Thursday, 08 June 2017 21:09

A Viking In Oswego

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A Viking In Oswego Submitted photo

So perhaps I managed to go crazy over the course of my recent move to Oswego, NY.

With my beer adventures calming and staying closer to home as of late I seemed to have transitioned to other fermentations, but I was still in love with my new discovery​ of an ancient style of brewing beer. While the vikings were not the first to brew beer, they come rather close to a style that can be duplicated by a home brewer.

So after enjoying several interpretations of “sahti” I am telling you how I went about making my own in a rather similar fashion to the traditional farm style ale. A brief history of sahti can be found in some of my previous articles at

Gathering the ingredients for this Oswegonian’s sahti was probably the most fun of this brew. The hunt for juniper berries was “Fruitless” so I had to resort to an online purchase. Then came the foraging for juniper branches, ultimately causing me to completely forest the Chaumont National Reserve in upstate NY. I really wanted boughs that had not been sprayed with chemicals and pesticides, however I was still unprepared to cut or snip this sharp, spikey, needley, devil of a bush. I ended up with what looked like cat scratches all over my arms and face.

Next came the grain, that was much easier with the help of Sunset Hydroponics in Syracuse, NY. Then yeast, well since sahti is made with a Finish baking yeast, that should be easy, Right? ... Wrong! Red Star was the closest thing that I could find, so in the style of the vikings, I used ingredients I could find. And I found everything I needed.

On brew day, I sanitized all of my equipment, my only concern was the juniper branches.... they are dirty, right? I mean, they are from the woods, there is dirty, and animals, and have I gone too far to make this brew? Well, I figured I could use an old method of cleaning these with a simple, water, vinegar, lemon juice concoction. so I soaked then for 20 minutes and rinsed them for another 5 minutes with fresh clean water. There! All clean! But wait!... I’ve just washed off the wild yeast that I’m supposed to use as well... that’s one of the only reason why these branches are used. Well, my solution to this was rather unorthodox and perhaps done with a little bit of futility, but I took my juniper boughs, and got in my car, drove around the city of Oswego with these branches hanging out of my sunroof, and called to the yeast like I would a lost dog, “Here yeast, yeast, yeast, yeast, Come to John.” Whether or not this was at all successful will only be known in the fermenter.

Getting back home it was time to start my brew schedule... for a small batch of this completely experimental brew. The recipe is as follows:

For the Mash:

3lbs English Pale Malts

1/2 cup of Oats

1/4 tsp each of Flax seed, and triticale, and Barley

1/4 cup of juniper berries

For the Boil:

1/4 cup juniper berries

.5 oz of Columbus hops


Red Star Baking Yeast

Once the wort cooled, I placed a few more twigs in the fermenter, and left the berries to ferment in the primary fermenter. While most recipes claim that this brew only takes a week in one fermenter, I plan on racking it into a secondary, dry “hopping" it with more juniper berries. I will update my blog readers as I make progress.

When you toast with sahti, say: “Kippis.” This is Finnish for “cheers.”

“She, the maid who beer concocted,
Gathered six of grains of barley,
Seven hop tassels next she gathered,
And eight ladles of water,
Then upon the fire she placed it,
And allowed it there to simmer,
And she boiled the ale of barley,
Through the fleeting days of summer,
Poured it then in wooden barrels,
And in tubs of birch wood stored it.”
From Kalevala, the ancient Finnish national epic.

John Grouber is a local craft beer blogger and fermentation enthusiast. Find him at

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