27A. Historical Beer: Sahti

Overall Impression

A sweet, heavy, strong traditional Finnish farmhouse beer usually with rye and juniper, and a banana-clove yeast character.


Yellow to dark brown color; most are medium to dark amber. Generally quite cloudy and turbid. Little head, due to low carbonation.


Sweet, worty malt impression. Grainy malt, caramel, and rye in background. Light alcohol aroma. High banana esters with moderate to moderately-high clove-like phenols. May have a low to moderate woody juniper character. Not sour. No hops.


Fairly sweet and often worty raw malt flavor, grainy with some caramel and toffee. Low bitterness. No hop flavor. Light woody or piney character acceptable. Moderate to strong banana and fruitiness, moderate clove and spiciness. Fairly sweet finish. Fresh, not sour.


Thick, viscous, and heavy with protein (no boil means no hot break). Nearly still to medium-low carbonation, similar to English cask ale. Warming from the alcohol level and young age, but this is often masked by sweetness.


The use of rye doesn’t mean that it should taste like caraway (a common flavor in rye bread). The juniper acts a bit like hops in the balance and flavor, providing a flavor and bitterness counterpoint to the sweet malt. Piney, woody juniper character more common than gin-like berries.


An indigenous traditional style from Finland; a farmhouse tradition for at least 500 years, often brewed for festive occasions like summer weddings, and consumed within a week or two of brewing.

Characteristic Ingredients

Malted barley. Rye is common. Low hops, if any. Juniper boughs (with or without berries) used for lautering (traditionally in a hollowed-out log). Uses Finnish baker’s yeast in a fast, warm fermentation (German Weizen yeast is a reasonable substitute). Long step mash regime. Wort is not boiled.

Style Comparison

Passing resemblance to Weizenbocks, but sweet and thick with a rye and juniper character.

Vital Statistics


0 - 15


4 - 22


1.076 - 1.120


1.016 - 1.038


7% - 11%

Commercial Examples

Now made year-round by several breweries in Finland.