Whats the Difference between a Imperial Stout and Baltic Porter

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BlackDragon, Feb 19, 2013.

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  1. BlackDragon

    BlackDragon Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2013 Michigan

    Can anyone tell what the difference is I love both but the only baltic porter I've had is 12% which seems like it should be Labeled a stout and not a porter.
  2. dsal89

    dsal89 Disciple (331) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana
    Beer Trader

    lager yeast

    ...not 100 percent sure though
    barleywinefiend likes this.
  3. BlackDragon

    BlackDragon Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2013 Michigan

    you mean the porter is made using lager yeast
  4. dsal89

    dsal89 Disciple (331) Jul 6, 2008 Indiana
    Beer Trader


    or cold fermented using ale yeast.

    from bjcp
  5. carteravebrew

    carteravebrew Zealot (510) Jan 21, 2010 Colorado

    The line between porter and stout is obscure and is pretty much up to the brewer's discretion, particularly when talking about robust porters and American stouts (referencing BJCP styles here).

    But a Baltic porter is typically higher strength than other porters and is fermented cooler (than other porters) with lager yeast, then cold-storred (lagered) for some time. Baltic porters do tend to have similar profiles to imperial stouts, as both utilize a lot of roasted grain, higher gravities, and bold flavor profiles. But one should not use alcohol percentage as a means of distinguishing a porter from a stout.
  6. freeride

    freeride Initiate (0) Dec 18, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Wow, that's the simplest and best explanation i've ever heard...i learned something today!! I'm takin the rest of the day off!
    seanchai, RyanCave and YogiBeer like this.
  7. sherm1016

    sherm1016 Aspirant (200) Aug 10, 2009 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    I always thought, in addition to yeast and/or fermentation temperature, that historically:

    RIS - UK Malt and Hops
    Baltic Porter - Continental (i.e. Belgian and/or German) Malt and Hops
  8. HopsintheSack

    HopsintheSack Devotee (452) Apr 17, 2012 California
    Beer Trader

    No wonder the only porter I've ever enjoyed was the Smuttynose Baltic. Mmmmm.
    Tidesox28 likes this.
  9. BlackDragon

    BlackDragon Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2013 Michigan

    Your wrong about only using UK Malt and Hops for a RIS or at least many places that call their beer RIS use American hops and malts
  10. sherm1016

    sherm1016 Aspirant (200) Aug 10, 2009 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    Note the word "Historically" in my post.

    Fast forward to today, and it's all out the window.
  11. jmgrub

    jmgrub Initiate (0) Nov 20, 2010 California

    Martyn Cornell has provided the answer, though it may be more nuanced than you'd like (just like the English Barleywine, Old Ale, English Strong Ale debate): http://zythophile.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/so-what-is-the-difference-between-porter-and-stout/.

    I would give it (and Martyn's other stuff) a good read if I were you. Just poke around the site and you'll be surprised at what you can learn.

    Ron Pattinson's (patti1ro on BA) blog (http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/) is another fantastic, albeit more in-depth resource for historical questions like these.
    Etan likes this.
  12. Handle

    Handle Initiate (145) Mar 16, 2009 North Carolina

    Maybe (I haven't had it), but that's sort of a hybrid style between an IPA and a Baltic porter.

    This is a good explanation.

    I'll say from a taste standpoint, I find Baltic porters to usually have less roast than an imperial stout and more chocolate and dark fruit notes. The aformentioned lagering usually leads to a smoother, more rounded beer in my opinion. Of course, not all Baltic porters use lager yeast or are lagered.
  13. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Carnegie Porter, or rather the porters that were brewed by the Carnegie brewery from 1836 and onwards, were top-fermented but over time it changed to being both top and bottom fermented and then from 1993 and onwards it has been bottom fermented. This is hardly surprising given the origins of the original brewery (now merely a brand owned by Carlsberg), the first lager beers were brewed in Sweden in 1843 (Carnegie thus predating this milestone), and the brewery that was to become the Carnegie brewery (originally Lorentska bryggeriet founded and owned by an immigrated German) was bought and run by a Scotsman (hence the name). So in the case of Carnegie porter, bottom fermentation is a product of the 90s (the mixed fermentation started in 1975).

    I wonder if this was the case with other baltic porters as well, a shift from top fermentation to bottom fermentation over the course of the 19th or perhaps even 20th century, or if they were bottom fermented from the beginning. The former seems more likely since they might as well have called it a schwarzbier instead of a porter if it didn't have its origins in top fermented porter brewing traditions. A porter brewery might have been bought out by one of the new lager breweries of the time, and the production was simplified by using the same fermentation process for both types of beers (if the porter brewery was closed, in the case of Carnegie they maintained a separate brewery until 1975, when production was moved to one of the parent company's lager breweries).

    It would be interesting to know at what point these historic baltic porters made the switch.
    vurt likes this.
  14. KevSal

    KevSal Savant (985) Oct 17, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

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  15. 7ate9

    7ate9 Aspirant (212) Apr 26, 2007 Virginia

    fermented with lager yeast.
    according to the bjcp, should not have the burnt/roasted flavors of an imperial stout. The flavors are more heavily dried fruit, molasses, caramel, etc.
    although many tasty commercial examples labeled as baltic porters have pretty heavy roast flavors.
  16. TapeDeck

    TapeDeck Initiate (0) Mar 31, 2011 Illinois

    A bunch of things I've had that are called porters, could easily be called stouts. It really is a fuzzy logic.
  17. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,295) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Michael Jackson claimed to have originated the term "Baltic Porter" (and I believe him :wink: ) in the early 1990's, when he was researching and writing about the bottom fermented porters of the region. Although some "blame" Jackson for today's expanded (to the point of ridiculousness, sometimes) number of beer styles and the rigid specs some apply to them, his own writings were much more liberal. His book 1998 Beer (Ultimate Beer in the US) had a section entitled "Winter Warmers: Baltic Porters and Stouts", the text of which makes obvious he considers them basically the same "style". His last book, Beer- Eyewitness Companion, which he edited, calls them "...a Baltic porter that is known in the West as Imperial stout. These beers are usually bottom fermented..."

    In other writings (some of which used to be on the Real Beer "Beer Hunter" pages, but I couldn't find it recently- I think the "Seach" function's not working properly) he suggested that they were bottom fermented simply because that was the yeast the breweries in the region typically used, and when they brewed a beer to mimic the UK-exported Imperial stouts, they just used their own house yeasts.

    A similar thing happened with porters in the US especially after Repeal, with many lager beer breweries producing bottom fermented porters, particularly in Pennsylvania to the point where they were called "Pennsylvania Porters". (Yuengling's the best known survivor, although their porter only became bottom-fermented in the late 1950's IIRC). US breweries at the time seldom used more than one house yeast, and the breweries that did brew both top- and bottom-fermented beers often had separate brewhouse and/or fermentation cellars.

    As we've discussed previously, even pre-Prohibition lager brewers in the US made porters - Schlitz and Anheuser-Busch notably (the later calling theirs "Black & Tan - The American Porter"). Have never seen any discussion of them but I assume they were also bottom-fermented using those brewers' regular lager yeast.
  18. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Right, so it's perhaps more an attempt of trying to capture the porter brewing traditions of the countries surrounding the baltic sea under an evocative name, than it is a beer style on its own with its own strict or even broad specifications.

    I guess the bottom fermentation would be the closest to a common denominator, but on the other hand you find examples of top fermented porters as well (which you mention), the Finnish Sinebrychoff porter for example (as per the company website at least).
    The brewery's Russian roots dating to the time of Russian rule over Finland are perhaps worth noting here.

    And the Russian Baltika brand, and in extension its Baltika porter (which is only described as having a "special yeast" on its website, special as in top fermenting or special as in something else I wonder) didn't exist until the 90s. There are of course plenty of other existing and now diseased porter brands across the Baltic states that probably span the entire period from 19th and 20th century, but I'd wager that they tend to display a similar degree of non-conformity to a common denominator beyond perhaps color.

    So there are instances where a brewery went straight to brewing bottom fermented "porters", that's interesting. I suppose then that the same could apply to some of the porters brewed in the states around the Baltic sea over the course of the time period in question.

    Do you have any idea why the post-repeal era became a catalyst of sorts for the brewing of bottom fermented porters in the US in general or Pennsylvania in particular?
  19. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (526) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Not true historically. In the 19th century Barclay Perkins IBSt (the original RIS) used ingredients from all over the world.
  20. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (526) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Many Danish beers in the style have both Stout (or Stowt) and Porter on the label. They are really Stouts and are called porter for historical reasons.
  21. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (526) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Sorry, but the BJCP doesn't know what the flip they're talking about. The Porters brewed around the Baltic vary greatly. That's just a description of the ones brewed in Poland. The Scandinavian versions are quite different.
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  22. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,295) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, IIRC there used to be arguments (say back in the era of newsgroups) over whether the Scandinavian porters should be considered "Baltic Porters" since they were brewed with top fermenting yeast.

    Is every beer labeled "porter" and brewed in the Baltic region a "Baltic Porter":grimacing:.​

    Likewise, the early beer geeks used to complain that the few US porters left (Yuengling, Stegmaier, Narragansett, etc) weren't "real" porters because they were bottom-fermented and so were simply "dark beers".

    Me I kinda always like outliers and exceptions and it's nice to have a "beer style" that doesn't fit neatly under "Lager" or "Ale" divisions.

    Yeah, good question. I guess they were just brewed and marketed "by popular demand"? US brewers never cared much for "style adherence" - the ale brewers brewed top fermenting porters, but the lager brewers usually didn't. Lots of post-Repeal US ales that survived up to and after the "Craft era" weren't brewed with top fermenting yeast, either. Like those PA porters, they were brewed with the house lager yeast and fermented at warmer temps.

    Legally, in the US, that's all an ale is.

    Malt beverage fermented at a comparatively high​
    temperature containing 0.5% or more alcohol by​
    volume possessing the characteristics generally​
    attributed to and conforming to the trade understanding​

    That's not the original post-Repeal US Federal definition, which was:

    Ale is a malt beverage produced by top fermentation,
    possessing the characteristic flavor and aroma distinctive of ale,
    having an original gravity of not less than 13.50 Balling,
    containing not less than 5 per cent of alcohol by volume, and of light color.

    and for porter it was:

    Porter is a malt beverage produced by top fermentation,
    possessing the characteristic flavor and aroma distinctive of porter,
    having an original gravity of not less than 13.50 Balling,
    containing not less than 5 per cent of alcohol by volume, and of a dark color.

    The lager-yeast-brewed ales, referred to sometimes as "bastard ales" include (again) Yuengling's Lord Chesterfield, Rainier Ale, at times McSorley's, and rumor has it even the Miller-brewed Ballantine Ale now owned and marketed by Pabst.
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  23. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poo-Bah (12,598) Mar 18, 2010 California

    Isn't there a particular bean that Baltic Porters are brewed with sometimes?
  24. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,295) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, one of the earliest US beers to be labeled "Imperial Porter" was Heavyweight's Perkuno's Hammer, which used Roman beans based on Michael Jackson's report of one Baltic region (Estonia? maybe) brewer using them as an adjunct. When Victory re-brewed the beer (and couldn't use the PK name, and so called it Baltic Thunder) they used a different legume - black eyed peas - because the original wasn't available or, maybe, was too expensive.
  25. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I used to think Carnegie Porter was top fermented until a couple of years ago and I hadn't heard about the name baltic porter. Then I thought Baltic porters were all bottom fermented going by Carnegie, which seemed to make it a neat and descriptive name for the style, but that turned out to be inaccurate as well. So I'm not sure what to think about it :stuck_out_tongue: . In a Swedish context I guess I'd continue to simply use the term porter since baltic porter, if at all used here, is limited to industry talk and a rather recent phenomenon at that, which makes sense since up until recently with the development of craft brewing there was only one remaining porter brand left, namely Carnegie.

    To me it would seem as though the increasing use of the term baltic porter over here (which is still limited in its use) is a way for Carlsberg Sweden to make sense out of their switch over to bottom fermentation from a marketing point of view, that way they can fit the Carnegie brand into what sounds like an established and distinct style of beer with some history to it (as opposed to a rather recent business move of consolidating their brewing facilities and simplifying production).

    That's still more "specific", concerning the "comparatively high fermentation temperature" than our own malt beverage legislation, past and present which makes no distinction between ales and lagers at all :stuck_out_tongue: .​

    From 1923 it was​
    Class 1
    Svagdricka (no more than 1,8% ABW, no higher than 6 degrees plato)​
    Maltdricka (no more than 1,8% ABW, exceeding 6 but no higher than 10,5 degrees plato)​
    Class 2
    Pilsnerdricka (more than 1,8% but no more than 3,2% ABW, no higher than 10,5 degrees plato)​
    Class 3
    All other malt beverages (made illegal for sale via retail channels by the same legislation)​
    The first class was tax free while the second class was taxed. Carnegie porter was only available via pharmacies on prescription during the period from 1923-1955 since it went under the third class. ​

    Today beer is simply classified according to the three abv classes that exist, lättöl ("light beer", max 2,25% abv), folköl ("people beer" or simply "beer", max 3.5% abv) or starköl ("strong beer", all beers above 3.5% abv).​

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  26. BlackDragon

    BlackDragon Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2013 Michigan

    wow how many "prescriptions" do you think doctors wrote themselves lol
  27. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    It was noted of this time period that alot of people appeared to get sick or felt weak right around Christmas time and had to have Carnegie Porter prescribed to them by their doctor :stuck_out_tongue: .
  28. StubFaceJoe

    StubFaceJoe Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2011 Colorado

    Wow. Blasts of knowledge. Thanks guys! I learned something today!
  29. marquis

    marquis Crusader (775) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Many BAs may have been thrown in this thread by following the notion that ales mean top fermented and lagers mean bottom fermented. This is though a simplistic over simplification , OK as a rule of thumb as it's true a lot of the time but it's not always the case. Porter and stout in their heyday weren't classed as ales but as beers so a bottom fermented version caused no problems , they remained simply porters and stouts.
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  30. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I find that I've had to revise or expand my understanding of words associated with beer, especially so when it comes to British terms. As I understand it, ale was the older word sharing linguistical roots with the contemporary Scandinavian words öl and olut. This came to be understood as a malt beverage brewed without hops, with beer being the newer term used for a malt beverage brewed with hops (dervied from continental words such as bier, that may or may not have been dervied from latin). But did the word ale also entail a specific type of fermentation whilst the word beer did not? Or did it come to be understood as such over time (once lager brewing or bottom fermentation became an established and well known practise beyond Bavaria, and thus possible to contrast against)?

    I find it is easy to get confused by British uses of beer related terms since you seem to have had so many of them with altered meanings over time (or confusion concerning their meaning arising over time, often among non-Brits). In Sweden öl was öl before and after bottom fermentation, and before and after the introduction of hops.
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  31. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,045) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    In the past I've also read where some Baltic Porter brewers started using bottom-fermenting yeasts because it was the new trend in brewing. What I'd read was that, at the time, it was understood that all brewing was going to evolve to this "new wave."
  32. marquis

    marquis Crusader (775) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    The nature of fermentation was never an issue in the UK , before the adoption of macro "lagers" it was all top fermented whether ale or beer.Ale brewers never brewed Porter or Stout , when Arthur Guinness failed as an ale brewer be brought in a family of Porter brewers from London. It's quite common to see pub signs offering "Ales and Porter" or "Ales and Stouts" and the two are still listed separately in legislation both in the UK and in the EU.
  33. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    UK beer drinkers were never confused. They knew what they were drinking and didn't need to put rigid names on it.
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  34. marquis

    marquis Crusader (775) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    Yes, it was all about names not styles. An individual beer might have been described as a Bitter, Pale Ale or an IPA on different occasions, many beers have been sold labelled as both Porter and Stout at different times, often Scotch Ale was labelled as simply Strong Ale in Scotland.
  35. TNGabe

    TNGabe Initiate (0) Feb 6, 2012 Tennessee

    I'll admit to just skimming the thread, but I didn't see anyone mention the difference between stout and porter in general. Roasted Barley. Stouts are made with it, porters aren't.
  36. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    There have been numerous and regular threads on this topic. It often just descends into "well in my opinion stouts should be..." which is neither here nor there. Other lines of logic tend to follow the one you have chosen--that there are strict differences in the ingredients used. And this has been repeatedly debunked by folks much more involved than I who have access to and fluent knowledge of historic brewing records.

    This thread is possibly the most recent, but if you do a search (which I am a big proponent of) for the topic 'stouts and porters' you will find probably one a month going back into antiquity. Some of them are quite detailed and the argument gets quite heated.

    Bottom line--it really depends on what the brewer wants to call it.

    Edit: my prediction is that the next line of reason will be "yeah but those are historic recipes. Today's American stouts are..."
  37. TNGabe

    TNGabe Initiate (0) Feb 6, 2012 Tennessee

    Thanks! That makes a lot more sense than your first reply.

    "Bottom line--it really depends on what the brewer wants to call it." - True about pretty much everything.
  38. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I just happened to be re-reading a Swedish book about the history of beer in Sweden and came across a rather interesting part about the brewery which is considered to be the first Swedish lager brewery, namely Tyska Bryggeriet or "The German Brewery". It was started in 1843 and in a newspaper advertisement from 1844 they listed the products for sale as: Bavarian beer, bitter and less bitter, double Bavarian beer, Bavarian porter and weizenbier. A couple of months later the brewery only brewed Bavarian beer, double Bavarian beer and Bavarian porter. Concerning the "Bavarian porter" the brewery owner mentions in a letter that it uses the same yeast and goes through the same fermentation process as the Bavarian (lager) beer that they brew. However, it used a different method of mashing than what was normal for bavarian lager beer at that time, a type of single decoction mash as opposed to a triple decoction mash, though single decoction mashes were apparently used in Bavaria at the time for other beer types (as per the book, but does not say what types of beer that would have used it, top fermenting weissbiers perhaps?).

    Apart from the rather strange marriage of the term Bavarian and porter it was a rather succinct name in distinguishing it from the top fermented British style of porter, which was represented at the time in Sweden by the Carnegie brewery (a style of beer which was previously known in Sweden as "English beer", before the name porter found its way into the Swedish vocabulary).

    Either way I thought it was an interesting bit of information that I thought I would share for anyone interested. The book in question is called Ölets historia i Sverige II 1700- och 1800-talen written by Harald Thunaeus in 1970.
  39. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (224) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I was thus wrong in assuming that a bottom fermented porter would necessarily have a top fermented porter in its pedigree, as the first lager brewery in Sweden obviously went straight to brewing a bottom fermented porter-style beer. Which is understandable, given the major successes which the top fermented style had had in Sweden by the time the German brewery opened (1843). Sweden had by that time a large porter brewery, Carnegie (previously Lorentska porterbryggeriet), which was technologically advanced for its time and large by contemporary Swedish measures.
  40. marquis

    marquis Crusader (775) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    That's because there are simply no grounds for this.Stouts were brewed for over a century before roasted barley became a legal ingredient, Guinness adamantly refused to use it until 1930. Record show that most brewers used identical ingredients for both Porter and Stout , simply the Stout was stronger. And they switched back and forth between using roasted malt and roasted barley seemingly at a whim.It's what's known as a myth.
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