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Oakes Weekly -- September 9, 2004

Finland - part 1
Oakes Weekly September 9, 2004      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

As Aland is only nominally part of Finland, my real Finnish adventure began in Turku. I had decided to take most of the day as a rest day on the island of Jurmo. There might be 100 people on the island and the main attraction there are the cows (Highland, to be precise), so it is a pretty easy place to relax in. They even had a new macrobrew for me.

After an extra half-day in Jurmo, I headed for Turku. This is where the day of rest caught up with me, as I only started my crawl at 8pm. I hit up Herman, a place that I’d somehow missed on my last Turku visit six years ago. Herman makes functional German-style brews, the best of which on this day was the Marzen.

Then I headed for the spacious Koulu. The name means ’school’ and indeed the brewery is in an old school building. The back patio comprises the entire schoolyard, so space is not an issue. The beers, however, were generally uninteresting.

So off I went to a place I did manage to find on my last Turku visit, the Old Bank. Again, the name is the setting. I found an Ayinger Kellerbier I hadn’t previously known existed. Next up was a very strong Belgian I’d never heard of. The beer was Boerinneken, and the brewery of record was Den Ouden Advokaat (the Old Lawyer). It is actually from contract-brewer extraordinaire Proefbrouwerij. Then I headed to Mallaskukko, which my limited Finnish tells me means Malt Rooster. An average beer bar, but far more interesting if you go there before Old Bank, not after.

The next day, it was bright and sunny in Turku, but I left Turku for Diplomat’s farm and torrential rain. Through the back of nowhere we plied overgrown dirt tracks to the Finlandi Sahti brewery. First, it is not affiliated with the vodka company - it is indeed a small scale operation. They make Sahti and Strong Sahti, in 400L batches. They use hops that grow on the side of the brewery building. These are dried out back in the sun for use throughout the year. Wild juniper grows throughout the area and this is employed in the following manner: for each 400L batch, 2 or 3 branches of juniper are boiled in 2L of water, which is added to the brew. Fermentation is done with baker’s yeast and bottling is done by hand.

The next stop was Kuninkaankartanon Panimo (panimo = brewery). This is the mother of many Finnish micros as it is the brewing school, located at the agricultural college. They have been around for almost a decade. They are taxpayer funded (note the high-priced Finnish brewing equipment), but while the Finnish taxpayer subsidizes them, none of the Finnish Ratebeerians had even had it. The best beer was Renki, a pilsner; and after that Tallimestari ("stable master"), an amber ale. All the brews were okay, but none I would class as outstanding. They occasionally bottle, as part of the brewing course, and these can be found in but two shops in nearby Forssa. I grabbed one for the benefit of the Finnish Ratebeerians.

Then we grabbed some sweet (not quite finished) homemade sahti from Diplomat’s cousin and went back to the farm for some gorging. His wife, Tiina, prepared a feast on the barbeque. We had grilled cucumbers, bacon-wrapped mushrooms stuffed with cream cheese, chicken skewers and succulent beef from a farm just down the road.

Beerwise Atte (Diplomat) broke out some Boon Mariage Parfait Geuze (oh, poor me), Het Kappitel Pater, 2-year-old Westmalle Dubbel, and aged Westvleteren 12 and Rochefort 10. About that - he tracks the aging of Trappist ales. He has time charts, tasting notes from a team of tasters, and has conducted numerous verticals. His contention is that Rochefort 10 doesn’t age very well. On it’s own, I have in the past year or two found it too alcoholic, and taken to the 8 instead. On this night, you could see that the Rochefort 10 was okay, but okay isn’t what you age Trappist ales for. The difference between Rochefort 10 and Westvleteren 12 was like night and day. The latter was on this night infinitely superior.

As a special treat, he opened what turned out to be the beer of the evening - Westvleteren red cap. This is the dark predecessor to the Blonde. I really don’t see why both of them cannot co-exist. I have no pull with the Trappist monks, so I implore you all to write a petition to Pope John Paul II to have a word with them. Bring back the red cap and keep the green as well. Let the beer lovers of the world rejoice.

Next week - Tampere, Jyväskylä, and Savonlinna - my Finnish adventure continues.



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start quote They are taxpayer funded (note the high-priced Finnish brewing equipment), but while the Finnish taxpayer subsidizes them, none of the Finnish Ratebeerians had even had it. end quote