Off Color Brewing | Bare Bear
Style: Finnish Sahti
For the average American, a sauna inspires images of scantily clad, sweaty old men at the gym. Either that or Florida in August. Fortunately for us, the wonderful citizens of Finland have a much different perspective on the sauna, and found it a perfect environment for brewing beer. With over 200 days of winter-like conditions every year, they could stay warm while brewing beer, which meant they had beer to keep them warm while they went outside for materials to brew more beer! At least that’s my theory…
Brewed in saunas since the 1500s, the Finnish Sahti typically utilizes juniper branches, berries and bread yeast, but has many different variations. It’s been gaining popularity again with craft brewers looking to the past for inspiration, as with Dogfish Head’s Sah’tea or New Belgium’s Sahti Ale.
Off Color Brewing has been especially inspired by historical beer styles. Among their flagship year-round offerings are a Gose, and a Kottbusser, including other seasonals such as a Gotlandsdricka style, a Berliner Weisse and, of course, a Finnish Sahti.
Bare Bear is Off Color’s interpretation of this old school Finnish homebrew, with some minor tweaks to the traditional recipe. For instance, they use saison yeast instead of bread yeast, carbonate the beer rather than serving it flat, and brew it in stainless steel tanks instead of old milk jugs because unwelcome visits from the FDA are unwelcomed. But they still use a good amount of rye malt and add juniper berries into the mash and kettle which provides its spicy character.
The result is a beer that pours an amber hue with a lacy off-white head that thins quickly, but lasts the entire drink. Initial aromas have the estery fruit notes, and a slightly woody scent. First taste continues with a berry and caramel sweetness, rounded out by the rye’s spice and a hint of saison funk. It finishes dry without any notice of the 7% ABV, making it easy to put down a couple without breaking a sweat.
The beer pairs best with turning your shower to its hottest setting and sitting in the steam or sitting at Oak Street beach on a 90 degree 90% humidity day, followed by a frigid plunge into Lake Michigan. Whatever you do, make sure you leave one for the sauna gnome.