Thursday, February 23, 2012
Zywiec - Porter Review
Brewery: Zywiec (POL)
Style: Baltic Porter
Unless you happen to live in Brooklyn or Poland, I don't think you're very likely to ever encounter Zywiec beer. See, my neighborhood in Brooklyn happens to be extremely Polish. Polish beer is all over the place here, for dirt cheap. Elsewhere... who knows? I can't even figure out how to pronounce "Zywiec," but since I'll very soon be moving out of Brooklyn altogether, I thought I should review some of the 'local' brew before I go.
The most important description I can offer of Zywiec Porter is... well, have you ever had a Polish beer before? Zywiec's lager — and all the other Polish lagers I've had — have a very distinct flavor. And while ordinarily a 9.5% porter and a light lager wouldn't seem to have much in common, Zywiec Porter just has that unique taste o' Poland. It's not necessarily a flaw or a success, it's just there. It's a fact of brewing that a local water supply and its unique mineral and chemical makeup can heavily influence how a beer turn out, if you let it. Many styles even evolved to suit the particular water profile of a region. So maybe it's something in the water over there. Or maybe its their yeast — Baltic porters are fermented with lager yeast, traditionally, and I'd assume that's also the case here. But whatever the source of the Polish Flavor is, I've never encountered it in an American beer.
And while this would be a better beer without Polish Flavor, but it's not a bad example of a Baltic porter either. As with many beers of this strength, it improves considerably as it warms — the Polish taste diminishes considerably, leaving a very respectable porter behind. The surprisingly high ABV — 9.5% — is totally invisible, which is rare for even the best imperial stouts and porters. Doubly impressive for something this cheap; I can't imagine Zywiec takes the time to give it a lengthy aging treatment. The dominate flavors are a subdued, malty chocolate, with a firm and creamy body that goes down nice. The typical porter flavors are extremely well balanced but very much on the mild side, which makes this highly drinkable, but at the same time, allows some unpleasant, metallic, mineral undertones to come through.
Overall, though, Zywiec Porter has a nice flavor; there's just a few odd notes within. But let's consider a few other factors: it's 9.5% alcohol, and a half liter (16 ounce) bottle costs about $1.60. That makes this what those in the beer industry call a "great deal."
Availability: Look for it in a Polish neighborhood, or Poland. Brewed year round. 16 ounce bottles.