A year ago, the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery celebrated 1,000 batches brewed by releasing Fat Boy Baltic Porter. Local beer lovers, myself included, gathered out front in the brewery’s beer garden before the doors opened to share other bottles of beer, many of which were limited or not available in the state.
The camaraderie among friends new and old, coupled with the chance to try a bevy of new beers, made standing in the cold before breakfast well worth it.
You might wonder what Olde Mecklenburg, brewer of popular German styles like altbier, pilsner, märzen and dunkel, was doing brewing a porter, that dark beer that has its roots in England.
As the name would imply, Baltic porters were brewed in many of the countries that border the Baltic sea, such as Finland, Norway, Poland and, you got it, even Germany.
In those cold climates, many brewers fermented porters not with the traditional ale yeast, but with lager yeast, which thrives at cooler temperatures. Afterward, they would age their beers for weeks in the cold.
This is called “lagering,” and it can be done with beers brewed with both ale and lager yeast. Olde Mecklenburg’s Copper, for example, is fermented with ale yeast but then lagered in the cold for a longer period than most ales.
Fat Boy spends five weeks in the cold. That long cold-aging means lagered Baltic porters have a smoothness and depth that the ale versions often lack. They have less roast than most porters, favoring instead flavors of chocolate, molasses and especially dark fruits like plums, raisins and cherries.
If you missed the celebration last year, the brewery is releasing Fat Boy Baltic porter again this Saturday. This time, you’ll need a ticket for the event, which can be purchased at store.oldemeckbrew.com. A $25 ticket gets you breakfast, a raffle ticket for an OMB gift basket, a 22-ounce bottle of Fat Boy and a pint of the beer in a souvenir glass. For $35, you get all of that plus a second bottle of Fat Boy.
I’ll be there bright and early, sharing a few Baltic porters that will certainly warm you up if it’s a chilly morning.
Daniel Hartis is the author of “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City,” and the editor of the website www.charlottebeer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter, @charlottebeer.
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