With references dating it as far back as 1366, and found prominently throughout the Viking and Medieval periods, the sahti is a beer that is sure to make all you mead-swilling, Renaissance Festival-attending, Odin-worshipping, Game of Thrones nerds quiver with a joy you haven’t felt since you won your Dungeons and Dragons fantasy jousting league.
This traditional Finnish beer is flavored with juniper berries, either on their own or in addition to hops. The mash would then be run through a kuurna; an old-timey lauter tun, and then strained through juniper branches to impart a deep earthy flavor. In the Samuel Adams sahti recreation, Norse Legend, the beer is aged on a bed of juniper berries to produce a similar effect.
In Norse society, beer was most exclusively brewed by women, being viewed as a sacred homesteading practice. In Scandanavia, two types of sahti’s were brewed, one for men and one for women. For the men, tupulisahti, a stronger strand consisting of the first brew-runnings, and for the women, jälkijuoma, a weaker version.
At the Boston branch of Samuel Adams, where most of the smaller batches and barrel-aged collections are developed, brewer Jennifer Glanville has been carefully crafting the sahti over the past 9 years. It has finally been released as part of the Sam Adams Small Batch Series. Check out some of our past reviews on other Limited Sam Adams; Cinder Bock and Merry Mischief.
A long-lasting off-white head rests atop a bright amber body with a light haze. You can appreciate the herbal properties right off the bat via the nose; juniper berries, spruce, pine, wood, plus a light caramel/sweet malt.
I was expecting a big farmhouse yeasty presence, but found instead, a very clean flavor. Sweetness levels are high. I get a bit of a cotton-candy sugar aspect, along with light smoke that briefly touches the palate. The flavor consists of bright pine qualities and grapefruit citrus, followed by earthy undertones of wood and cedar. The juniper berries invade all of your sensory receptors and though I know it was brewed with Hallertau hops, leaves me thinking gruit strong ale or maybe even an amber with added herbs.
This is a very malt-forward beer, relying heavily on caramelized malts and a toffee sweetness. It has a medium to medium-full body, with a heavy carbonation, creamy mouthfeel, and a sticky finish.
Enjoy it while listening to some Swedish doom metal.