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.

Belgian Tripel

26C. Belgian Tripel

Overall Impression:
A pale, somewhat spicy, dry, strong Trappist ale with a pleasant rounded malt flavor and firm bitterness. Quite aromatic, with spicy, fruity, and light alcohol notes combining with the supportive clean malt character to produce a surprisingly drinkable beverage considering the high alcohol level.

Aroma:
Complex bouquet with moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruity esters and low alcohol and hop aromas. Generous spicy, peppery, sometimes clove-like phenols. Esters are often reminiscent of citrus fruits such as oranges, but may sometimes have a slight banana character. A low yet distinctive spicy, floral, sometimes perfumy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy and low in intensity. The malt character is light, with a soft, slightly grainy-sweet or slightly honey-like impression. The best examples have a seamless, harmonious interplay between the yeast character, hops, malt, and alcohol.

Appearance:
Deep yellow to deep gold in color. Good clarity. Effervescent. Long-lasting, creamy, rocky, white head resulting in characteristic Belgian lace on the glass as it fades.

Flavor:
Marriage of spicy, fruity and alcohol flavors supported by a soft, rounded grainy-sweet malt impression, occasionally with a very light honey note. Low to moderate phenols are peppery in character. Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruit such as orange or sometimes lemon, and are low to moderate. A low to moderate spicy hop character is usually found. Alcohols are soft, spicy, and low in intensity. Bitterness is typically medium to high from a combination of hop bitterness and yeast-produced phenolics. Substantial carbonation and bitterness lends a dry finish with a moderately bitter aftertaste with substantial spicy-fruity yeast character. The grainy-sweet malt flavor does not imply any residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-light to medium body, although lighter than the substantial gravity would suggest. Highly carbonated. The alcohol content is deceptive, and has little to no obvious warming sensation. Always effervescent.

Comments:
High in alcohol but does not taste strongly of alcohol. The best examples are sneaky, not obvious. High carbonation and attenuation helps to bring out the many flavors and to increase the perception of a dry finish. Most Trappist versions have at least 30 IBUs and are very dry. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (or refermented in the bottle).

History:
Originally popularized by the Trappist monastery at Westmalle.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Pilsner malt, typically with pale sugar adjuncts. Saazer-type hops or Styrian Goldings are commonly used. Belgian yeast strains are used – those that produce fruity esters, spicy phenolics and higher alcohols – often aided by slightly warmer fermentation temperatures. Spice additions are generally not traditional, and if used, should be a background character only. Fairly soft water.

Style Comparison:
May resemble a Belgian Golden Strong Ale but slightly darker and somewhat fuller-bodied, with more emphasis on phenolics and less on esters. Usually has a more rounded malt flavor but should never be sweet.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.075 – 1.085
IBUs: 20 – 40
FG: 1.008 – 1.014
SRM: 4.5 – 7
ABV: 7.5 – 9.5%

Commercial Examples:
Affligem Tripel, Chimay Cinq Cents, La Rulles Tripel, La Trappe Tripel, St. Bernardus Tripel, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, Val-Dieu Triple, Watou Tripel, Westmalle Tripel

Belgian Dubbel

26B. Belgian Dubbel

Overall Impression:
A deep reddish-copper, moderately strong, malty, complex Trappist ale with rich malty flavors, dark or dried fruit esters, and light alcohol blended together in a malty presentation that still finishes fairly dry.

Aroma:
Complex, rich-sweet malty aroma, possibly with hints of chocolate, caramel and/or toast (but never roasted or burnt aromas). Moderate fruity esters (usually including raisins and plums, sometimes also dried cherries). Esters sometimes include banana or apple. Spicy phenols and higher alcohols are common (may include light clove and spice, peppery, rose-like and/or perfumy notes). Spicy qualities can be moderate to very low. Alcohol, if present, is soft and never hot or solventy. Low to no spicy, herbal, or floral hop aroma, typically absent. The malt is most prominent in the balance with esters and a touch of alcohol in support, blending together for a harmonious presentation.

Appearance:
Dark amber to copper in color, with an attractive reddish depth of color. Generally clear. Large, dense, and long-lasting creamy off-white head.

Flavor:
Similar qualities as aroma. Rich, complex medium to medium-full rich-sweet malt flavor on the palate yet finishes moderately dry. Complex malt, ester, alcohol and phenol interplay (raisiny flavors are common; dried fruit flavors are welcome; clove or pepper spiciness is optional). Balance is always toward the malt. Medium-low bitterness that doesn’t persist into the aftertaste. Low spicy, floral, or herbal hop flavor is optional and not usually present.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-full body. Medium-high carbonation, which can influence the perception of body. Low alcohol warmth. Smooth, never hot or solventy.

Comments: Most commercial examples are in the 6.5 – 7% ABV range. Traditionally bottle-conditioned (or refermented in the bottle).

History:
Originated at monasteries in the Middle Ages, and was revived in the mid-1800s after the Napoleonic era.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Belgian yeast strains prone to production of higher alcohols, esters, and phenolics are commonly used. Impression of complex grain bill, although traditional versions are typically Belgian Pils malt with caramelized sugar syrup or other unrefined sugars providing much of the character. Saazer-type, English-type or Styrian Goldings hops commonly used. No spices are traditionally used, although restrained use is allowable (background strength only).

Style Comparison:
Should not be as malty as a bock and should not have crystal malt-type sweetness. Similar in strength and balance as a Belgian Blond, but with a richer malt and ester profile. Less strong and intense as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.062 – 1.075
IBUs: 15 – 25
FG: 1.008 – 1.018
SRM: 10 – 17
ABV: 6.0 – 7.6%

Commercial Examples:
Affligem Dubbel, Chimay Première, Corsendonk Pater, Grimbergen Double, La Trappe Dubbel, St. Bernardus Pater 6, Trappistes Rochefort 6, Westmalle Dubbel

Belgian Blond Ale

25A. Belgian Blond Ale

Overall Impression:
A moderate-strength golden ale that has a subtle fruity-spicy Belgian yeast complexity, slightly malty-sweet flavor, and dry finish.

Aroma:
Light earthy or spicy hop nose, along with a lightly grainy-sweet malt character. Shows a subtle yeast character that may include spicy phenolics, perfumy or honey-like alcohol, or yeasty, fruity esters (commonly orange-like or lemony). Light sweetness that may have a slightly sugar-like character. Subtle yet complex.

Appearance:
Light to deep gold color. Generally very clear. Large, dense, and creamy white to off-white head. Good head retention with Belgian lace.

Flavor:
Smooth, light to moderate grainy-sweet malt flavor initially, but finishes medium-dry to dry with some smooth alcohol becoming evident in the aftertaste. Medium hop and alcohol bitterness to balance. Light hop flavor, can be spicy or earthy. Very soft yeast character (esters and alcohols, which are sometimes perfumy or orange/lemon-like). Light spicy phenolics optional. Some lightly caramelized sugar or honey-like sweetness on palate.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-high to high carbonation, can give mouth-filling bubbly sensation. Medium body. Light to moderate alcohol warmth, but smooth. Can be somewhat creamy.

Comments:
Often has an almost lager-like character, which gives it a cleaner profile in comparison to many other Belgian styles. Belgians use the term Blond, while the French spell it Blonde. Most commercial examples are in the 6.5 – 7% ABV range. Many Trappist or artisanal Belgian beers are called Blond but those are not representative of this style.

History:
Relatively recent development to further appeal to European Pils drinkers, becoming more popular as it is heavily marketed and widely distributed.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Belgian Pils malt, aromatic malts, sugar, Belgian yeast strains that produce complex alcohol, phenolics and perfumy esters, Saazer-type, Styrian Goldings, or East Kent Goldings hops. Spices are not traditionally used, although the ingredients and fermentation by-products may give an impression of spicing (often reminiscent of oranges or lemons). If spices are present, should be a background character only.

Style Comparison:
Similar strength as a Dubbel, similar character as a Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Tripel, although a bit sweeter and not as bitter.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.062 – 1.075
IBUs: 15 – 30 FG: 1.008 – 1.018
SRM: 4 – 7 ABV: 6.0 – 7.5%

Commercial Examples:
Affligem Blond, Grimbergen Blond, La Trappe Blond, Leffe Blond, Val-Dieu Blond

Biere de Garde

24C. Bière de Garde

Overall Impression:
A fairly strong, malt-accentuated, lagered artisanal beer with a range of malt flavors appropriate for the color. All are malty yet dry, with clean flavors and a smooth character.

Aroma:
Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate intensity toasty-bready-rich malt character. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy, peppery, or herbal). Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. Generally quite clean, although stronger versions may have a light, spicy alcohol note as it warms.

Appearance:
Three main variations exist (blond, amber and brown), so color can range from golden-blonde to reddish-bronze to chestnut brown. Clarity is brilliant to fair, although haze is not unexpected in this type of often unfiltered beer. Well-formed head, generally white to off-white (varies by beer color), average persistence.

Flavor:
Medium to high malt flavor often with a toasty-rich, biscuity, toffee-like or light caramel-sweet character. Malt flavors and complexity tend to increase with beer color. Low to moderate esters and alcohol flavors. Medium-low hop bitterness provides some support, but the balance is always tilted toward the malt. Darker versions will have more of an initial malty-sweet impression than paler versions, but all should be malty in the palate and finish. The malt flavor lasts into the finish, which is medium-dry to dry, never cloying. Low to no hop flavor (spicy, peppery, or herbal), although paler versions can have slightly higher levels of herbal or spicy hop flavor (which can also come from the yeast). Smooth, well-lagered character, even if made with ale yeast. Aftertaste of malt (character appropriate for the color) with some dryness and light alcohol.

Mouthfeel:
Medium to medium-light (lean) body, often with a smooth, creamy-silky character. Moderate to high carbonation. Moderate alcohol warming, but should be very smooth and never hot.

Comments:
Three main variations are included in the style: the brown (brune), the blond (blonde), and the amber (ambrée). The darker versions will have more malt character, while the paler versions can have more hops (but still are malt-focused beers). A related style is Bière de Mars, which is brewed in March (Mars) for present use and will not age as well. Attenuation rates are in the 80-85% range. Some fuller-bodied examples exist, but these are somewhat rare. Age and oxidation in imports often increases fruitiness, caramel flavors, and adds corked and musty notes; these are all signs of mishandling, not characteristic elements of the style.

History:
Name literally means “beer which has been kept or lagered.” A traditional artisanal ale from Northern France brewed in early spring and kept in cold cellars for consumption in warmer weather. It is now brewed year-round.

Characteristic Ingredients:
The “cellar” character commonly described in literature is more of a feature of mishandled commercial exports than fresh, authentic products. The somewhat moldy character comes from the corks and/or oxidation in commercial versions, and is incorrectly identified as “musty” or “cellar-like.” Base malts vary by beer color, but usually include pale, Vienna and Munich types. Darker versions will have richer malt complexity and sweetness from crystal-type malts. Sugar may be used to add flavor and aid in the dry finish. Lager or ale yeast fermented at cool ale temperatures, followed by long cold conditioning. Floral, herbal or spicy continental hops.

Style Comparison:
Related to the Belgian Saison style, the main difference is that the Bière de Garde is rounder, richer, malt-focused, and lacks the spicy, bitter character of a Saison.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.060 – 1.080
IBUs: 18 – 28 FG: 1.008 – 1.016
SRM: 6 – 19 ABV: 6.0 – 8.5%

Commercial Examples:
Ch’Ti (brown and blond), Jenlain (amber and blond), La Choulette (all 3 versions), St. Amand (brown), Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts (blond), Russian River Perdition