Sam Adams: Norse Legend

type: Sahti
origin: Boston, MA
price: $7.99 / 22oz
ABV: 7%
NSP: 5.7

I haven’t really adventured much into the Sam Adams microbrews, so I thought I’d take a shot at their Sahti to compare with the… well shit… to compare with the New Belgium Lips of Faith Sahti that I had and thought I reviewed almost a year ago. That must have been some good shit since the post isn’t there even though I swear I wrote it. Maybe the juniper made me hallucinate that post.

Anyway, according to the wikipedia this Finnish Sahti style beer is characterized by replacing some or all of the hops with juniper berries. This particular beer has a decent juniper flavor, but nothing close to a gin. If I recall correctly, the New Belgium version only had the faintest hints of juniper, and was a bit flat out of the bottle. Interestingly this beer has the same affliction, with almost zero head and only a small school of bubbles swimming around in the glass. Strange, bubbles don’t usually swim… Seriously though, this beer is flat as a newborn baby minus the baby fat so there must be something weird in the juniper which prevents the fermentation?

Gearing up the science neurons and vast skills of Google-fu I first dug up that juniper is great at preventing erosion on steep hillsides, a red herring. After this digression, I refocused to uncover two beers by Rogue also made with juniper: John John Ale (with juniper) and Juniper Pale Ale. The John John is reported to come out a bit flat while the Juniper Pale Ale apparently gives us some ‘moderate head’. Damn, I could use some of that right now… My best guess is that something in juniper suppresses the yeast’s anaerobic processes to prevent carbonation since this seems to be a common theme among the more junipery juniper (JJ) beers, while the less JJ beers (i.e. Rogue’s Juniper Pale Ale with some hops) seem to bring back some bubbles, but only ‘moderate’. 

Another possibility is that the guys making Juniper beers are trying to keep too close to the original recipe and using some sort of shitty Finnish yeast which can’t even blow some damn bubbles. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some serious Finnish gentlemen who can blow their fair share of bubbles (or at least they could keep the seawater out in heights of surf which pounded saltwater into the depths of my sinuses). I also haven’t ever messed around with a Finnish yeast, but I would guess that to make it happiest, you’d have to keep it at the frigid temperatures native to the motherland. In addition, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2007 acquisition of Finnish Yeast Ltd (the only Finnish yeast company) by Canadian Lallemand Inc somehow killed every available strain of sahti yeasts, or at least made them inaccessible to the rest of us.

So maybe the juniper makes it flat. Maybe the yeast we’re using instead of authentic Finnish (bubble blowing?) yeast is all half-assed and flacid. Maybe the only way to keep it real and settle this score for real is to journey to Finland and try out some local sahtis as the locals do them? 

We have no Finnish correspondent, so one of us is going to have to man up and haul out to the northerlands for a sample of their brews. I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled the next time I’m up that way.

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