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Finland's Indigenous Beer Culture


This paper is the first in the Cervisia Fennica series published by the Finnish Society for Traditional Beers (Perinteisen Oluen Seura). Under the title 'Finland's Indigenous Beer Culture' the paper seeks primarily to cover the history, traditions and brewing practices associated with Finland's traditional and ancient rustic beer style, sahti. Sahti is an unfiltered (in the modern sense), strong, ale-like beer made from the highest quality ingredients. It usually features a proportion of rye malt and a noticeable juniper character. A summary is also given of the related beverages, mostly milder brews based on rye meal as the principal ingredient. Sahti brewing, mainly as a celebratory drink for special occasions, has been carried out in Finland probably since as early as the 12th century, and possibly even earlier. The sahti tradition has predominated in southern and western Finland, while in the later-settled eastern and northern parts of the country it has generally either been absent or has survived in a modified form. The main area in which the sahti tradition survives today is illustrated. Recent developments in legislation are also described, as these have led to a revival of interest in sahti - both in terms of the commercial production of sahti and sahti wort and a growing interest in this ancient beer style in Finland and abroad. It is in this spirit that the present publication has been produced. Acknowledgement is gratefully given to the published work of Finnish sahti experts, whose names are referred to in the text. This paper is largely based on their research.


1. Introduction
2. History
3. Tradition
4. Making sahti
5. Related beverages
6. Sahti today
7. Concluding remarks
Figure 1: Main area (shaded) where sahti tradition is alive today

About the author

Peter Ovell, M Sc., has been a member of the Finnish Society for Traditional beers since 1992 and a member of camra, the Campaign for Real Ale, since 1986. Born in England in 1961, he has long been familiar with Finland's cultural traditions on account of his mother being Finnish. He moved to Helsinki in 1992 and is soon to graduate in Finnish Language and Culture from the University of Helsinki. He is currently working for a Helsinki-based translation company.

POS /  31.10.2006

23.9.2021 21:36


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