Nose: Malty, hints of hops, pine, juniper, grapefruit. Fleeting though. Almost non-existant when the head dissapates
Mouth: Heavy but not creamy. The pine, juniper and citrus comes through strong though. Almost no after tastes. What’s there is hoppy
When I saw this brew on the beer list at Good Dog, I didn’t know what it was. “Sahti”? WTF is that? Sounds Middle Eastern? The bartender told me no, emphatically and then said it was viking beer!
Wait, Vikings made beer?
Yep. They did. It’s a 500 year old deal and they’ve found casks of it at the bottom of the ocean on sunken viking ships. It’s apparently been a household thing and recipes are as numerous as the number of viking families. They mostly use oats, rye and barley with juniper berries and juniper branches for flavoring agents. There are a number of local ingredients that can be used so it varies widely from there.
What you end with though is a brew that is spicy and bitter from the rye and juniper but has an underlying, hearty, sweet malt to it. This Norse Legend also has a citrus profile to it due to the hops that Sam Adams uses in this. It’s very smooth, not very biting and finishes clean with barely any after taste. It’s robust though and having more than one makes for a fairly bloated experience!
Sam Adams says that they had trouble developing this brew because it was so finicky and hard to find a good balance. Given the brewing methodology and number of ingredients, I can totally see that. This could easily be ruined by even the slightest variation. I can only imagine how hit or miss it was for most families making this brew. Given that, this ends up as a very palatable brew. It’s different and the juniper presence can be off-putting for those used to more traditional brews. The historical value though makes this a must try, even if it’s only once. I was disappointed in this at first because it kinda leaves you wanting more. Then I read up on this style and found out that that is how this is supposed to be. So given that I have no other reference for this, I’m going to give it a 7 out of 10. It scores high for creativity, being different and having a historical value. As a beer though, it’s weird so I can’t put it on the level of other complex brews.
That said, this is more than just a beer. It’s an interpretation of a cultural experience that one should have for the experience alone. I had this on tap but I know you can get it in 22 oz. bottles as well. So pick it up, get some culture, it’s worth a try.