When you see the Finnish word “Hiprakka” as the name of a new beer, you’d better believe that brew will be good fun. One of Finland’s many amazingly cool words, hiprakka means that state where one has a light buzz and socializing is made easier, but not to the point where one begins to get dizzy, slur heavily, vomit and pass out.¹ The collaboration brew between Little Fish Brewing Company and homebrewer Jessica Ihms was that and more.
Little Fish Brewing honors homebrewers
Little Fish Brewing Company of Athens, OH, has made a tradition out of selecting a beer from the best-of-show round at Ohio Brew Week’s Homebrew Competition for their Brewer’s Choice Award. They then brew the beer in collaboration with the recipe creator.
Last July, when the head brewers from Athens, Ohio’s three commercial breweries met to judge the 2017 Homebrew Competition’s best-of-show round, Little Fish proprietor and head brewer Sean White was also tasting the beers with his own project in mind. As the three judges completed the sampling, Brad Clark from Jackie O’s and Cameron Fuller from Devil’s Kettle looked at Sean and said, “You’re doing the sahti, right?” And they were correct.
The other brewers in town know him well. While he certainly can brew a wicked good IPA or Pilsner, Sean White has developed a reputation for his interest in beer styles, techniques, and ingredients that are much less common.
On selecting the sahti from the best-of-show table, however, White said to be honest he wasn’t expecting to like a sahti.
“I’d only had one commercial example that I can think of, and it wasn’t so great.” But after tasting this sahti, he was really drawn to it.
“It was very enjoyable to drink, very intriguing.”
And its brewing requirements were right in White’s wheelhouse.
“We’re very interested in farmhouse beers. We like foraged ingredients.”
Homebrewer Ihms interested in unusual styles
The sahti White selected was brewed by Jessica Ihms of Rocky River, OH. Ihms, who has been homebrewing for a bit over three and a half years now, says the inspiration for her winning recipe came from a trip to Europe.
“A couple of years ago I went to Finland and I tried this beer called sahti,” she said. She liked it, and she especially liked the story behind it.
She explains that the recipe for this rustic farmhouse beer has a history going back hundreds of years. Traditionally made from barley and rye, Sahti is an unhopped ale that uses juniper branches and juniper berries as its primary flavoring agent. Ihms adds that, historically speaking, Sahti was brewed by women.
“Women were the keepers of the brewing recipes,” she said. “The oldest woman in the household was the brewer of the sahti. It’s great that Little Fish is continuing that tradition of having a Sahti brewed by a woman.”
Ihms’s interest in less-common beer styles meshes well with Little Fish’s M.O.
“I love kind of unusual beer,” she said. “I like historical styles, ones from a narrow cultural niche, like sahti. I like to introduce beers like that to a wider audience.”
This was Ihms’ second year entering the OBW homebrew competition. Her local homebrew club is S.N.O.B.S. (Society of Northeast Ohio Brewers).
Hiprakka Sahti has a cloudy straw color with aromas of juniper and a banana-clove spiciness created by fermentation with a Hefeweizen yeast. Its medium body and mild malty-evergreen flavor are enhanced by a bit of perceived sweetness. Even at its 7.6% ABV, the beer is easy drinking.
White attempted to stay as true as possible to Ihms’s original recipe when scaling up the homebrew portions to his 10-barrel brewing system. Not knowing exactly how much juniper would be needed to obtain a nice evergreen flavor, they had to make some guesstimates. Ihms and White decided to throw juniper into the boil kettle and also put juniper in the fermentation tank after the completion of primary fermentation. Ihms said this method really brought out that juniper character they wanted. The juniper branches they used were fresh cut from a tree just down the road from the brewery. Their malt was sourced from Haus Malts of Cleveland.
With a ten-barrel batch now on sale at the brewery taproom, this Sahti should be around for at least a few weeks. You won’t regret trying this historical brew, Buying a glass of Hiprakka also honors the region’s strong homebrewing culture. Cheers to Jessica Ihms and Little Fish Brewing.
Little Fish Brewing’s first replicated OBW homebrew competition beer was the malty amber lager Karmen Fest, which has become a semi-regular beer at their taproom.
Link to Little Fish Brewing’s video covering the Hiprakka brew day.
¹ definition from Redfoxsanakirja.fi