Baltic Espresso Porter
This is one of the few, if only, beers from the Artisan Brewery that I don’t like. Based in Pontcanna, Cardiff, Artisan formerly had the Bare Naked Beer strapline to promote their simple, clean ethic of vegan-friendly, unfiltered beer without additives. Since their failed lawsuit at the hands of Pepsi Co, they are now testing the brand name of ‘Pipes’* – complete with disconcerting image of a man in a top hat with a pipe coming out of his chest. It’s too harrowing to show a picture here.
Almost as harrowing is the Baltic Espresso Porter. When I first tried it two months ago, it brought on a flashback of my drinking days in Rhyl, to a particular incident when some beer was spilt into a pub ash tray and we dared a mate to drink the contents for a £1. He did, and until I tried the Baltic I could only imagine the horror of that taste. The espresso element of the Baltic Porter is so overdone that it is bitter and ashen, and I felt like I was drinking down the same contents of that ash tray.
However, it would be unfair to damn a particular beer on one bottle alone, especially when the rest of the Artisan range usually hits the mark (particularly their excellent Altbier). So, given that I had bought two bottles, I decided to age out the second one for as long as I reasonably could.
Two months later, that day came. Hardly a long aging process, but my understanding is that beer effectively ages faster than wines or spirits. The second bottle poured a dark, mahogany brown, ruby shaded at the edges and a touch murky toward the centre, with a tan head. Immediately the smell was much smoother, the bitter notes having receded to gentle smoke, singed toffee and milky coffee aromas. There was also a hint of berry fruit as well.
It was definitely mellower on the taste, with the bitterness starting on the tip of the tongue and rising throughout the glass, but never reaching unpleasant levels. Smoke curled up on the edges of the tongue, and tart blackcurrants and black berries hit dead centre.
So, given time, this batch turned out quite well. It hasn’t matured into one of Artisan’s finest, but it’s no longer like drinking from an ash tray.
*Pipes is an anagram of Pepsi, a subtle “fuck you” to the company that kept the word ‘Naked’ out of Artisan’s branding.