Homebrew Recipe: Bourbon Barrel Baltic Porter

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Illustration by David Witt, DWITT All-Purpose Illustrations

This recipe appears in Michael Dawson’s book, “Mashmaker: A Citizen-Brewer’s Guide to Making Great Beer at Home.” Learn more at mashmakerbook.com.


Beer historian Randy Mosher describes Baltic porter as arguably being the true heir to English porter, as it’s been continuously brewed for the last 200 years. Taking its cue from 19th century porters, but of a stature more in keeping with Russian imperial stouts, contemporary examples can be found in the Baltic states, Scandinavia, and Russia, as well as Poland, the Czech Republic, and the former East Germany.

Bourbon, as if it needs an introduction, is an American whiskey containing at least 51 percent corn and aged in charred new oak. Subjectively speaking, my favorites have a high rye percentage—which, coincidentally, would show nicely if paired with some dark malt character.

This month, we bring those two great tastes together.

Going by the numbers

A small beer, Baltic porter is not. Adjectives like rich, full-bodied, and complex litter its descriptions. With an OG of 1.060 all the way up to 1.090 (and 5.5% to 9.5% ABV), this beer is strong and warming but can still have a fairly viscous final gravity of 1.016–1.024. Color goes from deep russet 17 to almost-black 30 SRM, stopping short of stout territory. Hop bitterness is just enough to balance, around 20 to 40 IBU.

What makes it tick

Strong but malty and sweet, not hoppy or roasty enough to be a stout, Baltic porters have some overlap with doppelbock and schwarzbier. Being a porter, there will of course be roast malt, but we’ll need it to stop short of acrid bitterness.

In keeping with its provenance in Europe’s cold north, Baltic porters are traditionally fermented with a lager yeast. If your basement, brew room, or fermentation fridge permits continuing that tradition, awesome. If not, a clean-fermenting ale strain will work fine.

A recipe to try

Bourbon Barrel Baltic Porter
Target OG: 1.073, Target IBU: 35–37

Shopping list:

Grain

• 12 pounds Weyermann Munich
• 8 ounces Weyermann Caramunich III
• 8 ounces Weyermann Carafa I
• 4 ounces Weyermann CaraAroma

Hops

• 1 ounce Styrian Aurora
• 1 ounce Polish Lublin

Yeast

• Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager, or your favorite all-purpose lager yeast

Other

• 2 ounces heavy toast American oak cubes
• A bottle of your favorite bourbon

Next page: Key points and brewing method

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