. Porter Baltique Grande Cuvee gets an 8.7 out of 10.