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Recreating a Viking Beer
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    My son has requested that I brew up some Viking beer. My first thought was Finnish Sahti, since it is reputed to be the oldest continuously brewed beer on earth. After a little research I don’t believe that Sahti is the one to brew. Sahti is a very crude, un-boiled beer… more of a bronze age hold-out. As an un-boiled beer the shelf life is very short… not something a guy would want to take on a voyage in an open ship. Apparently, “Beor” was the everyday drink of the Norse, and mead was saved for special occasions. The Norse travelled a great deal (there are runes carved into marble statuary in Athens Greece, kind of a “Kilroy was here” graffiti) and had contact and trade with the Scots and Irish for centuries prior to the Viking expansion period. The Scots in particular had a lot of brewing influence all over Europe (Belgian beer owes its existence to Scottish influence) so I would have a difficult time believing that the concept of boiling the wort to improve shelf life would not have been adopted fairly early on. I also am skeptical about the use of the Pilsner Malt that modern Sahti is brewed with… I would think that a spring barley more like Golden Promise would be more in character. I will use Pale Malt with a bit of Munich to replicate a higher kilning. This would be a great place to use home made “Amber Malt”, but I’m not feeling that ambitious…
    Gotlandsdrinka has much more potential to be closer to the “Beor” of old than Sahti in my opinion.
    My recollection of history has the Vikings rotating barley and rye crops on an annual basis. I would therefore assume that rye would be used.
    I read recently that hops were not introduced to Scandinavia until the 14th century…. I call BS on that. I remember an article in an Archeology magazine years ago that documented hops growing in Norway in the 5th century. Also, it was warmer there during the expansion period than it is now… Scandinavia was hit harder by the “Little Ice Age” than anywhere else in Europe, and the climate never recovered. Why would anybody grow hops if not to use in beer?
    Gotlandsdrinka today is characterized by smoking the malt over birch (with the bark left on). This may be a local thing? Birch is a much better fuel than juniper for obtaining even heat (Sahti is made by smoking the malt over juniper) , but brewers went to great lengths to limit the amount of smoke flavor in beer in the old days, so I would assume that the smoke character, though present, would be less than that in the present day Gotlandsdrinka. Juniper would be present in “Beor” however. The use of Juniper is almost universal in Scandinavian “folk beverages”. Honey would also be present. I have included 3-ounces of peat smoked malt in my recipe. Peat was the most used fuel in that part of the world, and the water would have certainly had peat tannins in it (bogs are freaking everywhere in Scandinavia). This will also give me a little bit of smoke.
    So pulling together elements from Sahiti, Gotlandsdrinka and my knowledge of the time period, I have formulated the recipe below.


    Evan_B
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    (Original Gravity) O.G. = 1.083
    (Final Gravity) F.G. = 1.021
    (Bitterness) IBU = 13
    (Color) SRM = 19
    (Alcohol) APV = 8.1%
    Calories per 12-oz bottle = 271

    For a 5-gallon batch:
    Pale Malt 11-pounds (Maris Otter or Golden Promise)
    Rye Malt 2-pounds
    Munich Malt 1-pound
    Special B 12-ounces
    Peat smoked Malt 3-ounces
    1-pound honey (added to cooling wort)
    1-ounce Fuggles hops 60-min.
    1-ounce of Juniper berries added to mash.
    Strike water brought to a boil with juniper branches and allowed to cool. (remove branches prior to mash) Juniper branches also added to first runnings and allowed to steep until the boil. (First Wort “Junipering”??)
    Single infusion Mash at 155 for 60 minutes. Batch Sparge twice.
    60-minute boil.
    I have chosen S-33 yeast. If I was doing a bronze age beer I would use bread yeast, but I wanted a yeast that would have some esters, and handle the higher gravity without any problem. My first thought was to just throw some Notty or S-04 at it… but both are pretty evolved yeasts.
    I should probably attempt to get a little bit of wintergreen flavor in there also. (from the birch bark) I will check around to see if I can get some birch bark extract. Randy Mosher says that a wintergreen lifesaver added late in the boil replicates birch bark pretty dang well, so as a last resort…….
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 45,770
    sounds cool, does this beer have a launch date or is it just a sometime in the future kind of thing?
    "Oh, you were serious? I was drunk."-C_B
  • scoobscoob
    Posts: 16,617
    I have my horn ready whenever this beer is.
    Jesus didn't wear pants
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860

    sounds cool, does this beer have a launch date or is it just a sometime in the future kind of thing?



    I'm actually thinking of brewing this next... I will chill "old school" with a snow/ice water bath...
    need to get the ingredients ordered....
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    azscoob said:

    I have my horn ready whenever this beer is.



    Hah!
    I will send you some... you seem to be much better at tasting notes than the rest of us.....
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • scoobscoob
    Posts: 16,617
    ceannt said:

    azscoob said:

    I have my horn ready whenever this beer is.



    Hah!
    I will send you some... you seem to be much better at tasting notes than the rest of us.....

    Trouble is it has to be the first beer, after that my senses go on break!


    Jesus didn't wear pants
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    azscoob said:

    ceannt said:

    azscoob said:

    I have my horn ready whenever this beer is.



    Hah!
    I will send you some... you seem to be much better at tasting notes than the rest of us.....

    Trouble is it has to be the first beer, after that my senses go on break!




    so..... make sure you drink it first!
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    gotta be out of the horn too......
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • FuzzyFuzzy
    Posts: 45,770
    ceannt said:

    gotta be out of the horn too......



    now don't be surprised if he lists toenail as one of the flavors.
    "Oh, you were serious? I was drunk."-C_B
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,410
    ceannt said:

    azscoob said:

    I have my horn ready whenever this beer is.



    Hah!
    I will send you some... you seem to be much better at tasting notes than the rest of us.....

    No kidding. AZ is the boss
  • scoobscoob
    Posts: 16,617

    ceannt said:

    gotta be out of the horn too......



    now don't be surprised if he lists toenail as one of the flavors.

    Ha!!
    Jesus didn't wear pants
  • JerryJerry
    Posts: 71,313
    Now that sounds like a good beer, if you want some suggestions to make it more authentic: (my knowledge is limited, and a lot of this is going off what you've said)
    Malting would have been crude to today's standard. There would be lots of un malted grain, and lot of over modified too. This would add some "green" flavor that you're lacking. Also this would mean a less than ideal mash.
    Sparging was likely quite different, to reflect the milling process. Possibly the whole mess was heated to a boil and fermented.
    Your ABV% is insane. That's craft beer ABV, not safe drinking water ABV. If it was made that strong it would have been intended to be greatly diluted with questionable water when it came time for drinking.
    Why the honey? Save that for your fancy time mead.
    Why the hops? Sure they could have been there, but it's questionable if they ever ended up in booze. They were often grown for medicinal use, are you trying to make an medicinal drink of the time or a "beor".

    So if you want do do this right take you're grain bill as stated (but without the crystal). Malt 2lbs of barley and let to go a little too far, then add 2lbs of unmalted. Mix these together and let it soak in water for a few hours. Then dry it out over birch (without over heating it so the enzymes don't get denatured). Grind this up on a stone flower mill to a very coarse flour. Add this to your water with your juniper. Heat slowly over an open flame. Heat very slowly so as to be sure it mashes with out ever taking a temp reading. Once it comes to a light boil take off heat. Once it cools to body temp stir with a nasty old wood spoon. Cover with a rag. Once fermentation seems to be done store in earthenware jugs. To consume mix 1 part beer to 10 parts clear swamp water.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    Believe it or not malting was pretty sophisticated by this time period. There is virtually no difference in malting practices from the 900s up until the industrial revolution… there would be a good bit of undermodified malt…and kilning would not be near as even as it is now.(If I wasn’t concerned about stuck sparges… I would include a good bit of flaked barley.) This is the time period that the decoction mashes of Germany evolved. The wort would have been as clear as any I have ever come up with….. that’s where the juniper comes in… they used it to filter the wort. They used a long flume with several slats… juniper branches were placed on the slats to filter out the grain hulls. (false bottoms and ball valves, who needs ‘em). The wort had to filter through several of these filters before it hit the kettle. The misconception that the Vikings were a bunch of crude barbarians is entirely false… they had a very sophisticated culture and actually had better technology in many aspects than in most of Europe at time. People tend to forget that they founded the City of Kiev as a trading outpost… and had trade established with the Middle east and China long before that Marco Polo dude, and retained skills at metallurgy that southern Europe lost a thousand years earlier due to the Romans. (the Romans made swords out of old horseshoes, and were astonished by the quality of the steel used by the Celts and Germanics, and not liking being showed up, then went out of their way to destroy the technology and the cultures that produced it)
    Milling would be not that different than that of todays. It would be more un-even, but the days of grinding the malt to flour before brewing went out with the bronze age with the exception of a few isolated places like Siberia (Kvass)
    Honey is probably the one thing that is absolutely authentic. Northern European beers all had honey in them…. Pictish Heather Ale, Welsh Bragwydd…. The term “Braggott” comes from the root word for “grain”… (Brach in old Irish means “sprouted” grain) honey isn’t even part of the term because it was assumed that there would be honey. Welsh Ale had a huge amount honey in it until around 1800.I probably don’t have enough honey in my recipe…
    My gravity might actually be on the low side… they were not making “safe drinking water” they were making “liquid bread”. Beer was an important part of nutrition, and an easily transported non-perishable part of their diet, especially on long sea voyages. The more alcohol… the longer the shelf life. This is around the time period that the Belgian monks (with help from the Scots) started making what became “Dubble”… (and it was far stronger then than the modern versions). Northern beers were much, much stronger than the beers farther south (“stronger far than wine”). Modern Sahti in Finland (the home made stuff) averages out to a starting gravity of 1.080, and that is without honey. Modern Gotlandsdrinka is about 1.075, and that is for “everyday” drinking… not the “strong” version. Most historical accounts that mention the beer the Vikings drank do so in reference to how strong it was… almost in amazement that anyone could drink something that strong and be able to walk afterwards.
    A Viking ship from the 800s was unearthed several years ago, and was found to contain several birch-wood barrels, lined with pitch, that apparently contained beer. (It’s a dang shame that the molecular biologists weren’t around then to do spectral analysis of the contents to determine what was in that beer…) So “Earthenware jugs”…. Nope.
    Medicine was most often induced as part of an alcoholic beverage… Meglithin… spiced Mead… is the word that medicine came from… Hops grew all over Scandinavia before the little ice age, and again, why grow hops if not for beer??? The hops I am going to use are Fuggles that have been sitting in my fridge for almost 4 years… so I doubt I will get much out of them in any case, and I am including them more for the preservative qualities than anything (probably the main reason they would have been included in the old days) The old Estonian folk beer Kodolu, another beer that reeks of juniper, has an IBU of up to 60… is made by boiling hops in water, and adding the resultant “tea” to the wort (not boiled). It has an O.G. between 1.080 and 1.020, and I would bet money that this beer is based on Norse influence.
    Sanitation would have been just about on Par with that described in “The London and Country Brewer” from the early 1700s… minimal, but with an attempt to avoid wretchedly contaminated beer… What you describe would be perfect for a bronze age beer, but things were a little more refined by the time period in question… and the use of boiling water to clean brewing equipment pre-dates what I am shooting for by centuries.
    The Special B looks weird in my grain bill, but is there for a reason. They didn’t have crystal malts but…. The arcane step mashes used would create a lot of unfermentables…. Starting with a very thick mash… boiling water would be added to the grain a little at a time, and the mash allowed to cool in between steps. This would create a strange mash with conversion taking place at different times over a day’s time. Also, the malt was often kilned twice… the second time after hitting it with boiling water and allowing to cool, to keep it from burning…. And this would probably convert some of the malt into a crystal like form. In modern Sahti, this second kilning still takes place (much later), and is over juniper wood, with Gotslandrinka this is over birch (and lasts up to six days). Apparently another kilning was done to malt that had been stored for a while (again after hitting with boiling water), and is important to Sahti to sanitize the grain (no boil). Randy Mosher’s Sahti recipe calls for Special B, and he is about as good with historical recipes as it gets.

    ThymEvan_B
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • JerryJerry
    Posts: 71,313
    well it sounds like you know how to make it right, so why are you modifying it for a plastic mash tun?
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    Because I'm lazy .......
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • JerryJerry
    Posts: 71,313
    ceannt said:

    Because I'm lazy .......



    Well so am I, but it amuses me more when you're less lazy.
    On the Spec. B, I was only suggesting as the other process have the same effect. Though it would seem fitting to add a little of a lot of crystals rather than just spec. B. Do you need some birch wood for smoking? Or unmalted barley? Rolled is all wrong. I can send you what fits in a small flat rate box.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    It amuses me to be more lazy than you!
    I think I have everything I need .... but I will keep your offer in mind as this gets closer .... thanks
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • jlwjlw
    Posts: 16,410
    I'm so lazy I won't read any of that.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    Got this brewed yesterday. Recipe is as in the one above except I added a pound of unmalted barley that I smoked over birch for a bit
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    Juniper branches steeping in first runnings
    20130127_125508.jpg
    2560 x 1920 - 1M
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ceanntceannt
    Posts: 46,860
    Wort almost tasted like I had FWH with Chinook ......
    In wine there is wisdom.
    In beer there is freedom.
    In water there is bacteria.
  • ThymThym
    Posts: 100,069
    Really interested in how this turns out.
    The only thing between me and a train wreck is blind luck..... - Kenny
  • Evan_BEvan_B
    Posts: 312
    Lakewood said:

    Really interested in how this turns out.




    Same here! When the snow melts in the mountains I am going clip some juniper, and want to try a Gotlandsdrika!
    Amigo, lay them raises down.
  • Lakewood said:

    Really interested in how this turns out.



    Me too!
  • 60minuteSamC60minuteSamC
    Posts: 6
    me three! i wish i would have thought of this.

    frydogbrews