As reported, Victory won't be releasing Baltic Thunder until October 15. "No packaging," admitted brewery president and co-founder Bill Covaleski when I asked him why the long wait. But a guy who had some tiny part in this beer's creation can wheedle his way to zwickel-side and get a sample.
Actually, I met Victory publicity-wrangler Jake Burns in the parking lot and asked him if I could get a taste of Thunder, and he said sure, why not, I'd like a taste too. Ron Barchet laughed when I told him why I'd stopped by, and said "I think that when we go to package that tank there's not going to be any left!" And he paused and got that reverent, serious look he gets when he talks about beer, and said, "It's really good."
I'm happy to report that he's right. Jake screwed the pigtail onto Tank V10 (erk. Kind of ominous, that) and poured me off almost a full pint of the 8.5% stuff. It was dark and rich-smelling, prunes and plum pudding, moist chocolate cake and a subtle vinous aroma, and I couldn't help thinking of the mythical Herzwesten Dark from Tim Powers's The Drawing of the Dark (fergodssake, if you've never read this, get it): "Then he sat down, and even without bringing the cup to his nose he smelled the heady, heavily aromatic bouquet. God bless us, he thought rapturously, this is the nectar of which even the finest, rarest bock in the world is only the vaguest hint. In one long, slow, savoring swallow he emptied the cup."
I didn't empty the cup, but the temptation was there. What I did taste reminded me of my oft-quoted characterization of a Baltic porter as a trainwreck between a doublebock and an imperial stout: only the imperial stout train was 120 boxcars long and high-balling it. The beer was as smooth as only a long-aged lager can be, but it had a burnt bitter edge to it that recalled some of my favorite impies, like Smuttynose and Courage. It brought to mind the original limited edition Perkuno's Hammer, the 300-bottle brew that was supposed to be a one-off and proved to have a life of its own. Best -- or worst -- of all, Jake and I agreed that it maybe tasted like a 6.5% beer at most. "This sucker's dangerous," I said, "It's a 'Where did my knees go?' beer."
Consider yourself warned.