Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Finnish Beer Blog Sessio #4: The Wrap-Up

This is the wrap-up post of my assignment for Finnish beer bloggers' Sessio posts - and especially its execution by the colleague bloggers. So, here are the shortened abstracts of my own and other Sessio participants' posts. Without any more gobbledygook, let's get directly to the business.

As you already checked from the link above, the topic was Finnish vs. foreign beer. What got written about that?
Pick the true Finn from this pack...
Arde arvioi, the good ol' machinegunner of Finnish beer blog troops, started his post by wondering which bad things he could tell about Finland and beer - with a reference to an awful Finn-schlager anthem of being Finnish. Saving us all from already-heard floccinaucinihilipilification (i.e. underestimates), he decides to guide us through to the best parts of beer culture in Finland: the beer bar scene and especially the real ale taps in Finland, the rise and the quality of microbreweries in the 2010's, the quality and demand of Finnish barley, the quality and possibilities of Finnish water and the diversity of beer aficianados. No praise for modern, non-traditional sahti or forest berry beers - I bet no one was surprised. Excellent music choices, when we understand that the first one is meant to be there for contrast.

Helppoa Juotavaa, the honest, direct and untouchable beer rater, started his trek of the decade from the beginning of his beer enthusiasm, when almost everything interesting came outside of Finnish borders. In the middle, during years 2012-2014, Finnish breweries started to pop up here and there, but the quality was a big issue. In the present day, there are still quality issues with Finnish breweries but there are good and trusted breweries available. But even today, the traditional European breweries produce the best standard quality beers. In the end, there's some unnecessary praise for sahti, but some pity points don't save Finland from 0-3 loss in this 3-set match.

Loppasuut, the treacherous part-time wine-sippin' couple, took Estonia as the representative of the world in the beer bout between Finland and the world. First, there was the "Humulus Lupus" set: Finnish Hiisi Humulus Lupus Double IPA against Estonian Saku Antvärk Humulus Lupus IPA - ended as a season-depending tie. Then it's time for the biggest difference between beer in Finland and Estonia: the price, which is remarkably lower in Estonia, especially with bulk lagers. There are more microbreweries per capita and more bottle shops in Estonia than in Finland, so for now the game seems to be turned at Estonia's direction. But the match continues.  
Olutkoira, the all-smellin' story-catchin' beer hound, seems frustrated about the lack of knowledge about Finnish beer. There's not so much documented history on Finnish beer brewing in the 1800's. The quality of beers made by Finnish microbreweries seems not to be the thing blocking them from international success of Danish Mikkeller and Swedish Omnipollo - it's rather a question of marketing and image planning. There's not too much analytic writing about Finnish brewing scene and its trends compared to international journalism and blogs, even though there's a lot of people writing and reviewing beers and breweries. Possibly the difference can be explained with the fact that there are only a few people making a living out of writing about beer. Personally, Olutkoira often prefers foreign beers because many of Finnish beers are not of the style he likes to drink - and many of the styles he prefers are well-available classics from foreign breweries. In the end, he thinks that the situation of Finnish beer has gotten a lot better in recent years, thanks to professionals and aficianados in the field.

Tuopillinen, the unprejudiced father of Sessio posts and several other great beery ideas, starts his post with deep thoughts about the definition of "Finnish beer" and the connection of Finnish and nationalism. Buddy, that was your association, not mine. He crushes the idea of sahti as the obvious beer of Finland, because there are similar kind of traditional local brews all over northern Europe and because as a "fresh product" it could never make it internationally. There's no national beer phenomenom - it wasn't born when it could have - and there are no traditional nor modern classic beers made in Finland. There's a similar craft trend going on around the world and the beer styles are similar everywhere. Especially good/bad brewing is not just a Finnish thing, because there are great/shitty breweries (shitteries?) everywhere - the beer importers just work as filters. In the end, the blogger doesn't care where the beer comes from as long as it's good - and that's usually foreign.

Ölmönger, that's me, the disgusting limping yucky taint of beer blog heaven, wrote about the importance of comparing Finnish beer to foreign beer. Why? Because losing the original idea for the post. Really, why? Well, the importance of comparing starts from the longer international tradition in brewing. (Sahti was mentioned.) Especially the Finnish breweries benefit from aiming to the level (= quality = experience = taste) of the world-known great breweries. And basically, there it was.

"On to the next one!" Well, February 2018 is Arde's month. Hopefully the topic has nothing to do with the upcoming Alko artisanal beer period.


The question between national and international is with beer as with any other subject an unnecessary one. Since language is in most cases separating cultures, I picked one great classic instrumental for this one. Peace.

Santana: Samba Pa Ti (YouTube)

From the 1970 album Abraxas, the song was written by Carlos Santana.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sessio #4 (Jan 2018): Finnish vs. foreign beer

This post is a part of Sessio, Finnish beer bloggers' monthly posts on the same topic. The topic is selected by a monthly changing host. This topic was selected by me, Ölmönger, and I will wrap up the Sessio posts on this blog. Since I'm the host, taking part in Sessio was kinda mandatory.

When I selected the topic for this Sessio - which by the way occurred under the disclaimer "If you're ever forced to host Sessio" when Tuopillinen presented the idea of these postings in fall 2017 - ,  I had a brilliant idea of what I was going to write about. Like most of the brilliant ideas - not just mine - that idea didn't get written down. So I lost it somewhere on the way. And now I'm putting together a piece of crap instead of a quality Sessio post. I'm pretty sure that I'll remember the idea after this continuum of bad excuses is finished but will not write this post again.

Instead, I'm writing about how important it is to compare Finnish beer to its foreign competitors. Why? Because it's the first thing that popped into my head after the actual first idea had vanished and because I have no motivation for looking back at the blog and pick some boring statistics about "what are the differences in the number of styles represented in a) Finnish beers and b) foreign beers". In addition, the Finnish beer fanatics often seem to be pretty critical especially towards Finnish beer and at the same time praising towards foreign stuff. So comparison happens - and it's actually good for Finnish beer.
What's the point of this?
First of all, we have to admit that continuous brewing tradition has lived longer elsewhere than in Finland. Yes, we've brewed sahti in Finland for centuries but why should it count. Sahti is a brew for the freakiest of the beer freaks, and it's only one narrow local style in the world of beer. Based on my very narrow experience, one hell of a style when well brewed, though. Yes, Finland had around one hundred small local breweries from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. But prohibition (1919-1932) basically killed that tradition for decades. After that until the 2000's the Finnish beers were mass-produced pale lagers that represent no brewing tradition whatsoever. So, it's fair to say that there's more experience-based brewing skill outside Finland than in Finland, and based on the common knowledge experienced people tend to have better routine for basic things and therefore better base for experiments.   

Brewing is no exception from other human activities in the sense that there has to be development to keep the activity alive. To keep things developing, it's necessary to aim for better results than those already achieved. What could be better goals than those they've already reached for Finnish breweries? Better sales, of course. Better quality and taste, more critical acclaim, more demand, of course. To deserve a similar reputation of the foreign brewery they secretly admire - or at least a Finland-scaled version of the reputation? Hopefully. To be compared to that brewery in a positive way? "This beer reminds me of my visit to Russian River - just a notch or two missing from Pliny the Younger, I think." No, no one in a Finnish brewery would like to hear that kind of stuff. They'd surely be glad to hear praising like "Not that bad. Almost as good as Karjala." Get the difference? Surely not, but we'll continue.

Secondly, the majority of beer is produced outside Finland. "Oh, really?" Yeah, really, and actually Finnish beer's stake of the world's beer is almost nonexistent. Looking only at the locally produced beer and making comparisons inside that category would be like settling to play football inside a less-than-one-square-meter (< 10,67 sq ft) closet and enjoying it. Even though that's the space where any Finnish men's football team could probably somehow manage, we shouldn't settle for that with beer, since there's a much larger space for the game easily available. If you like watching football, a Champions' League game is much more interesting than a local 4th division match, isn't it?

Unlike in football, since there's a chance for it, international competition is better than just national recognition. Comparing Finnish beer not just to other Finnish beer but also foreign beer helps to consumer to see - or rather taste - what's the actual state of Finnish brewing skill at the moment. For the consumer, only the taste means quality. For the breweries, knowing what's going on outside the country borders, is probably necessary: not just for widening the view for mew ideas but getting some spectrum for developing the process and the quality. And as a no-brainer, also the earlier mentioned tradition of brewing certain beer styles in certain places should offer if not the best but still a rather suitable area for comparison.

In the end, drawing strict country borders for experiencing beer is for assholes. If it's not that clever for a Finn to drink just Finnish beer, the same goes with Belgians, Brits, Germans, Czechs and even Americans. It's allowed to prefer certain countries, styles or even individual beers, but having a pint of something completely different helps you know - not just assume - what you really like. On the other hand, categorical principle for automatically considering a beer good or bad because of the country where it was brewed - "American beers are always better than Finnish ones." - is for assholes. But that's a slightly different story.

So, what does the picture in the beginning have to do with the subject - Finnish vs. foreign? Well, the beer in the tasting glass happens to be a collab brew called We'll Always Have Paris by Sori Brewing and Brouwerij Kees. I enjoyed it one day in Sori Taproom, Helsinki. What about the Finnish-foreign thing with it? First, Sori is from Estonia and Kees from the Netherlands, so the beer is a product of international co-operation. That happens pretty often nowadays. Second, the founders of Tallinn-based Sori Brewing are Finnish, and the brewery is considered to be at least "having the other foot" in Finland, which is at least partly shown true by the fact that their taproom is in the capital of our country. The beer was excellent, by the way.


Many nationalities mentioned - check. Unnecessary association to football noticed - check. "And if I catch it coming back my way / I'm gonna serve it to you / And that ain't what you want to hear / But that's what I'll do" - check.

The White Stripes: Seven Nation Army (YouTube)

From the 2003 album Elephant, the song was written by Jack White.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Finnish Beer Blog Sessio #4: The Assignment

I am honoured to have been selected as the host of the fourth Sessio of Finnish beer bloggers. Thanks to the previous host at Helppoa Juotavaa

Shortly the idea of Sessio is that the host gives the bloggers a beer-related general topic and a couple of week's time to write and publish their post. The participating bloggers - the host, too - write their posts from a point of view selected by each blogger and publish them in given time window. When the time is up, the host wraps the Sessio up and links each post to the wrap-up. Understood? Excellent.

Previous Sessio assignments and wrap-ups (in Finnish)

Sessio #1: Keskiolut * Assignment - Wrap-up
Sessio #2: Beer and sports * Assignment - Wrap-up
Sessio #3: Beer and Christmas * Assignment - Wrap-up

This will be a special - hopefully not the last - hosting, since the language of both the assignment and the wrap-up is English. Most of my Finnish colleagues have naturally their blog in Finnish - as an unnatural freak I selected the modern lingua franca as the language of my blog. This difference was the easy path to this Sessio's topic, which is:

Finnish vs. foreign beer

The background? Like probably in most of the civilized countries in the world, the diversity of beer available and beer made in Finland has grown massively during the recent years. The number of active Finnish microbreweries has more than doubled during the last 10 years. At the same time more and more international beers have come available for the beer drinkers, since the restaurants, online shops, grocery stores and even the Alko monopoly have expanded their selection. Also at the same time, people travel abroad and in Finland for beer, beer events and brewery visits.     

New Year's Eve beers that have nothing to do with the topic
As the nature of Sessio goes, I'm just blurting out the topic without giving any directions about the point of view or the content of the post. 

"So, no suggestions at all?"

Well, giving out a few probably doesn't hurt anyone. Here are some points of view to consider or to be left out of consideration:
  • Do you intentionally drink more Finnish or foreign beer? Does the origin of the beer make a difference? How and why?
  • How well have Finnish breweries managed to brew internationally acclaimed styles?
  • Which foreign beers or styles don't meet their match in Finnish beers? Which Finnish beers beat their international competitors with a distance?
  • What has been your best/worst experience with Finnish beer? And with foreign beer?
  • What are your thoughts about Finnish beer in the world of beer?
In the end, I'll give you time to write and publish your posts between 24-27 January 2018. The wrap-up will be published by 31 January 2018.

If you aren't sure about your blog's Sessio post being noticed by me, please contact me about your post through Facebook or Twitter or leave a comment below.


This topic should take the bloggers out of Finland, at least beer-wise. Hopefully, some will even go around the world.

Daft Punk: Around the World (YouTube)

From the 1997 album Homework, the song was written by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.