Zywiec Porter: Polish Beer?
My dad loves to tell Polish jokes. He grew up in Chicago, and as a boy, had a job delivering a Polish-language newspaper in the Polish part of town. This was back in the day that if you went walking through the wrong neighborhood, you got the old stank eye from the old grandmas and the kids on the front steps. So of course being a German kid riding his bike through a Polish neighborhood, he had to duck a few insults, and probably a few rocks. I don’t fault his love of Polish jokes, but I do roll my eyes.
I say that because there’s only one reason I picked up a bottle of Polish beer while we were at the Great Wall of Beer at Ward’s the other day. It was Polish beer. My brain instantly bubbled up a dozen of my dad’s dumb jokes and I had to reach for the bottle. The Man’s mission is to make me like beer, so the minute I show interest in anything beer-related, he buys it. He caught me holding the bottle of Zywiec porter and it was instantly added to our cart.
At $3.99 for a 16.9 oz. bottle, it’s not inexpensive, but it’s also 9.5% ABV so you’re getting your money’s worth of WOO HOO! The Man opened this up to taste when his brother stopped by for a visit, and we split it three ways while I cooked dinner. I certainly felt the 9.5% ABV on an empty stomach, but ‘m also not a professional drinker.
Before you even take a sip, the smell of chocolate hits your nose. And your first mouthful gets you good with molasses, malt, caramel, and rich oaky earth flavors. It’s quite intense from beginning to end. A bit overly sweet and in your face. It leaves a full burnt caramel taste at the end that lingers a bit too long. It has a lovely bubbly mouth feel that seems oddly cheerful contrasted with the very bold and solid flavor profiles.
Not that this is a criticism or a surprise. It is a porter; a Baltic porter to be exact. Porter is named for the people that drank the stuff in the old days. The big fellows who did hard work all day and couldn’t afford a lot of good beer in the evening. They wanted something cheap and strong. The Baltic regions produce a higher ABV porter than their comrades in other regions. Many experts attribute these variations to the commercialization of production, and the supply of ingredients because of wars and regional growing issues.
Okay, that was boring, but I had a fun time reading all about top-cropping, Reinheitsgebot, and John Feltham’s Folly. Suffice it to say that porter tends to be flavorful and packed with alcohol. And Baltic porter is just a little bit more so.
And speaking about commercialization, Wyziec started producing beer in 1852 but is now owned partially (61%) by Heineken, so that’s probably a major reason you can even get it in the US. The label claims they have been using the same porter recipe since 1881. I’m voting for them to continue doing what they’re doing. It was tasty and I’m glad we tried it. It was absolutely on the sweet and powerful side of things. I doubt I could get through a full pint on my own, and The Man is of the opinion that a half-pour is the best way to get at this beer.
So cheers to Polish beer. As for my dad and his Polish jokes… In doing some research on our family history, I suspect that part of our family line comes from a region of Germany that was handed over to Poland after WWII because of that whole invasion faux pas. Technically I think we’re a little Polish now.
9.5% ABV, Baltic Porter
16.9 ounce bottle | $3.99 at Ward’s