I didnâ€™t go to Finland to drink sahti. But tracking down the traditional Finnish beer made a nice side quest during our visit a few years ago.Â
If youâ€™re beer-curious and plan to visit Finland, here are a few reasons you should search for a snort of sahti.
You Like Tracking Down Stuff Even Locals Donâ€™t Know About
During my visit, Finns preferred mugs of whiz-colored lager to earthy-brown brews served in a small silver cup. It’s the stuff a Finn’s mothball-scented grandpa drinks, not the young and hip.
So you wonâ€™t find sahti flowing like wine (sorry, but I can resist a “Dumb and Dumber” reference). Be prepared to do some digging and investigating, unless thereâ€™s been a sudden hipster resurgence.
I found the Lammin Sahti Oy brand in a kitschy farm setting at Zetor near the city center. And my order surprised the bartender: I explained that trying local/regional food and drink is part of the reason I travel. I guess not many foreigners know about sahti.
You might also find sahti at Bryggeri Helsinki.Â
You Like the Smell of a Forest, and Wouldnâ€™t Mind a Taste
My first sip of sahti was like tasting liquid forest — pine, wind, cool air — thanks to its main flavoring ingredients of juniper and rye. The small pour had barely any carbonation.
The bartender served it in a silver vessel that looked like a cross between a ladle and a cup. Itâ€™s dark and has a very homebrew look to it. You brewers out there know what I mean!
Oh, itâ€™s also about 8 percent ABV.
Because Fake Sahti Isnâ€™t Even Close
Iâ€™ve tasted several sahti-inspired ales in the U.S., including Samuel Adams Norse Legend or Dogfish Head Sah’Tea. Theyâ€™re barely distinguishable from a brown ale — boring. To be fair, the brewers donâ€™t label them as authentic versions.
And thatâ€™s the cool thing about travel: It gives you a chance to taste things youâ€™ll never encounter at home.
You Can Brew Your Own Sahti
Live somewhere with access to juniper? Then you brew your own. This recipe is promising if a bit large; some recipes donâ€™t scale down well, but experimentation is part of the homebrewing fun. And of course, trying the real stuff will give you a better bench mark to judge your brew.Â
Also, the story that goes along with the recipe is pretty cool. Itâ€™s definitely less scientific and sterile than commercial brewers in the U.S.!
An Extra Hint
I confused a lot of bartenders by asking for â€œsah-tea.â€ It’s pronounced â€œsock-tea,â€ like tea brewed in a sock. You can also add a bit of gravel to the â€œkâ€ syllable. Yes, this seems like a small detail. But it can make the difference in finding this elusive beverage. Some even seemed annoyed by the mispronunciation once they realized what I meant.Â
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