Saturday, November 7, 2009

Beer pick of the week: Zywiec Porter

Posted By on Sat, Nov 7, 2009 at 7:02 PM

Zywiec Porter

Baltic Porter

Zywiec Breweries PLC

Zywiec, POL

9.5% ABV

Ordinarily, I steer clear of Eastern European beers. Most of these imports are the ubiqitous European pale lager, or the uniquely bad Slavic version of American malt liquor--sickly sweet and corny, with a wallop to the head that leaves the word "hangover" imprinted on your cheek. This Heineken-owned brewery in Poland produces several such beers, mostly for the local market, but this huge Baltic porter is fairly widely available in the U.S. and really stands out from the crowd. Loaded with roasty toastiness, deep fruity notes, and an herbal, bitter edge, it is satisfyingly rich, with a kick like a Polish draft horse.

Zywiec pours a dark, murky brown with decent mocha-colored head and some moderate lacing. The aroma is earthy and malty, with some fusel alcohol esters. A bit lacking in complexity. Full-bodied and viscous, it clings to the palate like a big bear hug. Molasses-like sweetness gets slapped down before it can even raise its head by burnt bread, coffee beans, bittersweet chocolate, and licorice. Prune, fig preserves, and rum-soaked raisins re-assert some sweetness along with an alcohol warmth in the middle. Dark bread bordering on chocolate cookie keeps the strong flavors from overwhelming. The licorice comes on a bit strong as it warms. Smooth going in, it finishes with a firm roasted bitterness and a lingering boozy burn in the throat.

I can imagine a bar full of Eastern European dockworkers getting pretty rowdy on this stuff on a winter night. A great example of the style from an unlikely source. Definitely worth a try if you like a burly porter.

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