Over the weekend I started my third batch of sahti, which is essentially the folk small-beer of Finland, and what at least one author refers to as one of the oldest living beer styles.  I haven’t had a chance to try and construct the traditional mash tun made from a hollow log, so I had to resort to more conventional (at least for the modern brewer) equipment.  Like the first batch, I used whole grain rather than extract.  I started with 10 lbs. of American 2-row malted barley plus 1 lb. of rye malt, both of which were crushed for me at the local homebrewing store.  Once all the grain was in the pot, I started adding boiling water, 1.5 liters at a time with a 1/2 hour wait between additions until I’d added about 7.5 liters.  As more water is added the mash becomes more and more porridge-like in consistency as it absorbs the water, and it wasn’t until the last addition that there was “standing” water that wasn’t being absorbed. 

 

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The whole house smelled like malted wheat cereal. :)  The recipe I was working from suggested boiling the mash at that point to really bring out the redness from the rye, but the last time I tried that I burned it with disastrous results, so I settled for just heating it up briefly.  I really need a bigger pot and better spoon before I try boiling it again, and possibly a flame diffuser for my stove. 

Once the grain was steeped I started draining of the water (now wort) into another big pot, then added back another probably 3-4 liters of boiling water to the grain and drained it again, saving all the wort.  To the wort I added some hop pellets, additional rye malt, and juniper berries, and brought it up to a boil for about 10 minutes.  That all got strained into a big plastic bucket that already contained 2 gallons of cold water, and I added another gallon on top, which brought the final volume up to around 5 gallons altogether, maybe 5 1/2.  When it had cooled to about room temp, I added half a pack of German wheat beer yeast and half of a pretty aggressive English ale yeast.  In about a week I’ll rack it into a clean container, then let it go about another week before it’s ready enough to drink. 

Compared to modern homebrewing practices this is a shockingly casual way to go about things, and if I was planning on bottling this stuff and keeping it for any length of time it would probably spoil.  I’m really trying to come up with the kind of thing that Vikings would have had access to on a daily basis.  Someday I’ll work up the nerve to try this in an open wooden tub, which is probably mush closer to the equipment they really used.  The biggest hassle is keeping junk out of it, and it’s likely to sour, but I don’t have any reason to think that would be a deterrent for the average Viking given their penchant for sour foods.

I used some of the leftover “spent” grain in a loaf of bread last night, adding some bread yeast and enough whole wheat flour to bring it together.  It came out a little damp, but very pleasant in flavor.  I tried a little bit more boiled in milk as porridge for breakfast this morning, but since it’s not really meant for human consumption like this I found it a little too chaff intensive for pleasurable breakfast eating.  I was thinking what I really need is a nice little pig to feed it too.  Barring that, today two friends let me know that both horses and chickens like spent grain, so I know how I’ll be recycling it in future. 🙂