Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beer! Dogfish Head's Sah'Tea

I've got to admit that there's a number of things that I'm a sucker for.  One of those things is something based upon something else that is super old, super rare, or super unusual.  It seems kind of fitting then, that one of the things I'm a sucker for is beer based on an ancient recipe.  Dogfish Head, then is an enabler.  Their Ancient Ales program is one of the best beer ideas that I've ever heard of.  I've had a few brews from the series, but this is the first I've reviewed on the blog.  I will review the others when I get them again.

Sah'Tea is a beer based on an old Finnish recipe and involves chai and juniper berries.  As per the usual, here's a little flavor text for your enjoyment.
"Our Sah'tea is based on the traditional 9th-Century Finnish recipe for sahti in that we brew it with re and juniper and heat the wort with wood-fired rocks.  We break with tradition by adding an exotic Black Chai Tea at the end of the boil.

I highly recommend that you hop over to Dogfish Head's official page for Sah'Tea and watch the series of videos posted where they show just what goes into the making of the brew.  It's pretty apparent by the videos that brewing Sah'Tea is a labor of love and it's very clear why this is a limited availability beer.

First pour reveals a strong, spicy aroma and absolutely no head.  The color is rich and golden.  It ranks somewhere between a 10 and 13 on the SRM scale, just above a Bass Pale Ale.  Sah'Tea is 9% ABV, light for a Dogfish brew, but still pretty hefty compared to your run of the mill daily drinking beer.  It is a scant 6 IBU, so there's no need to worry about bitterness getting in the way of your beer enjoyment.

I was rather surprised by how spicy this beer is.  First sip reveals all of those delicious spice blends that come from the chai, which is added post boil, to maximize flavor impact.  The juniper flavor doesn't really come in until the beer hits the back of your tongue.  The juniper is subtle, which is nice.  The other beverage famous for juniper is gin, which is quite a punch in the face of juniper's evergreen flavor.  The Sah'tea just kind of hints at the flavor and plays nicely with the slight smokiness that is picked up from the wood fired stones which are used to boil the beer.

To be honest, I was a bit put off by the idea of combining a traditionally Indian beverage of chai with the very Scandinavian beer making method and juniper flavor.  However, as odd of a combination as it is, it somehow works.  The flavors of this beer come out at the right time, with the right intensity, and the right proportions.  I highly recommend Sah'Tea, as I do many of the beers from Dogfish Head.  Sam, Bryan, and the rest of their crew do an excellent job at creating beers that are both unique, as well as drinkable.

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