Sahti is a traditional beer from Finland made from a variety of grains, malted and unmalted, including barley, rye, wheat, and oats; sometimes bread made from these grains is fermented instead of malt itself. Traditionally the beer is flavored with juniper berries in addition to, or instead of, hops; the mash is filtered through juniper twigs through a trough-shaped tun called a kuurna in Finnish. Sahti has a distinct banana flavor due to the production of isoamyl acetate by the yeast. Sahti is a top-fermented brew (ale), and while baking yeast has been used traditionally, ale yeast may also be used in fermenting.
The end product is a cloudy beer with yeasty and phenolic flavors and a distinct taste similar to banana. Sahti is traditionally homebrewed but in recent years commercial versions have become available. Commercial Sahti usually has around eight percent ABV. In Finland, due to the higher percentage of alcohol in sahti, it is only sold in commercial sahti breweries, pubs or state-owned Alko stores, not in regular markets or grocery stores. Sahti has to be stored cold until consumption and is therefore not available in all Alko branches.
Within Finland, sahti has differing characteristics depending on which part of the country it is from. It is often known as Tavastian beer from Häme (well-known sahti areas, such as Sysmä, Joutsa, Kuhmoinen and Lammi, are in Häme) but it is also made in Finland Proper and some parts of Central Finland. There is also related a beer on the Swedish island of Gotland (known as Gotlandsdricka) and the Estonian island of Saaremaa (known as "Koduõlu" or "Taluõlu"). Every couple of years there is a Juniper Beer-Brewing Championship for homebrewers of these three countries.
Sahti in other countries
Finnish sahti has Protected Geographical Status in Europe. In the United States, sahti has been the subject of recent interest by homebrewers and microbreweries; in 2008, Dogfish Head Brewery released a beer called Sah'tea, a collaboration with Finnish brewer Juha Ikonen, that was a hybrid of traditional Sahti and Chai tea. New Belgium Brewing Company of Colorado is now brewing a Sahti Ale. Samuel Adams also brews a Sahti called "Norse Legend", and Off Color Brewing from Chicago has recently begun producing a sahti called "Bare Bear". Parallel 49 in Vancouver, BC released their "Sahti Claus" for Winter 2013.
Traditionally, sahti is brewed using a long step infusion mash that may last up to six hours, after which the wort is lautered through the kuurna. Unlike most beers, traditional sahti wort goes straight from the lauter tun to the fermenter without boiling. This gives it a relatively short shelf-life and may cause some characteristic sour flavors to develop from Lactobacillus bacteria.
Commercial Sahti brands
- Panimoravintola Beer Hunter's: Muffloni Sahti (from Pori)
- Finlandia Sahti and Finlandia Strong Sahti (from Sastamala)
- Hartolan Sahti, known as Krouvin Sahti and Punakallion Sahti.
- Hollolan Hirvi Kivisahti
- Huvila sahti (from Savonlinna)
- Joutsan Sahti
- Lammin Sahti (from Lammi)
- Tiinan Sahti (from Sysmä)
- Stadin Panimo: Stadin Sahti (from Helsinki)
Non-Finnish Commercial Sahti brands
As the term 'Finnish Sahti' has protected geographical status, technically these companies must simply call their beverage Sahti or Finnish-Style Sahti.
- Mad Scientist #19 from Sixpoint Brewing
- Samuel Adams: Norse Legend sahti (from Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)
- Dogfish Head Brewery: Sah'tea (from Milton, Delaware, U.S.A.) made with chai tea and juniper berries
- Sahti Ale - New Belgium Brewing Company (from Fort Collins, Colorado, U.S.A.)
- Parallel 49 Brewing Company "Sahti Claws"
- Sahti - Gambling Man Brewing Company, UK (The first true Sahti to be commercially brewed in the UK)
- Ale Apothecary - "Sahati," a mixed fermentation ale lautered in a spruce kuurna with spruce branches
- Browar Pinta - "Koniec Świata" (pol. "The End of The World, owes its name to the date of its release to the market, which was supposed to be the end of the world), polish attempt of brewing Sahti beer. Made with juniper berries and branches.
- Bare Bear from Off Color Brewing
- EU Profile-Sahti (accessed 07/06/2009)
- Burkhard Bilger, "A Better Brew." The New Yorker. November 24, 2008 (accessed 01/27/09)
- "Sahti Ale - New Belgium Brewing". newbelgium.com.
- R. Mosher, Radical Brewing. (Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2004), 244-5.