Historical Beer Sahti

27. Historical Beer: Sahti

Overall Impression:
A sweet, heavy, strong traditional Finnish beer with a rye, juniper, and juniper berry flavor and a strong banana-clove yeast character.

Aroma:
High banana esters with moderate to moderately-high clove-like phenolics. Not sour. May have a low to moderate juniper character. Grainy malt, caramel, and rye in background. Light alcohol aroma. Sweet malt impression.

Appearance:
Pale yellow to dark brown color; most are medium to dark amber. Generally quite cloudy (unfiltered). Little head, due to low carbonation.

Flavor:
Strong banana and moderate to moderately-high clove yeast character. Moderate grainy rye flavor. Low bitterness. Fairly sweet finish. Juniper can add a pine-like flavor; juniper berries can add a gin-like flavor; both should be complementary, not dominant. No noticeable hop flavor. Moderate caramel flavor but no roast. Multi-layered and complex, with kind of a wortiness that is unusual in other beer styles. Not sour.

Mouthfeel:
Thick, viscous, and heavy with protein (no boil means no hot break). Nearly still to medium-low carbonation. Strongly warming from the alcohol level and young age, but often masked by sweetness.

Comments:
The use of rye doesn’t mean that it should taste like caraway (a dominant flavor in rye bread). The use of juniper berries will give a flavor like gin (similarly flavored with juniper berries). The juniper acts a bit like hops in the balance and flavor, providing some counterpoint to the sweet malt.

History:
An indigenous traditional style from Finland; a farmhouse tradition for at least 500 years, often brewed for festive occasions like summer weddings, and consumed within a week or two of brewing. A similar tradition exists in Estonia, where the beer is known as koduolu.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Malted barley along with malted and unmalted grains, often rye. Low hops. Juniper boughs used for lautering (traditionally in a hollowed-out log), but often producing a juniper/berry character. Often uses top-fermenting baker’s yeast in a fast, warm fermentation (German Weizen yeast is a good substitute). Not boiled; a long mash steep is used, with a separately added hop tea.

Style Comparison:
Strong resemblance to Weizenbocks, but sweet and thick with a rye and juniper character.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.076 – 1.120
IBUs: 7 – 15
FG: 1.016 – 1.020
SRM: 4 – 22
ABV: 7.0 – 11.0%

Commercial Examples: Now made year-round by several breweries in Finland.