March 26, 2013
The first signs of spring are in the air. Bud-break is on the branches of the trees, the weather is less possessive of a chilly bite and colorful migratory birds begin to re-populate the backyard feeder on their return North. The beaches are filling up with scantily-clad youngsters on their annual rite of passage to obviate brain cells and power-chug cleaning products. We understand that primitive mating rituals are employed, as well.
I’ll do without Spring Break, thank you. Even though I got into enough trouble in my youth, I never felt compelled to engage in activities that would test the range of my parents’ love. “$200 to bail you out? Well, that shouldn’t be a problem. $5000? We’ll drop you a post card sometime, kid.”
I like colder weather, mostly because it gives me the excuse to bundle up and hide my out-of-shape frame. I also think that dark, rich beer isn’t terribly enjoyable when it’s hot out but is thoroughly amazing in winter. The days are dwindling where we may make full use of a toasty, malty ale and turn, instead, to lighter fare for the seasons.
Today’s beer, and pining for a few groundhogs’ shadows, takes us to frosty Finland. Sure, they have mild summers to the south, but their northern boundaries average 200 days of deep winter a year. These frigid Fennoscandians know a thing or three about crafting beer to ward off the frost. Yes, Fennoscandians… look it up.
European beer consumption, while already the stuff of legend to us in America (take that, Spring Breakers!), was even higher back around the 1500s when a Swedish soldier’s daily dose of beer was two-and-a-half liters; more at holidays. When you drink like “Swedish fish,” you’d better be serious about your beer. Yes, Swedish… the Finns were part of Sweden up to the 19th century. Again, look it up.
Sinebrychoff Brewery was founded around this time by a Russian immigrant. This makes it the oldest-continuously operating brewery in the Nordic region. Their Baltic porter is nothing short of amazing. Black as the 51 continuous days without sun during Finland’s winter, the porter has an active tan head that quickly forms a sticky cap around the top. Scents are very malt-driven with all the typical aromas amplified by ten; prune, dark chocolate, toasted wood, carob and coffee. The flavors follow the scents and charge you like an angry Reindeer with bonus notes of candied orange peel and toffee with minimal hop bitterness. Its rich flavors tend to trick the mind into thinking this is a thick beverage yet it drinks incredibly smooth and finishes long.
The kids can keep the beach… I’ll take a snowy night with a couple of Sinebrychoff any day.