Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery recently revealed that the new beer they have been touting as "Brand X" is actually a Finnish Sahti that will be known as, well, Sah'tea. This style is traditionally brewed using juniper berries in addition to or in place of hops, and often includes a healthy dose of rye as well. Dogfish Head's founder Sam Calagione incorporated both of these elements into the mostly traditional recipe, and took that tradition one step further by utilizing hot rocks to boil the wort. This excerpt from a New Yorker article on Dogfish Head written late last year explains Calagione's thought process in a bit more detail:

When sahti was first brewed, in the Middle Ages, Calagione told me, Finnish farmers used wooden kettles. The wood couldn’t be set directly on a fire, so the brewers heated up rocks and threw them into the mash, caramelizing the barley and giving it a smoky flavor. Calagione wanted to use the same method, but he wasn’t sure that he had the right material. “I told my maintenance guy to get rocks without a lot of quartz in them,” he said. “Otherwise, when they get hot, they’ll explode in your face.”

With tradition thrown into (or in this case, on top of) the fire, the brewery decided to incorporate their own twist to the style, as they typically do. This time their stamp on the beer was adding a bit of black chai tea at the end of the boil.

The Dogfish crew recorded the process of heating and moving the rocks and the resulting videos are linked below. The first clip shows Bryan Selders explaining the brewing process and the second shows the transportation of the rocks into the wort.

Gotta say that I'm really looking forward to trying this one out when it is released this summer. I've really enjoyed the few Sahti's I've been able to sample in the past and Sam and the Dogfish team always find a way to put their unique mark on traditional beer styles.