Since it’s been extremely well-received by all of my freeloading friends (and I’m planning to enter it into some sort of competition this year), I figured I’d share my recipe for this esoteric beer. For those of you that don’t know, sahti is a style of beer that was brewed in ye olde Finland, using moldy crusts of rye bread–and as a result, with bakers’ yeast–and fermented in saunas (back in the day, saunas were a combination smoke house, pub, and hunting shack, rather than just the steamy sweatboxes we have today). It was traditionally steeped but not boiled, filtered through juniper branches, and drank young.
Sahti is defined by its rye and juniper flavors, but it’s tough to imagine what it’s going to be like until you drink it. As far as I know, there aren’t any commercial breweries selling a sahti in the US, so you won’t have much to compare it to. But that’s a huge part of the beauty of this beer: it’s such an old, forgotten style that nobody you know is going to have any preconceptions about what a sahti tastes like, let alone what it should taste like.
Anyhow, I modernized the idea with some present-day brewing strategies and it turned out great. I brew this delicious, surprisingly drinkable beverage every year for St. Urho’s Day (
), the Finnish equivalent of St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on March 16th in order to give the Finns an (unnecessary) excuse to get a boozy head-start on their Irish counterparts. I use malt extracts, both because NB started carrying rye LME, and because I’m lazy, but if you’re an all-grain kind of brewer, it shouldn’t be too hard to convert, and you’ll probably get delicious results.
Without further ado…
- • 6 lbs. Rye LME[/*]
- • 3.15 lbs. Plisen LME[/*]
- • 2 lbs. Light Munich Malt [/*]
- • 1 oz. Willamette hops (Mt. Hood could be a good alternative, too)[/*]
- • 1 oz. Juniper berries (crushed/cracked, but don't turn them to paste) [/*]
- • 1 to 3 sprigs of fresh Juniper branches (approximately 20" long) Be careful with these--some imported species of Japanese Juniper (usually taller bushes) are poisonous, but if you live in the northern Midwest, odds are that your naturally-growing juniper (usually lower to the ground) is fine. Also, if you want to be really authentic (and add a little extra juniper bite), get a dozen extra sprigs to use for straining. [/*]
- • Wyeast 3068 - Weihenstephan yeast (Or something similar--the goal is to emulate the weirdness of bakers' yeast, without its problems)[/*]
- 1. Fill your brew kettle with water.[/*]
- 2. Steep the Munich Malt grains right away.[/*]
- 3. Bring the grain tea up to 155°.[/*]
- 4. Once you reach 155° turn off the heat, then add the LME, the hops, the berries, and the juniper sprigs.[/*]
- 5. Let it sit off the heat for 35 minutes.[/*]
- 6. After 35 minutes, remove the grains and the sprigs.[/*]
- 7. Turn the heat back on, and bring it up to a boil.[/*]
- 8. Boil for 10 minutes.[/*]
- 9. After 10 minutes, take it off the heat and chill to 65 degrees.[/*]
- 10. Once it's cool, strain it into a fermenter, pitch the yeast, and let it ferment for 10-14 days.[/*]
- 11. RDWHAHB.[/*]
While you’re brewing, your kitchen is going to smell like a pine tree, and it’s going to be intimidating. But when it’s done, the sahti should be a cloudy dark amber, have a beery aroma with a pronounced juniper scent, and have a sweet, rye flavor with noticeable–but not intense–juniper influence. It won’t be subtle, but it definitely shouldn’t be overpowering, and it makes for a very flavorful but balanced brew. If you’re worried that the juniper flavor is going to be too much, start with just one sprig, and don’t strain it through any additional sprigs. (If you’re still worried that it might be too much, this probably isn’t the beer for you.)
If you want more juniper flavor, of course you can add more of those ingredients, and less will give you less. Same with the rye–manipulate as you see fit to make it more mellow, more malty, more whatever.