My next beer is a Russian brew with no name, no description, and no style – just a number.
Is this a funky, minimalistic marketing tool? Or is it just stereotypically Russian? Either way, it’s also beer number 104 off my epic list.
The bottle says:
In this case ‘The Bottle Says’ absolutely nothing. Ok that’s a lie; it has the number 4 on the label. There’s no other name, not even a description of exactly what style of beer it is…just the number 4. Everything else on the label is in printed in Russian. I can’t even enter any of it into an online translator because the letters on the label don’t exist on my keyboard. I wasn’t even certain it was the correct beer when I was buying it, since ‘BALTIKA’ is spelt ‘bAJIT (backwards N) KA’ on the bottle! But the picture in the book matches, so I guess this is the beer I’m after.
The body is a nice copper colour, almost the same colour as the label, and is capped with a tan head. There’s a buttery-caramel smell, with some nuttiness and a little cocoa. The body is soft in the mouth, and the flavours match what I smell but with less caramel. Its ok, but it’s all over a bit too quickly; one moment the malts are caressing the tongue, then it just disappears in a watery aftertaste.
This beer makes much more sense once it warms up. The butter-caramel smell is more caramel, and there’s been some dried fruit added (I’m thinking raisins and sultanas). It still finishes abruptly, but it last longer and doesn’t have the same watery quality. There’s no real bitterness or any other hop characters at all, which disappoints me. There’s also a flavour in the beer that I’ve noticed from the start, something that doesn’t appeal to me…to be honest it makes me a bit queasy. It’s not until towards the end that I realise what it is and why it makes me sick – its bourbon! To this day even the smell of bourbon makes me ill, due to a raucous night in my youth where I used full bottle of Jim Beam to poison myself. Shame about the Baltika 4 then; it was showing some promise, but now I’m hesitant to even finish the bottle (damn these 500ml monsters)
This beer just didn’t do it for me. Granted the reason for me not liking it has more to do with my aversion to bourbon than the beer itself, but that’s just how it is. I can see the merit behind this beer, and I think it’s both interesting and cool that a beer can have these flavours…but now I need to go and find some hops to help settle my stomach.