Beer of the week: Bagby’s Herd of Turtles

Slow down and enjoy this Baltic porter because it takes a very, very long time to make it


Beer Name: Herd of Turtles
Brewery: Bagby Beer Company
Style: Baltic porter
ABV: 9.7%

Synonymous with stellar San Diego craft beer, Jeff Bagby is respected and lauded as one of the best brewers in the history of local beer. A veteran brewer for over two decades, Jeff Bagby and his wife wife Dande Bagby launched Oceanside’s Bagby Beer in 2011. Capturing the silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) for the Herd of Turtles Baltic Porter in 2017, the latest Beer of the week is an acclaimed beer perfect for the holidays and cooler weather.

PACIFIC spoke with Jeff to get the lowdown on this unique dark beer.

What is the story with the name Herd of Turtles?
This beer requires a ton of lagering time, several months. It is a slow, slow, slow beer to make. If you can picture a herd of turtles, slow and steady getting where they need to go, you will understand the time investment in a beautiful Baltic porter. The name is fitting.

What makes a Baltic porter different from a regular porter?
Baltic porter is named for the Baltic region in Northeastern Europe, along the Baltic sea. This beer is a lager, unlike traditional English porters. Just like traditional porters, though, the dark malt reigns here, but the lager yeast and lagering process provide a unique softness and a rich depth that other porters do not. Some brewers do not honor the tradition, and use ale yeast, no doubt to speed the fermentation and overall finishing, but the lagering is critical to this beer.

What’s in it?
Pilsner malt is the base, as well as a small variety of darker malts. Hops are there, but just for balance and the resulting hop character is very low. We used our house lager yeast.

What should someone trying the Herd of Turtles for the first time expect?
A beautiful deep brown color with subtle ruby hues. Dark chocolate and caramel notes are abundant in the aroma and flavor profiles. There is also a hint of dry roast, and a bit of dark fruit character. The beer is soft on the palate from delicate carbonation, and the finish is dry for such a bold beer. We do not filter or fine this beer, and the beer is naturally bright from the long lagering period.

Perfect pairing?
This is a great beer for cheese, especially long-aged cheddar, gouda or parmesan. Also would be terrific with roasted vegetables, and any rich, dark meats, especially anything braised.

Where can I get it and how long?
This is available on draught at our pub and at select accounts. We usually make a new batch every year around Christmas and New Year. The batch that is on tap now was made last January - there isn’t a whole lot left but it is a bit of a slow mover (and it ages really well), so should be on for a while longer.

This beer gal’s take?
I’m so glad this specialty porter is in the expert hands of Jeff Bagby (I’ve tasted some some sad ones in my day). Herd of Turtles is smooth and rich with notes of cocoa, roasted malt, molasses and dark fruits. I’ll be pairing mine with chili, stew, and warm fig cake for dessert.

Extra Juicy Tidbit?
A few of our barrel aged beers are reaching their optimum age, and we are working on blending these for release next month at our 4th annual Bagbyfest, a celebration of all things that inspire us! Tickets are on sale now.

Bagby Beer is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. 601 S Coast Highway, Oceanside. (760) 270-9075 or