When Scuttlebutt Brewing head brewer Eric Nord started explaining what he’d need to brew a traditional Finnish beer called sahti, Jeff Abandonato had just what he needed.
And it was sitting in the front yard of his Mountlake Terrace home.
Dating back to the 14th century, a traditional sahti beer is unlike any beer ever made. After a short boil, the mash is filtered through a bed of juniper twigs at the bottom of a hulled out log. Yep. It doesn’t get more old-school than using a giant log to brew beer.
Thankfully for Nord and his brewing teammate, Farmstrong Brewing’s Thane Tupper, Abandonato had a giant fir log just taking up space in his front yard. Over two months, Abandonato slowly hulled out the log to prepare it for brewing. CrystaLite, a business that specializes in custom skylights located near Scuttlebutt’s Everett taproom, helped build a stand for the log and the brewers got the juniper boughs from Mount Vernon’s Christianson’s Nursery.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” said Nord, who was first introduced to sahti when Ale Apothecary’s Paul Arney gave a lecture on the beer style at a master brewers conference. “It just seems like an interesting style. You’ve got flavors from the wood and the juniper berries and the process is unlike anything else.”
Nord and Tupper worked together at Gallagher’s Where-U-Brew, before Tupper went on to Elysian Brewing, Mac & Jack’s, pFriem and eventually Mount Vernon’s Farmstrong, where he’s head brewer. The two had been wanting to brew a collaboration beer together for a while, but there never seemed to be the right time. That is until Abandonato came through with that hollowed-out log.
“We really wanted to do something different,” Tupper said.
Check that box.
The key to a true sahti is the log, or kuurna, which acts as a natural lauter tun. In brewing, a lauter tun is used to separate the wort from the mash. Slats on the log’s bottom and the juniper boughs give the kuurna a false bottom and filters the solids of the mash quite well.
The beer was also a chance for Nord to brew a beer with 100 percent Skagit Valley Malting malts, something Farmstrong has already been doing regularly. Skagit Valley Malting, located in Burlington, has quickly become a name in the craft beer world for their boutique malt variations.
For the sahti, SVM provided 40 percent triticale malt, a wheat-rye hybrid, and the rest caramelized triticale. Skagit Valley Malting’s Scott Pelton, who looked on during the brewing process at Scuttlebutt a few weeks ago, said caramelized triticale tastes like Raisin Bran and was excited to partner with the breweries on the sahti project.
The Scuttlebutt-Farmstrong sahti used a Belgian saison yeast and Chinook hops for bittering and Tettanger hops for finishing.
The beer finished at 6 percent ABV and pours an amber color. It has the fruit flavors from the Belgian saison yeast without the big spicy finish you get with many saisons. Instead, the beer is slightly dry and very drinkable. Tasting it off the brite tank recently, there wasn’t a lot of juniper flavor, but some of the woody characteristics shone through on the finish.
The beer was released last week at Scuttlebutt and Farmstrong’s taprooms, so hurry: Both breweries only ended up with a couple of barrels, and it could go fast.
If you visit Scuttlebutt, take a look around the taproom brewhouse and you might find the giant log that was used for the kuurna, waiting to be used once again.
“It’s a museum piece now,” joked Adam Chittick, Scuttlebutt assistant brewer.
Dormant Ryezome, Whitewall Brewing: Dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic and Chinook hops, this rye pale ale has a spicy backbone and piney and citrus overtones. Available on tap at the brewery.
Barrel Aged Fade Out, Decibel Brewing: A barrel-aged version of the brewery’s imperial stout aged in Bad Dog Distillery’s whiskey barrels. On tap and 22-ounce bottles available at the brewery.
Wood You Please Sahti
Scuttlebutt Brewing/Farmstrong Brewing, Everett/Mount Vernon
Stats: 5.98 percent ABV
Available: On tap at Farmstrong Brewing and Scuttlebutt Brewing’s taproom
From the brewery: Brewed in a hollowed out wooden log (known as a kuurna) on a bed of juniper boughs, this beer is both complex and delicate. The aroma consists of spice, black tea, and just a hint of clove. Light body with a zesty, fruitiness this beer finishes refreshingly crisp with a dry slightly tart finish.