Monday, October 30, 2017

Skitbit Oct 2017: Sonnisaari APA

Brewery: Sonnisaari (in Finnish)
Country: Finland
Style: American Pale Ale
Abv: 4,5 %
What about the beer?
Colour is hazy golden orange with a large natural white head. Aroma has grapefruit, lemon and mild pineapple. Taste begins with bitter grapefruit bite. Rough grapefruit and spicy pine take over with herbal side tones. Towards the end really bitter pine and strong herbal flavours take over. Aftertaste has heavily bitter pine and somewhat harsh dry herbs.

Roughly bitter and piny American Pale Ale. The good thing is that despite the low abv there's character in the brew. Tha bad side is that the character is really rough, harsh and possibly a bit earthy. Not so impressed but not very disappointed either. If Sonnisaari makes a miss, I'm glad that it's with this style.


Since Sonnisaari has, despite it's rather short existence, become one of my trusted Finnish breweries, one miss won't spoil our relationship. On the other hand, the song I picked is one "half a hit" after a long line of bad misses from this band. The only thing wrong is that it kinda pays respect to another Finnish band Yö which has always sucked big time. 

Popeda: Helvetin Pitkä Perjantai (YouTube)

From the 2017 album Haista Popeda!, the song was written by Jimi and Costello Hautamäki. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sessio #1 (Oct 2017): Finnish keskiolut

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 Tuopillinen, who will wrap up the Sessio posts in his blog. I will take part in Sessio whenever the subject feels nice and I have time to write a post.

"In Finland we have this thing called reilu meininki." According to modern legend, the popular phrase was first used in the 1981 Finnish rock documentary Saimaa-ilmiö by the band members of Eppu Normaali, possibly the most popular representative of Suomi-rock substyle. Roughly translated 'reilu meininki' means actions/atmosphere of fairness, depending on the context. The phrase, however, is commonly used as sarcasm: there's very little or nothing fair in the situation that is described with the phrase, e.g. when the rich seem to get richer and the poor poorer, when people in need of help aren't helped but instead kicked in the ass or when a friendly and polite person gets beaten in the line for night snack instead of the bullies fighting with each other. That probably fits some Finns' idea of reilu meininki, but hopefully not the majority's.


Finnish keskiolut - also known as keskari, keppana, kepardi, keikyä etc. - is officially translated 'beer having the alcoholic content between 2,8 % – 4,7 % of its volume'. That's the definition from Finnish beer tax legislation since 1988. Usually keskiolut is considered to be, according to the legislation changes coming into effect in 1988, the beer of the 3rd tax class (III-olut, kolmosolut) that had the abv of at least 3,7 % and at most 4,7 %. In Finland beers with the alcoholic content between 2,8 % - 3,7 %, almost like the Swedish mellanöl, haven't been brewed too much because of low sales. 

Since 1969 it's been allowed to sell keskiolut in grocery stores - until then selling beer above 2,8 % abv was strictly limited to Finnish alcohol monopoly Alko and restaurants with appropriate selling right for alcohol. After that, due to its relatively cheap price, keskiolut pretty quickly became the most sold alcoholic beverage in Finland and has been ever since. Since in the 2000's there's variety in the beer styles with the abv at most at 4,7 %, the style of keskiolut can be limited to pale lager. And since even some microbreweries brew mild pale lagers which aren't so cheap, keskiolut can be strictly limited to 'cheap bulk pale lager with the abv of 4,0 %  - 4,7 %'. This last one, of course, is completely my own poor definition and can easily be questioned by people, who don't have anything meaningful to do with their lives and who often find themselves in the middle of a pointless Internet argument with no winners.
Finns' favourite beer?
What does a proper keskiolut taste like? Let's look at the short expert definitions of the keskiolut brands at Alko product pages:
  • Pale yellow, light, mildly hopped, grainy notes (Olvi III)
  • Yellowy brown, tawny, medium full bodied, medium hopped, light malty notes, fruity (Karhu III)
  • Yellow, light, mildly hopped, grainy notes, biscuity, fresh, refreshing (Lapin Kulta Premium III)
  • Yellow, medium full bodied, mildly hopped, light malty notes, fruity, fresh, refreshing (Koff III
Well, what can I say? My notes of "metallic cardboardy malty, dank bitter, near-watery clean, simply forgettable" don't quite match the expert definitions, do they? But that's just me. The majority of beer-drinking Finns isn't on my side. Haven't seen the latest sales statistics, but I strongly presume that at least five most sold beer brands in Finland are traditional keskiolut brands.

I belong to the minority of Finnish beer drinkers, to the group of elitists, snobs, dilettantes, aficianados, hipsters or whatever word you want to use, who aim to get different and even challenging experiences coming from the beer's taste. Not the amount of pints drunk nor the level of the drinker's toxicity, which are the most common measures of beer when discussing the concept of traditional Finnish beer culture. Also, difference, challenge and experience are not the right words to describe reasons to drink bulk pale lagers - easy, simple, cheap and shitfaced are. And because I drink my beers from a glass, because I like differences in the way the beer looks, smells and tastes and because my life is too short for drinking bad beer intentionally, there will never be any keppana reviews in this blog.


So, what does the phrase "In Finland we have this thing called reilu meininki" have to do with Finnish keskiolut?

In the aspect of alcohol politics, we are living in interesting times in Finland right now. Since 1969 and bringing keskiolut to grocery stores, it's soon the first time in Finnish history when the parliament votes about raising the abv level of brewery products sold in grocery stores to 5,5 %. And it will be a tough vote. There are other changes coming up in the alcohol law if the goverment's motion will pass, but to raise or not to raise the maximum abv of alcohol products sold in grocery stores from 4,7 % to 5,5 % is clearly the toughest question.

Finnish concept of reilu meininki steps into the picture, when we look at the arguments presented against changing the alcohol law in the discussion. For 48 years Finnish politicians have watched and allowed Finns to turn keppana their favourite alcoholic beverage, raise the total consumption of alcohol with keskari and face the social and health problems that over-consumption of easily drinkable and cheap keikyä causes. Now some politicians are seriously claiming that raising the abv level of alcoholic beverages available in grocery stores with 0,8 percentage points will increase alcohol-related health problems and deaths in the country magnificently. That the nation will change its almost for half a century legislatively guided taste for beer in an instant and the kepardi drinkers will turn to "nelosolut" (= 5,0-5,5 % abv pale lager) drinkers overnight. That the people who've drinked cheap pale lager all their lives will start to buy somewhat more expensive German-style wheat beers instead.

And of course the politicians are correct. People should be protected from free choice between cheap bulk pale lagers and expensive craft beers, since it clearly makes thing worse if people would start to choose one expensive 5,5 % craft beer rather than four cheap 4,7 % lagers. There seriously would be some real problems in the future. Like people thinking for themselves and taking responsibility of their own actions. Probably they would take responsibility of people around them and start to show Finnish reilu meininki  actual meaning. Sounds painful and 'orrible, doesn't it?


Keskiolut has an iconic status in the Finnish beer scene, so we'll have to select a Finnish iconic pop song to match it. Since Eppu Normaali has already been mentioned in the text, we'll take the band's most popular track. Initially the song was meant to be parody of the melancholic themes of Finnish popular music. However, even though only viina (booze) is the only beverage mentioned in the song, I would argue that keskiolut has its part in "työttömyys, viina, kirves ja perhe / lumihanki, poliisi ja viimeinen erhe" (unemployment, booze, axe and family / snowdrift, police and the last mistake) of the main character's destiny.

Eppu Normaali: Murheellisten laulujen maa (YouTube)

From the 1982 album Tie vie, the song was written by Martti Syrjä and Mikko Syrjä.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ölbeat 313: Founders Frootwood

Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
Country: United States
Style: Fruit Beer
Abv: 8 %
What about the beer?
Colour is light red with a small white head. Aroma has sweet bourbon, vanilla and berry juice. Taste begins with sweet vanilla-spiced cherries. Bourbon-soaked cherries and vanilla caramel malts take over. Towards the end slightly sour, sweet syrupy cherries get the upper hand of the bourbon. Aftertaste has sweet cherry juice and mildly bitter boozy kick.

Sweet, nicely barrel-aged cherry beer. Expected just cherry juice, got gently boozy and softly spicy cherry-flavoured brew. Fruity and strong. Very nice.


Someone can see the connection between bourbon whiskey and Tennessee, but the fact is that the song just started to play as an earworm while sipping the beer. So there were no options.

Arrested Development: Tennessee (YouTube)

From the 1992 album 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of..., the song was written by Thomas Todd and Aerle Taree. (The word "Tennessee" was sampled from Prince's Alphabet Street, 1988, and the unauthorized use cost the samplers 100.000 $.)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ölbeat 312: Cool Head Copacabana

Brewery: Cool Head Brew
Country: Finland
Style: Specialty Grain
Abv: 7 %
What about the beer?
Colour is hazy dark orange with a large natural white head. Aroma has lemon, grapefruit, resin and pine. Taste starts with piny bitter grapefruit. Sharp pine and bitter grapefruit take over with slightly sweet malty flavour in the background. Towards the end pine beats the citrus, sweet orange sticks out a little. Aftertaste has sharp resiny dryness and citrus bitterness.

Heavily piny and resiny Rye IPA. Some citrus and malts in the flavour, too. Not superfresh, not too exciting, but strong and tasty. In some nice way slaps the drinker in the face with bitterness.


Since one of the brewers is Cleber from Brazil and since the brew offered a fruity face-slapping session, it's self-evident that I chose Brazilian music that slaps - and hits and kicks and bites - in the face. No fruit, tho: it's the Cavalera brothers and the rest of Sepultura!

Sepultura: Arise (YouTube)

From the 1991 album Arise, the song was written by Sepultura.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ölbeat 311: BrewDog Cocoa Psycho

Brewery: BrewDog
Country: Scotland
Style: Imperial Stout
Abv: 10 %
What about the beer?
Colour is black with a two-finger thick brown head. Aroma has dark chocolate, cappuccino and roasted malts. Taste starts with biting bittersweet chocolate. Sweet roasted malts and bitter dark chocolate take over with hints of espresso. Towards the end dark chocolate and slightly sweet coffee rise up with smooth bitterness. Aftertaste has lasting bitter cocoa and strong dry roast.

Strong and absolutely delicious Imperial Stout. Chocolate leads the way, roast and coffee follow. Smooth bitterness grows all the way. It's not punk - it's damn good beer.


Punk sells. Just ask Henry Rollins. Or BrewDog. ;)

Black Flag: Black Coffee (YouTube)

From the 1984 album Slip It In, the song was written by Greg Ginn.