Our newest beer might need a little extra explanation.
Batch 109, better known as Imma Let You Finnish, is a sahti, and sahtis aren’t exactly a common style. And it’s from a country that isn’t exactly known for making beer: Finland.
The Scandinavian countries are definitely better known for spirits, namely vodka and aquavit. Sahti is a very old exception. This beer is a relic of very old brewing traditions, and is one of the oldest beer styles still being brewed today. Though there are a few commercial sahti brewers, the ingredients, process, and style itself have largely been preserved by Finnish home and farmhouse brewers. Recipes and techniques passed down by friends and families have kept sahti alive and largely unchanged since the middle ages.
Traditionally, sahtis were brewed without hops, with juniper used to season the brew instead. Juniper berries are typically used in flavoring, and the beer is filtered through juniper boughs in a hollowed-out log before fermentation.
We didn’t have a log handy, but we did get a hold of plenty of juniper boughs for brewing. We let the boughs steep, like a giant pot of tea, before adding the grains. Yes, the brewhouse did smell like gin and Christmas. Yes, it was amazing.
Sahti brewers today often use baker’s yeast instead of brewer’s yeast, but we picked a brewer’s yeast we expected could create many of the same flavors: Hefeweizen yeast. This yeast is known for the banana and clove-like flavors and aromatics that are the hallmark of German wheat beers. However, in our sahti, banana is replaced by a whole different family of esters, which create apple, pear, and peach aromas.
We made another departure from Finnish tradition by barrel aging. Sahtis are typically enjoyed fresh, especially around celebrations, but we let ours mature in barrels we were lucky enough to inherit from 209 Distillery. For three months, our sahti soaked in lovely botanical and oaky flavors. We also added juniper and cedar berries to harmonize with the characteristic juniper-ness of gin.
The finished beer is… Well, it’s a lot of things. It’s complex and weird and tastes unlike any beer we’ve ever tried before. It’s equal parts strange and delightful, and we can’t wait to try making another one.