I brewed this beer for a talk I gave at the Nordic Heritage Museum (NHM) as part of a Nordic Beer Tasting and Drinking Songs event. Finding a recipe for an authentic, historically Nordic beer was surprisingly difficult, additionally so because I brew with a partial mash as opposed to all-grain. The majority of my experience brewing involves German, Belgian, and American beers. Brewing, let alone finding, an authentic Scandinavian beer recipe was a departure into unfamiliar territory. When asked by my friend Sarah Olivo, Adult Education Coordinator at NHM, to present at the event, I was ecstatic. Not only would I be able to talk about beer, which I love, but also explore some of the history of this craft in a region that comprises the majority of my heritage. I was so far out of my zone of experience, my first steps simply involved googling “traditional Scandinavian beer.” I didn’t even know what words to use to describe the type of beer I was looking for.
In order to brew a beer for any specific event, you need to plan several months in advance to ensure that it will be ready. This meant that months before I started planning the actual talk I would give, I had to find a recipe that exemplified the history of an entire region with several distinct, and consequently proudly different, cultures. My preliminary research eventually yielded the term, “Sahti.” I eventually found this recipe. While Sahti seems to be more closely tied to Finland, the Sahti style was the only distinct, original style of the region that I could find apart from Nordic Porters.
8oz Dark Munich
8oz Smoked Wheat
4oz Extra Dark Crysal (120L)
4oz Red Wheat
1oz Liberty (4.9%AA) @60min
8lbs Pilsen Light DME
1lb Light Brown Sugar @40min (forgot to put in @60min)
Wyeast British Ale (1098)
1oz Crushed Juniper Berries @60min
1tsp Irish Moss @15min
3.62oz Priming Sugar
Brewing any beer from a specific region inherently includes aspects that likely cannot be replicated when making the beer in your neighborhood. The mineral quality of the water, the type of grains available, the yeast (either available or in the air – Sahti traditionally uses a specific type of bread yeast), the traditional brewing equipment and techniques, et al. – all contribute to the authenticity of a beer. Some wine enthusiasts call it Terroir. I’m not going to get in to that. The notable difference between brewing an authentic Nordic beer here in Seattle, is the lack of access to the archetypal ingredients used in Nordic Beers including smoked malts, the appropriate yeast, and even adjuncts such as juniper branches. Seriously, where the hell would I find juniper branches in Seattle?! (*edit: Apparently on every nearly corner)
This particular recipe turned out slightly sweeter than expected, part due to the mis-conversion in the recipe that I sourced. When translating an all grain recipe into a partial mash, there is a general conversion rate that most brewers tend to follow. When a recipe calls for a specific amount of sugar, there is a difference in the amount of starches extracted from the grains when using actual grains versus using malt extract (the malt extract is the starches already extracted from the grain). This particular recipe called for the same amount (in lbs) of malt extract in the partial mash recipe as it did for grains in the all grain recipe, leading to this beer being maltier and sweeter.
Apart from being slightly sweeter that might be preferred, the Sahti turned out to be a delicious beer. The juniper notes really come out in the second and third tasting. I couldn’t exactly identify the difference with the smoked wheat used in the recipe, however I think the combination of rye and smoked wheat attributed a very interesting and delicious flavor. The rye and smoked wheat lent the Sahti a similar flavor to the couple Nordic porters I tasted when researching other beers of the region. Definitely a beer that few in the world are brewing, this Sahti is a very rare and historic beer that will be perfect to drink while learning Nordic Drinking Songs at the Nordic Heritage Museum.