Bogrolls & Barley Wines
From Russia with Love

It has been with some trepidation that I've noticed six-packs of Baltica 8 available at The Anderson's Store in north Columbus.  With Heineken and Carlsberg
looking to make their own mark against fellow corporate monster Anheuser-Busch InBev, their first move is to flood the unsuspecting world with the Baltic
portfolio. The marketing is slick, the bottles are attractively packaged, it all looks very enticing.

But, we here at Roberts Manor have questions.  Is the Baltica brand actually any good. Do the beers match up to their European counterparts.  Why are
there so many lagers?  Here then, is the official royal review of Baltica on at your peril!

Baltica Breweries, from St.Petersburg, Russia.

Firstly, there is no proud history here folks -- Not being descended from a famous old family who began brewing in 1770, Baltica Brewery actually first saw
signs of life as the rusty "iron curtain" came crashing to the ground in Russia in 1990.  Building of the brewery actually began in 1978, but it took 12 years to
build it (perhaps some of the cash earmarked for the brewery was used for "other" projects i.e. SS-20 missiles).

In 1993, the Finnish/Swedish partnership of Baltic Beverage Holdings purchased a majority stake in Baltic Breweries which then led to a total of 10 Baltica
Breweries being built across Russia, with an 11th freshly built in Western Siberia, in 2008. Huskies at the ready!

In 1996, three other Russian breweries: Vena, Pikra, and Yarpivo, were swallowed up by the Baltica empire. Then, in 2000, Carlsberg acquired 50% of Baltic
Beverage Holdings with the other 50% being sold to the British brewery Scottish & Newcastle. Therefore, Baltica breweries were now owned by a
Danish/Scottish partnership.

But wait, there's more!  In January 2008, Scottish & Newcastle sold everything -- lock, stock and barrel, to the tune of over $20 billion to yet another
partnership of Heineken and Carlsberg, with the latter taking full 100% control of the lucrative Baltica Breweries.

More to follow in the finale. What is Baltica all about beer-wise ?  Well, nearly all of their products are lagers plus a Porter and a Wheat Ale. They are all
numbered: Thus,
Baltica 0 is a non-alcoholic lager;  Baltica 1 is a "light" lager; Baltica 2 is their standard lager; Baltica 3 is a "Classic" lager; Baltica 4 is
their "Dark" lager;
Baltica 5 is a "Golden" lager; Baltica 6 is their Porter; Baltica 7 is an "Export" lager; Baltica 8 is their Wheat Ale; and finally Baltica 9 is
their "Extra" lager. There was also a
Baltica 10 "Jubilee lager" especially brewed to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

Baltica 0 -- yummy, can't wait to try that one!

Baltica 3 through 9 are available in the United States; thus, these are the ones reviewed.

Baltica 3 (4.8%)  Classic lager.
This began with a quite pleasant aroma of light hops and fruit, but from that moment onwards it was downhill all the bloody way. The head vanished in a blink
of an eye, while there was no finish and no aftertaste (a prominant feature of all the lagers tasted).  It tasted of a light version, of a light version, of a light
version of Heineken Light, with no body and just the faintest taste of hop bitterness.  Worse still, it presented a funny sort of numbing effect on the tongue,
as if it had been brewed with Novocaine.  Ghastly.  

Baltica 4 (5.6%)  Dark lager.
Thin, watery, no head with just two distinguishable flavours from start to finish: malt and caramel.  Again, no body, no finish, no distinction and no aftertaste.  

Baltica 5 (5.3%)  Golden lager.
Pale golden in colour, it began with a pleasant aroma of light malt and hops, before descending to the hideous dirge of the previous two Balticas: i.e.a
rapidly vanishing head, with no body, no finish, no aftertaste -- and to be honest, virtually no taste at all.  Ghastly.  

Baltica 6 (6%)  Porter.
Gordon Bennett !  The first offering that's actually drinkable and it's a bloody porter ! (someone make a note).  Baltica 6 had a "real" aroma of mocha and
gave a dark, creamy, thick frothy head in the glass.  Impressive. Initial tastes were of black cherries, molasses and fresh baked bread.  Roasted malts and
coffee came to the forefront in mid-bottle although sadly, there was no finish or aftertaste.

However, it had a lovely creamy body and didn't feature the horrible bitterness found in Western Porters.  A world apart from the previous shite.  

Baltica 7 (5.4%)  Export lager.
Featuring a rich, golden colour -- that's where it stopped. No head, no body, no flavour, no finish, no aftertaste, no nothing.  A return to form.  Absolutely

Baltica 8 (5%)  Wheat ale.
According to the Baltica website:
"This beer is not filtered and contains biologically active substances that are useful for our health".  Hmmm, not sure what
that means, but it poured a pale yellow, cloudy body with a good frothy head.  So far, so good.

If we forget the rather rancid aroma of rotting vegetables, the taste was sprightly and very clearly featured banana yeast.  The quite delicious taste of cloves
and bananas persisted throughout the glass.  Once again though, it tasted somewhat "thin" although the bananas lasted into an aftertaste. Considering the
source, this was a credible Wheat Ale indeed.  

Baltica 9 (8%)  Extra Strong lager.
Brewed with pilsner barly malt and maltose syrup, this was certainly a syrupy affair.  An orangy/golden yellow colour, it (believe it or not) gave literally no
head, was thin and had no finish.  Furthermore, it had a distinct taste of alcohol mixed with antiseptic.

There is no earthly reason why a lager needs to be brewed to an ABV of 8% and Baltica 9 suffers greatly for that.  Complete shite (and ghastly!). This was a
huge 51oz bottle of which 39oz rapidly became Liquid Plumber.  

What worries us at The Manor are the following facts: Baltica is one of the leading European producers of beer; The brand is Europe's second largest in
terms of sales; and it's exported to 46 countries.  With the Heineken/Carlsberg takeover, you can expect to see a global effort to take 2 decent beers and 5
absolutely crap lagers into every living room.  Plus, A Baltica DRY has reportedly hit the European supermarket shelves.  Anheuser-Busch InBev has already
expressed concern and for probably the only time in the history of Christendom -- we're on their side!

The only two decent ones in a very sorry portfolio of sad beers!
The ghastly Baltica 9, sitting where it
needs to be: at the bottom of the ocean!