Gambling Man brews Scandinavian-style hopless Sahti beer

Gambling Man Brew Co Sahti pump clipGambling Man brewery in County Durham is brewing what it believes will be the UK’s first commercial example of a Scandinavian beer style called Sahti.

Pronounced “Satty” the unusual hopless style is native to Finland, where it is usually brewed in the home with barley, wheat and rye – but before the grains are steeped, the brewing liquor is infused with branches, leaves and berries of the juniper tree.

Once steeped, the unfermented beer is then further strained through a bed of juniper branches and boiled with more leaves and berries before being served very cloudy, directly from the fermenter and totally unconditioned – though Gambling Man brewery head brewer Paul Armstrong admits that last step is impossible commercially as the beer will begin a rudimentary form of conditioning in the cask, but he’ll be leaving the casking as late as possible to produce as authentic a Sahti as he can. 

“I have long had a fascination with rare and forgotten beer styles, so when I came across the story of Sahti some years ago, I’ve been really eager to give one a go,” he said.

“They are becoming really popular with craft brewers in the USA such as the multi-award winning Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware, and I was really surprised none had been commercially brewed in the UK so we thought, why not be the first?

“Although juniper has been used in UK beers before, a true Sahti should be unhopped and the mash tun lined with common juniper branches during a much longer mash rest than usual. This, we believe, will be the UK’s first commercial example of the style.”

Only two casks of the beer are being produced for the time being and both will be available exclusively at Gateshead Beer Festival, which takes place at Gateshead Rugby Club in Low Fell from May 2 to 4 2014.

“We absolutely love Gateshead Beer Festival with its mix of great beer, good craic and excellent music,” said Gambling Man’s operations manager Dave Walls.

“It’s an honour and a pleasure to debut our Sahti to the crowds at Gateshead Rugby club. We’re really looking forward brewing Sahti for Jon and the team and hope it goes down well.”

The new 5.1% beer is described by the brewery as being “herby and grainy with aromas of freshly peeled bananas and sweet cereal,” and the brewers say they are doing their best to resist saying that the beer will have a long and “sahti-sfying Finnish.”