Pseudomalainen Firhti (recipe)

Finally, my firhti! I’ve been planning this fir beer for ages and it’s fermenting right now. A bit of background on the name: “suomalainen” is Finn for “Finnish”, pronounced “soo-muh-lye-nen”. I’m messing with sahti, one of the mighty god-kings of low-tech, low-equipment, freestyle shackbrew here, and it behooves me to be a little humble about that.

This is probably the most simple recipe I have ever used. No hops at all. Barely a boil. No chiller. Here it is.

Pseudomalainen Firhti (3-4 gal batch)

6 lbs pilsner DME

1 lb rye malt

About a pound of fir tips and twigs (to filter grain, and also to go in the brewpot)

Yeast (various recipes call for anything from bread yeast to champagne yeast. I went with Red Star Champagne)

Steep the rye in a gallon of water for one hour at 170 (the lowest my oven will go). Layer a bed of fir pieces into your strainer, and strain the mash through that. Squish. Sparge with another hot gallon. Squish again. DO NOT CLEAN YOUR STRAINER. LEAVE THAT JUNK IN THERE.

Go get more fir if you need to. Drop the rest of the fir into your brewpot, top off a bit so most of the fir is in the water–within reason, given the size of your pot and the amount of fir you have. Heat it up to 150-170, a nice steamy sub-boil. The wort will turn a pea-soup yellow and smell like Christmas. Keep it about that warm for 10 or 15 minutes.

Get out your strainer with the rye and the fir needles and decant the wort from your brewpot through that grainbed into your fermenter. You’re basically doing an extra sparge with your wort. Squish. Done!

I didn’t chill my wort at all, I just left the carboy on the counter with a plate over the mouth until the next morning, when I pitched the yeast. I see bubbles as of an hour ago: success!

Thoughts: I wanted my first firhti to be pure fir so I could find out how the flavor worked in isolation. It’s nice, but pretty resinous and a bit acrid–future batches of this will contain a few things to round out the flavor. Since this is an experiment in seeing what sahti would taste like if it had grown up in the Pacific Northwest instead of Finland, I’m thinking mint and hops. I have Saaz and Cascade vines in the backyard; I think Saaz would be a better match.

Since this recipe also has no preservatives (such as hops) other than the alcohol, and since it’s not going to be a high-hooch brew, it’s got to be drunk young. I anticipate that a fair bit of it will go sour before I finish drinking it, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that works out.

Look at this junk. LOOK. I’m so proud of it.

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3 thoughts on “Pseudomalainen Firhti (recipe)

  1. spaanem says:

    I wouldn’t be so sure about it going bad on you, the fir likely has compounds that fight infection, of course it may go sour from a lactic acid bacteria, hops don’t stop those guys either 😉

  2. Alan Orsborn says:

    Why not call it Christmas Tree Ale? I would like to try some.

    Since you are discovering what sahti, often flavored with juniper, would taste like if developed around here using our local flora, I wonder if closer to the Suomi taste would be the use of our native junipers instead of fir, Juniperus occidentalis and Juniperus communis, found in high elevations? I also wondered about the taste of our cedars, but they are in the genus Thuja and I think would be toxic to the yeast, if not also to us.

  3. mm says:

    What a mad blog, enjoying it greatly, please write more!!!

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