‘The Garden’s Gift’ – my entry for the 2023 Dark & Stormy Story Writing Contest

Recently I entered Stormcloud Brewing Company’s Dark & Stormy Story Writing Contest, and I came in 4th! I was one of four contestants who had the opportunity to read their story out loud at the public reading. I was a stress-mess, but I’m proud I did it! You can read the story below:

The Garden’s Gift

It was a dark and stormy night, but Tabitha barely noticed as she used her tiny fingernails to wiggle and pry the cork from the bottom of her yellow piggy bank. Much to her delight it only took a moment of finessing before it popped out, releasing a waterfall of coins cascading to the floor. The loud crashing of the coins must have made the storm envious, as it immediately responded with a clap of thunder so powerful that it shook the doorframe. Wide-eyed, Tabitha looked in the direction of the hallway beyond her open bedroom door, expecting to hear her mother investigating the situation in the exhausted tone she’d been carrying lately.

After a beat, Tabitha realized she was in the clear and scooped her loot towards her. She guessed that her mother had taken her “adult medicine”, which always made her sleepy. After analyzing the mess, Tabitha determined it still wasn’t enough to take the train to see her father in the city. Unfazed, she hopped up and grabbed the patchwork quilt from her bed and skipped into the living room.

Tabitha carefully constructed a fort that would block out the brilliant flashes of lightning and slightly muffle the raindrops pummeling the cracked stain glass window that peered into the garden. Tottering on an old rocking chair beside a towering oak bookshelf, she reached for her favorite volume of the ancient encyclopedia set that was kept there. Though she could barely read any of the words yet, she loved the detailed illustrations, the tactile effect of rubbing the yellowed pages between her fingers, and the aroma of dust and aged leather. She was only a few pages in before her head gently tilted back on her pillow, arms relaxing, releasing the book to the floor.

Tabitha was accustomed to waking up to the click of the gas stove and the grinding of coffee beans, but today it was the chatter of birds out in the garden. Rarely up before her mother, she thought it would be a good day to surprise her. With bright yellow rain boots and her flannel pajamas, Tabitha stepped out into the garden. She gathered up handfuls of blossoms—thick yellow daffodils, delicate blue forget-me-nots, brilliant purple crocuses. When she was satisfied with her yield, Tabitha climbed up the crumbling concrete steps to the backdoor.

Clomping down the hallway to her mother’s room, she pushed open the cracked door and saw that her mother was still in bed. Pulling herself up onto the mattress, she left streaks of mud across the floral comforter as she crawled over to her mother. Tabitha began weaving the flowers into her mother’s long black hair, certain her mother would feel like a faerie princess upon waking. For a few more minutes of blissful ignorance, she continued to braid the in the blossoms. It would only be a moment later that her innocence would be robbed, for she would discover that her mother would never be waking up.


First Trip to the Psych Hospital

by Amy Martin

(A story I wrote for ‘Stories That Heal’, a music, storytelling and community wellbeing project focused on mental health, trauma and recovery through lifting local stories and musical expressions in Benzie County.)

The first time I was in the psych hospital, I learned a handful of things:

1.) If you steal a plastic spoon during breakfast, you can wedge it into the shower button to give yourself more time to wash than the miserably short set time.

2.) If you bond over warm beverages with one of the cafeteria workers, she’ll bring you her special tea from home instead of leaving you to suffer through the diluted Gordon Food Service swill they taught as tea.

3.) If you’re overly enthusiastic about the art therapy sessions, they force you to talk less because they’re just grateful someone is finally using up the crayon nubs, faded construction paper, and dried up glue.

4.) A lot of many medical professionals don’t know shit about type 1 diabetes.

5.) Being diagnosed as bipolar can be relieving.

Before I revisit some of these lessons, I suppose I ought to tell you what landed me in the psych hospital in the first place—mania. Well, technically the major depressive drop-off following mania. Of course at the time I did not know what mania was. I just knew I felt different—I felt high on life. I felt good: the colors brighter, flavors enhanced, songs shouted, “brilliant” thoughts rapidly racing out of my mouth. I danced everywhere I went. I thought I had finally found true happiness, ignoring the negative, dangerous behaviors I was engaged in.

Those behaviors? Being easily distracted at work, forgetting to take my insulin, not sleeping, extreme spending sprees without being able to afford it, promiscuity, impulsive unfaithfulness, reckless driving, risky choices, binge drinking. And when I say binge drinking, I mean gallons of beer a night. Literal gallons. I’ll let you do the math there.

The day I was admitted to the hospital, I woke up in bed that morning next to someone who wasn’t my (now ex) husband. We hadn’t slept together, or even kissed, but at the pace my life was unraveling we might as well have. I looked at my cellphone for the time, realizing I had maybe had my eyes shut for two hours—which is two hours more than I would’ve gotten had I accepted the bump of coke offered to me earlier in the night. I had an abundance of texts, both from my husband and the person I had cheated on him with, both of them angry yet worried about me. I stumbled out of the room, received some judging looks from the others in the house still up and rolling, and made my way to my car. When I got home I threw back a glass of red wine for breakfast, bracing myself for the big confrontation with my husband, but he had already headed to work.

I felt sluggish, as if I was moving in slow motion. Everything started to look grey as I crawled into bed. I no longer felt high on life, I felt smothered by it. It was as if a light had suddenly switched, and my mind was alone in the dark. I couldn’t even fathom moving from the bedroom, much less eating. It took no time at all for the guilt to weigh down on me, and realize I no longer wanted to exist anymore. I wanted to die, and I developed a plan.

Fortunately, my then-husband came home, noticed how odd I was acting and forced it out of me. Forced everything out of me, including the affair I was having with someone I didn’t even care about. It shattered him, and after dropping me off at the ER (and making sure my family knew I was there) he took off. He didn’t just leave town, he left the state. I felt so guilty and confused and unsupported. I knew there was something wrong with me, I just didn’t know what the hell it was. And to not have him, my best friend, there to help me figure it out was devastating.

One of my brothers lived in the same city as we did, and he and his girlfriend rushed to the ER immediately. My brother gave me the longest, hardest hug I’ve ever experienced, his strong voice shaking while whispering how much he loved me. My memory of it is all a blur, but my mom must’ve flown down the highway all 150 miles of her trip, because it felt like she was there in no time. At this point I had been awake nearly 24 hours and all I knew is I didn’t want to exist, but I didn’t want to die and let my family down. The ER nurse came in and told us they had found me an open bed at the psych hospital, and we migrated there.

On the drive from the emergency room to psych hospital, I stared out the window and couldn’t help notice how grungy and grimy it looked outside. It was late fall, so the fallen leaves had lost all of their vibrant color and were rotting, smeared, and staining the streets. I couldn’t help but compare them to the “sins” I committed, staining what was once a good life. I felt akin to Lady Macbeth, certain my life would never be cleaned of this spot.

Admission into the psych hospital was traumatic in and of itself. My mom sat there and heard me admit all of the travesties I had committed, and I was certain I was breaking her heart. I then had to say goodbye and they took me into a sterile white room where they made me strip down and took all of my belongings—phone, jewelry, clothes—everything. I awkwardly slipped into a gown and scratchy hospital socks with grips on the bottom, and was guided into my room where my new roommate was sleeping. Too tired to be anxious about my situation, I collapsed into bed, resting my head on the lumpy pillow and pulling the thin sheet up around my shoulders. I fell asleep almost instantly.

The next thing I remember was my roommate waking me up, asking if I wanted to go to the cafeteria with her for breakfast. It must’ve only been an hour since I had passed out, so I mumbled “no thank you” and rolled over, sleeping into the late afternoon. When I eventually groggily sat up, said roomie popped her head in and warned me, “If you don’t wake up and attend some of the sessions during the day, they’ll keep you here longer.”

The first few days were miserable simply because the doctors and nurses didn’t know how to take care of my diabetes. Completely oblivious to the difference between type one and type two diabetes, they put me on an awful, useless diet. They would often make me wait over an hour after eating to give me insulin, which should be injected before, during, or immediately after a meal. Some of the nurses didn’t know how to administer the insulin pens, which caused my blood sugar to skyrocket. Even when I told them I needed better management, nothing was done. That was another lesson I learned—it’s impossibly hard to heal mentally when your physical health is declining. It wasn’t until my blood sugar was 500 all day (for reference a non diabetic’s is around 100) that they decided I needed help. Apparently legally they couldn’t drive me to the ER, so I had to be transported in an ambulance.

Having not gone outside in days, it was a relief to breathe in fresh air on the brief transition from the psych hospital to the ambulance that evening. I looked up and noticed big, fluffy snowflakes dancing down, falling onto my face. It felt like a cleansing of sorts, a baptism. It was in that moment that I finally started to feel hope.

In the ER they brought my blood sugar down, got the toxins out of my blood stream, and sent me back giving the hospital strict instructions on how to take care of type one diabetes. Sinking into the bed that night I felt a huge sense of relief.

The next couple of days are when healing truly began. I know up to this point of my story, everything has sounded so negative, but let me tell you—I do not regret going to the psych hospital. In fact, I’ve gone back to a few since, and I highly recommend them. Going has saved my life, time and time again.

The healing started when I made friends in the cafeteria. My roommate took me under her wing and brought me into their ragtag gang of misfits. We truly were an odd group, and probably not one that you’d typically see outside of the hospital. All body types, economic statuses, races, religious backgrounds and ages—a pregnant 18 year old trying to kick a drug habit to an 81 year old man insistent that life wasn’t worth living in old age. I became closest to a giant of a man, a schizophrenic who when triggered would need several techs to restrain him, but with a great big heart and a film degree like me. It was nice making friends—I was smiling and laughing again.

The most significant part of my time healing was my diagnoses. It might seem strange to be relieved by being crowned with a serious, life altering illness that I would be forever stuck with—but relief is truly the only word to describe it. To finally have a name for what I was going through, what I had done, and all of the feelings I experienced. Additionally, a diagnosis meant resources and tools to cope.

There were several tools that helped me not only experience healing but truly blossom. One was medication—necessary for me, but perhaps not for everyone. I’m a huge advocate that there should be no shame in taking medicine, but it doesn’t need to be for everyone. I also think it’s important to recognize that medicine is not the end all be all solution. It can take years to find the right “medication cocktail”, and sometimes you have to choose your mental health over a slew of less than fun side effects. Additionally, supplementing it with therapy is something I highly recommend. It is a rough journey, but worth it.

Despite making fun of the art therapy at the beginning of this story, it was incredibly soothing. Making something tangible and getting my feelings out in a creative way was invaluable. Along the lines of creativity I also found strength and healing through writing. We were encouraged to keep a journal everyday, which I did so religiously. When I was younger and my cousin passed away, my dad told me that as a writer, writing was healing, and he was right. My time in the psych hospital only reinforced this.

Yet another tool I found helped me, and continues to help me is acknowledging my physical body. This can mean through movement—dancing, walking, yoga—or by being still and experiencing my breathing. When your body is in a healthy place, it’s easier for your mind to be.

When it was time for me to leave the hospital, I was nervous but ready. I missed the simple things that I knew would only make my healing better. Things like music, fresh air, and preparing my own food (vegetarian options in the hospital just aren’t all that great.)

I signed my discharge papers and walked out into the frigid air. I glanced at the holes on my fingers from the aggressive blood sugar pricks they were giving me, and I observed them as constellations on my fingertips, beautiful battle scars marking my survival. I then looked around and for the first time noticed the blanket of snow covering everything. It was a stark contrast to the grimy moldy leaves coating the streets when I entered the hospital. The snow made everything feel fresh, reborn. I felt renewed, relieved of my sins, and hopeful for a fresh start. 


My Favorite Songs Released in 2021

I can’t decide if 2021 flew by or lasted forever – regardless, here we are at its end. As a now annual tradition (two years in a row, woohoo!) Chris, myself, and some of our friends do a roundup of our favorite songs released that year. There are three rules:

•The songs must have come out in 2021.

•You can only choose 25 songs.

•Only 2 songs per artist.

Here’s my final list, with some explanation for why I chose certain songs, and some of my favorite lyrics. They aren’t in any specific ranked order, I just organized them by the flow I liked. You can listen to my playlist both here on Spotify or here on Apple Music. I know the beginning is quite electronic heavy, but for those of you not into that it does change – I promise!

•Ani Kuni by Polo & Pan

As soon as I heard this song I was hooked, especially after watching the music video (which you can view here.) Polo & Pan was heavily a part of our friends group summer soundtrack this year – so much that one summer night sitting in our garden we all decided to impulse buy tickets to their December show in Chicago. After many long months the show came into fruition and it was a great night of dancing and singing and merry making!

•Numb by Sylvan Esso

“Shaking out the numb, let me feel something” – reminds me that physical movement can help my emotional being feel a little better – especially dancing!

Only Love by Tycho & Benjamin Gibbard

I feel like saying Tycho & Benjamin Gibbard is enough?! If you know you know. Electronic music of my present meets electronic music of my youth.

•Astro Funk by GRiZ

This song (and album) were a HUGE part of the friends group summer soundtrack. Sunny days spent speeding around on a boat, blasting music, watching friends wakeboard, enjoying beer, and basking in the presence of great people.

•Gold by GRiZ

As mentioned above, this album was a significant part of our summer soundtrack. I also like the part where it says “woof” because Chris nails it every time and makes me giggle.

•Catching Smoke by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

This song is very groovy and catchy, but my favorite thing about it is the music video (which can be viewed here.) So weird, beautiful, and brilliant!

•Creatures by Viagra Boys

This is simply my favorite song from their album this year. 

•Ain’t No Bread in the Bread Box by Greensky Bluegrass

The original version of this song is great, so of course when one of my favorite bands covers it I love it! This is from the Greensky Bluegrass The Leap Year Sessions, a collection of songs taken from a series of live-streamed performances. Chris and I caught ourselves singing it with gusto a ton this year. Greensky Bluegrass was also the first live concert we went to since Covid began – it was magical and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

•Wish I Didn’t Know by Greensky Bluegrass

Another one from The Leap Year Sessions (a collection of songs taken from a series of live-streamed performances.) 

“Here I go spilling my heart with music
Forget everything you’ve learned about me

If I dare, if I may have a say in what you remember will be
I hope it’s the way I’m gonna kiss you”

•Show Me The Door by Billy Strings

We saw Billy Strings THREE times this year! Good ol’ Michigan bluegrass. His 2020 album won a Grammy, and he’s nominated for a few this year too! 

“She ebbs and flows like water,and she feels just like wine.”

•Hide And Seek by Billy Strings

My favorite song I saw performed live this year. Such an epic jam session necessitated some wild dancing.

•That Funny Feeling by Phoebe Bridgers

I love everything Phoebe Bridgers does, including this Bo Burnham cover. All proceeds from this song go to Texas Abortion Funds.

•Day After Tomorrow by Phoebe Bridgers

Another great Phoebe cover – this time Tom Waits! All proceeds from this song go to International Institute of Los Angeles, who provide aid to immigrants, refugees, and survivors of human trafficking. 

•Brando by Lucy Dacus

An incredibly talented artist, and I love all the film references in this song.

•Song of Trouble by CARM feat. Sufjan Stevens

I’ll take any opportunity to hear Sufjan softly crooning away.

•Before You Gotta Go by Courtney Barnett

Chris and I spent many an evening sitting out on our stoop, sipping beer and enjoying Courtney Barnett. 

“If somethin’ were to happen, my dear
I wouldn’t want the last words you hear
To be unkind”

•BOY HOOD by Jon Batiste feat. PJ Morton & Trombone Shorty

I love Jon Batiste, and I love how much this song reps New Orleans. The best part is the transition to jazz towards the end.

•brutal by Olivia Rodrigo

Her whole album is catchy and one I listened to quite a bit this year. A lot of talent for such a youngin’.

•Good Girls (Don’t Get Used) by Beach Bunny

This was my favorite band I discovered this year. Very 90s/00s pop punk, which happens to be one of my favorite genres.

•Love Sick by Beach Bunny

What I said above. 🙂

•Kokomo, IN by Japanese Breakfast

“Watching you show off to the world
The parts I fell so hard for”

•Change by Big Thief

I’m crazy about Adrianne Lenker’s voice and lyrical writing skills.

•Renegade by Big Red Machine feat. Taylor Swift

Mostly included this so my pal Jake wouldn’t yell at me for not including anything touched by Justin Vernon. So here you go – with my girl Taylor Swift!

•All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift

Hands down, absolutely my favorite song that came out in 2021. Myself, like so many other people, can relate past relationships with these lyrics. Plus, the new additions are just so damn good! Check out her live performance of it on SNL here.

“And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes:
I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age”

•Hard Drive by Cassandra Jenkins

The perfect end of the year (thus end of the playlist) song. 

“She said, “Oh, dear, I can see you’ve had a rough few months
But this year, it’s gonna be a good one
I’ll count to three and tap your shoulder
We’re gonna put your heart back together
So all those little pieces they took from you
They’re coming back now
They’ll miss ’em too
So close your eyes
I’ll count to three
Take a deep breath
Count with me””


Beer Education: Schwarzbier

(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. Cloudspotter members.)

As many of you may know, at Stormcloud Brewing Company we have a brand new beer on tap—the Foeder Aged Schwarzbier. This beer has been dubbed the Official Beer of Stormcloud Curling, and is delicious both on and off the ice. In this post, I want to give you a little insight into the Schwarzbier style.

The Beer Judge Certification Program Guidelines describes Schwarzbier as, “a dark German lager that balances roasted yet smooth malt flavors with moderate hop bitterness. The lighter body, dryness, and lack of a harsh, burnt, or heavy aftertaste helps make this beer quite drinkable.”¹ This style is sometimes simply called a black lager, which makes sense, as “schwarz” translates to “black” in English.

The difference between an ale and lager is that ales are fermented with top-fermenting yeast at higher temperatures for a shorter amount of time; and lagers are fermented with bottom fermenting yeast at lower temperatures for a longer time.

Color: The color range for the Schwarzbier is between 17 and 30 SRM¹ — see image below for reference. It can be between medium and dark brown in color, often with deep ruby to garnet highlights.¹ Beer writer Joshua M. Bernstein calls it a “Darth Vader-colored brew” as well as “Germany’s inkiest, most delicious beer.”⁴

Aroma: Low to moderate malt, with a low aromatic malty sweetness and/or hints of roast malt often apparent. The malt can be neutral or rich and bready, and may have a hint of dark caramel. The roast character can be somewhat reminiscent of dark chocolate or coffee. There might be a low spicy, floral, or herbal hop aroma, but this is subtle and optional depending on the brewery.¹

Flavor: Similar to the aroma. Light to moderate malt flavor, which can have a clean, neutral character to a moderately rich, bread-malty quality. Light to moderate roasted malt flavors can give a bitter-chocolate palate that lasts into the finish, but which are never burnt. Medium-low to medium bitterness, which can linger in the aftertaste.¹

The Schwarzbier originated in Germany, and may be the oldest continuously brewed beer style in the world.⁵ The true origin of this beer style is “a bit sketchy”¹ but here is what we know:

To examine the history of the Schwarzbier, we first must look at the beginning of the German lager tradition. In the early 1400s, brewers in Bavaria started storing their beer in cold caves at the base of the Alps to stop it from being ruined by the heat of the summer months. They observed that “something about cold aging had given the beer a special keeping power, even when it warmed up.”⁶ Soon after this revelation, brewers created their own cavelike cellars in closer proximity to their breweries, and allowed the beer to ferment there in addition to being stored in them.

One piece of history that I find interesting is that in 1553, Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria became worried about declining beer quality. His solution? Outlawing brewing beer during the summer months.⁶ This ban encouraged an even further exploration of fermenting beer in cold temperatures, and yeast that fermented at warm temperatures (what we know as ale yeast) disappeared and had been replaced with yeast that liked the cold (what we know as lager yeast.) 

This is where the history of the Schwarzbier beaches a little murky. We know it was born early in German lager tradition, but the where and when are unclear. Fast forward a few centuries, and the Schwarzbier style had all but died out, with the exception of the town of Bad Köstritz in what at the time was East Germany.⁶ Its unknownness quickly changed with Germany’s reunification in 1990.⁷ Soon it swept across Germany and then the world. Renowned beer writer Garrett Oliver shares that, “The Japanese brewers Sapporo and Asahi make very similar beers” and were probably inspired by the German Schwarzbier. He supports this theory by pointing out that, “most older Asian breweries were originally started by German monasteries, and it is likely that the monastic breweries brought this style of beer to Japan with them.”⁶

Garrett Oliver also points out that in modern times, “American craft brewers have taken note of this obscure beer style and started to produce their own Schwarzbier” and that “many more Schwarzbiers are now being brewed in the United States than in Germany.”⁶ In my research, I found many sources that specifically pointed out the popularity of Schwarzbier in Utah, because the beer style has good flavor even when brewed at a lower alcohol percentage.

Despite being dark in color, with its medium-light to medium body, moderate to moderately high carbonation, and an alcohol range of 4.4-5.4% ABV¹, the Schwarzbier is one refreshing beer. Then consider the roasted malts that drive the flavor,⁶ and know that this beer is a great, fun food pairing beer.

The Brewmaster’s Table shares that Schwarzbier is very tasty with blackened food – think steak, Cajun blackened chicken, and pork chops. It also states that the bitter chocolate flavors of the beer make it a nice partner for traditional Mexican mole sauces, which are, “austere and complex rather than sweet.” Additionally the book highlights how well it goes with Cajun cooking and other spicy food, because, “the clean roast flavors can cut through it all and help meld the disparate flavors on the palate.” The Brewers Association specifically suggests pairing Schwarzbier with mushroom strudel, Munster-style cheese, or fruit tarts.²

Our beer is an extra special take on the Schwarzbier. It was brewed as a traditional German-Style Schwarzbier, but then lagered it in an oak foeder for 3.5 months. A foeder, (pronounced FOOD-er) is a really, really large barrel, typically oak, used to age wine and beer.⁸ Here at Stormcloud we have two foeders – one at the brewery that we use to focus on clean lagers, and the other at our Lakehouse Ales Project which we’ve intentionally introduced microbes to in order to create sour and funky beer. The Schwarzbier was lagered in our “clean” foeder. Our Co-Owner and Head Brewer Brian Confer discusses the beer stating, “the subtle dark malt character combined with soft oak make this a deliciously unique beer.”


¹ Strong, Gordon, and Kristen England, editors. “8B Schwarzbier.” Beer Judge Certification Style Guidelines. 2015 ed., BJCP, Inc., 2015, p. 15.

² Brewers Association. “German-Style Schwarzbier.” The Guide to Craft Beer. Brewers Publications®, 2019, p. 33.

³ German Beer Styles Course. 2nd ed., Chicago, Cicerone Certification Program, 2018, pp. 38-39. Road to Cicerone.

⁴ Bernstein, Joshua M. The Complete Beer Course. New York, Sterling Epicure, 2013, pp. 57-58.

⁵ Carr, Nick. “Schwarzbier: The Black Beer Hiding Behind The Scenes.”, Build with Ferguson, 19 June 2015,

⁶ Oliver, Garrett. The Brewmaster’s Table. HarperCollins, 2003, pp. 1235-238; 279-281.

⁷ Oliver, Garrett, editor. “schwarzbier.” The Oxford Companion to Beer. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 718-719.

⁸ “Foeder (FOOD-er) For Thought!” Dechutes Brewery, 19 Mar. 2015,


Beer Education: Porter

(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. Cloudspotter members.) 

Here at Stormcloud Brewing Company, we currently have an exciting new beer on tap – our Londonesque Porter. This beer is styled after the historical British-Style Brown Porter, but with a tasty Stormcloud twist: Belgian yeast and Michigan hops. The Oxford Companion to Beer describes porter as,“a type of dark beer that first saw life in the 1700s, built London’s greatest breweries, slaked the thirst of America’s revolution-minded colonists, and then traveled the world, morphing as it went to meet the changing needs of time and place.”¹ The Complete Beer Course also states that, “Great Britain’s porter [was the] the launching pad for every dark brew.”² Since the porter has done so much, I want to share with you a bit more about it.

It all began in London in the 1700s, when the city’s water was such that it favored the production of brown rather than pale beers.³ These early beers were simply referred to as brown beer, for which several varieties of recipes still exist.¹ Faced with economic challenges, brewers deviated from these recipes for ones with barley malted over wood fires – because coal was taxed and wood was not.³ Unfortunately for them, London’s beer drinkers still preferred the old brown beer, so brewers of this new style were forced to buy pale and stale beer to blend with their existing ale.³ This beer was known as “three threads,” and grew in popularity. It was only a matter of time until someone figured out how to make a single beer with the same profile as these three blended ones. Zymurgy magazine shares that, “according to a legend that has become dubious historical fact, the beer that became known as porter was first brewed by Ralph Harwood, owner of Bell Brewhouse in Shoreditch in the East End of London.”³ According to The Complete Beer Course, “Londoners lapped it up, especially the hardworking Porters who hoofed heavy freight off ships and ferried parcels and merchants’ goods around town”² — which is exactly how this beer got its name. Porter created a commercial industry that enabled beer to be made in such quantities that production costs were cut, generating new fortunes for the new breed of brewing entrepreneurs.³ It was such a popular ale that it is considered the first mass-produced commercial beer.¹ One example of how big these porter batches were: once a vat’s corroded hoops suddenly broke free, sending more than 200,000 gallons of porter gushing out, destroying homes and killing eight people.² In modern America, you usually see two dark beer styles that are similar – porter and stout. According to The Oxford Companion to Beer, “some porters were brewed stronger, either for home or for export. These particularly rich beers were referred to as  ‘stout porters,’ and it is generally accepted that the most full-bodied and stout porters served as the genesis of stout as a somewhat operate beer style.”¹

Color: The Brewers Association’s book The Guide to Craft Beer states that the color range for the English-Style Brown Porter should be between 20 and 35 SRM.⁴ (See image below for reference.) Beer writer Joshua M. Bernstein calls their color “the darker end of the color spectrum: the deep, dark brown of a farmer’s muddy boots or the dyed black locks of a goth.”² I tend to think of the color as something more romantic -say dark chocolate fondue, or the sparkling brown eyes of someone you love. Our Londonesque Porter lands right at 25 SRM.

Aroma: The Beer Judge Certification Program 2015 Style Guidelines assert that the aroma, “may have a chocolate quality” and may also be “caramelly, nutty, toffee-like and/or sweet.”⁵ When doing a tasting of the Londonesque with one our brewers, we noticed gentle wafts reminiscent of baker’s chocolate as well as notes of dark coffee, caramel, and an ever-so-subtle toffee scent.

Flavor: The Guide to Craft Beer suggests that English-Style Brown Porters have a similar flavor and aroma saying they have “caramel and chocolate.”⁴ They also mention a “low to medium hop bitterness” and state that the IBU (International Bitterness Units) should range between 20-30.⁴ Our Londonesque Porter is 30 IBU. The Oxford Companion to Beer describes the flavor as, “predominant notes of rich chocolate as well as hints of coffee, caramel [and] nuts.”¹ During our tasting we picked up on a delightful swirl of coffee and caramel, with a dark chocolate backbone and dry finish.

Pairing beer with food has been one of the favorite parts of may craft beer journey. I love how well flavors can play together and enhance certain ingredients, as well as cause tastes to dance across the palate. With the British-Style Brown Porter, specifically our Londonesque, I turned to some experts for advice.

The Brewers Association recommends roasted or grilled meats, Gruyere cheese, and chocolate peanut butter cookies.⁴ Brewmaster and food pairing expert Garrett Oliver goes into greater detail, recommending several dishes. In addition to grilled meats, he states that, “grilled vegetables on a skewer will team up with this beer, the smoky sweetness of the veggies latching onto the roast in the beer.”⁶ Oliver also shares that, “Good sweet Italian sausages are delicious with porter, but venison sausages are even better.”⁶ Craving a Rueben? You’re in luck! The porter pairs well with “a Reuben sandwich or almost anything on pumpernickel bread, which features harmoniously chocolaty flavors.”⁶ Last but not least, when it comes to dessert, “especially those made with chocolate, porter can really shine.”⁶


¹ Oliver, Garrett, editor. “porter.” The Oxford Companion to Beer. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 660-64

² Bernstein, Joshua M. The Complete Beer Course. New York, Sterling Epicure, 2013, pp. 175-77.

³ Protz, Roger. “Porter: The Granddaddy of British brown Beers.” Zymurgy, Jan. 2002, pp. 20-25.

⁴ Brewers Association. “English-Style Brown Porter.” The Guide to Craft Beer. Brewers Publications®, 2019, p. 84.

⁵ Strong, Gordon, and Kristen England, editors. “13C. English Porter.” Beer Judge Certification Style Guidelines. 2015 ed., BJCP, Inc., 2015, p. 25.

⁶ Oliver, Garrett. The Brewmaster’s Table. HarperCollins, 2003, pp. 138-39.


My Life with Bipolar

As many of you know, I am an individual with bipolar. A lot of people ask me what it’s like, and I end up fumbling to give some sort of generic answer. I’ve decided to sit down and share with you a more thought out, intimate perspective of what it’s like. I’m sharing not because I want you to feel bad for me, but because I want to normalize mental illness and #EndTheStigma.

HIGHS (also known as MANIA)
The highs are the best feeling I’ve ever had, or so it feels. It’s like a drug – pure euphoria, bliss, thrill, buzz, exhilaration. The colors are brighter, the tastes are enhanced. Every song is meaningful and the lyrics deserve to be shouted. Every joke is gut-wrenchingly hilarious. I believe my thoughts are brilliant, and they rapidly race out of my mouth. I don’t care what others think, though I’m sure everyone finds me endearing. Creativity gushes from me, and I must start every project that comes to mind – and so, so many come to mind. I dance everywhere I go. This all sounds great, right? It is, until it goes too high and turns toxic. Easily distracted, forgetting to take my insulin, not sleeping, extreme spending sprees without being able to afford it, promiscuity and unfaithfulness, reckless driving, risky choices, binge drinking – these are just a few of the dangerous behaviors I’ve exhibited. These are bad enough, but then what follows is even worse – the lows. Rock bottom.

LOWS (also known as DEPRESSION)
Depression for me is a deep fog. A shroud of unending pain and an indescribable sadness. A dangerous hopelessness as I grapple for any means to an end of my misery. It’s wondering how everyone else around me can function so highly, while I struggle with the most menial tasks. It’s not that I “lack motivation” to do things – I cannot do them. I can’t get out of bed, much less eat or change my clothes or shower. I struggle to form full sentences. I can’t concentrate on books or movies, and even if I could they wouldn’t bring me any semblance of joy.  I can’t respond to messages or phone calls, and the guilt makes me feel even worse. When I have the energy, I cry.

MIXED EPISODES (the worst of the highs and lows)
I feel like this is a part of bipolar that people don’t talk as much about. It’s also something I’ve really struggled with on my journey. My mixed episodes present themselves with rapid mood swings and extreme anger. In one moment I will be laughing, the next I’ll be screaming and breaking or throwing things. I can enter a state of pure range, where I either hurt the people I love or myself. When I have self harmed, it has been during mixed episodes where I am mad at myself and feel I deserve it. My words are venomous, and I know just what to say to hurt people the most. The simplest comment can make me irate. And since it comes in rapid mood swings, I then come down and collapse into guilt, which may be followed by euphoric happiness. These episodes are the hardest for me.

Most of my life I’ve known that I struggled with depression. The highs were easier to conceal, just part of my A.D.D. or my quirky personality – which is why for so long my bipolar went undiagnosed. It wasn’t until my first stay in a psych hospital that it started to get pieced together. It has been a long, treacherous journey. Damaging my family, broken friendships and relationships, a lost job, and a whole spattering of meds. But the journey has truly been worth it. With many mental illnesses, you will never “get over it” – you just learn to manage it. And you have the realistic perspective that you may relapse. Right now, at this point in my life, I am happy to say I am stable, have a great med cocktail, have a phenomenal care team, and an incredible support system. Thank you to so many of YOU who are part of my support system. I greatly appreciate you.


Beer Education: Oktoberfest

(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. Cloudspotter members.) 

A photo of Amy wearing lederhosen holding a beer stein looking excited for Oktoberfest.

Time to pull out your beer steins and dust off your lederhosen – it’s time for Oktoberfest! As seasoned beer drinkers, I’m sure you’re all familiar with Oktoberfest, but I wanted to give you a more in-depth lowdown.

Oktoberfest is a two-week long celebration that takes place in Munich, Germany (Bavaria’s capital). This year it would have started Saturday, September 19, but is cancelled due to COVID-19. While Oktoberfest has largely become associated with beer, it is so much more than that! It boasts the title of “world’s largest folk festival” – and for good reason. According to The Telegraph, “in addition to eating, drinking and dancing, visitors can enjoy colourful parades, a variety of fairground rides, and for those not themselves in traditional Bavarian gear, admire those that are.”¹ The main festivities are located in a meadow just outside of the city’s epicenter, and hosts millions of people every year. There are massive tents set up, “with colourful façades, long wooden tables and benches, and frequently on more than one level”¹ with some holding “between 5,000 and 11,000 people, both inside and in the attached exterior beer gardens.”²  There are many types of cuisine, but the most well known are traditional Bavarian fare, including sausages, chickens, giant pretzels and wild oxen. To keep up with the times, there are even vegan options!² Don’t think for a minute that this is an adult-only affair – there are plenty of activities for folks of all ages. Every Tuesday of Oktoberfest is Family Day, and there is a family section (called Familienplatzl) that is open all two weeks.³

The first Oktoberfest took place in 1810, and with few exceptions has happened annually ever since. The inaugural Oktoberfest wasn’t a festival at all – it was a wedding reception for Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, complete with feasting, drinking, and a horse race!⁴ The celebration was so well received that the locals wanted more the next year. That year the festivities were sponsored by the Bavarian Agriculture Association (Landwirtschaftlicher Verein in Bayern) as they recognized it as an excellent venue to highlight their wares. As the popularity increased, the economic gains for Munich became obvious, and it became an annual event.⁵

It is a common belief that there has only been one style of beer served throughout the history of Oktoberfest, but there is an abundance of historical evidence to counter that claim. According to the Oxford Companion to Beer, “In the first 60 or so years the then popular Bavarian Dunkel seemed to have dominated.” Then, in 1872, when a brewery ran out of their Dunkel, they served a much stronger Bock (18°P at a probable 8% ABV), and sold it at premium prices.⁶ These Bock-strength beers were popular leading up until World War I, after which the strength of the “standard” Oktoberfest beer fluctuated (between 4-9% ABV.)⁷ For decades after the World Wars, Märzenbier was THE beer style served at Oktoberfest. This style was traditionally brewed in March and lagered in cold caves over the summer, making it perfectly timed to serve late September at Oktoberfest.⁸ According to the BJCP Style Guidelines, American craft versions of Oktoberfest are generally based on the Märzenbier style, despite it not being what is currently served at Oktoberfest. Since 1990, the majority of beer served at Oktoberfest is a style called Festbier. In comparison it is less intense and less richly toasted than a Märzen. Festbier is a lighter, more drinkable but still malty version that (according to the head brewer at Paulaner) they wanted to be “more poundable.”⁸

To read more about these different beer styles, check out the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines here

•According to German and European Union regulations, no beers except those brewed by the authorized large breweries of Munich are allowed to be labeled “Oktoberfest.”⁶

•Oktoberfest draws about 6 million tourists every year.⁴ 

7 million liters of local beer are poured each year.⁴ 

•A liter of beer costs between $11.48-$12 (US dollars)¹

•In 1854, organizers were forced to cancel Oktoberfest in the face of cholera outbreaks.⁴

•Over 200,000 pairs of sausage are consumed.¹

•In 2018, Lufthansa (Germany’s largest airline) had their flight crews dressed in traditional Bavarian garb and serve fresh draft beer mid-flight.¹⁰

•Some of the most ridiculous things to land in the Oktoberfest lost and found include a pet grasshopper, a set of dentures, a segway, a fishing rod, a garden gnome, and a dachshund called ‘Wasti.”¹

Whether you’re going to Oktoberfest in Munich or a version of it stateside, It doesn’t hurt to know some lingo!

Wiesn – means “the meadow;” what Oktoberfest is called locally.⁶

Masskrug – iconic Oktoberfest 1 liter glasses.⁶

Dirndl – a traditional alpine dress which was once only worn by the proudest of Bavarians. Today, it is popular among all nationalities at Oktoberfest. A dirndl tied on the left means you are available; on the right shows you’re taken; in the center means virgin; and in the back means widowed or waitress.⁹

Lederhosen – traditional leather pants (with or without suspenders.) Though most Germans would never don a pair of these leather trousers, some Bavarians wear them year-round.⁹

Prost – Cheers!⁹

O’zapft is! – “It is tapped” – the phrase uttered by Munich’s mayor to mark the opening of the first beer barrel and the commencement of the drinking.¹

Wiesn Brezn – Bavaria’s famous, giant salt-encrusted pretzel.²

Bratwurst – regional sausage usually served with a bread roll.²

Halbes Hendl – half a roast chicken.²

Bierleiche – beer corpses”, or – less morbidly – “snoozing drunks”⁹

Kotzhügel – “puke hill” – a hill in the festival where many Bierleiche rest – and perhaps occasionally empty their stomachs.⁹


1. Bridge, Adrian. “Everything you need to know about Oktoberfest – including how to book a last-minute trip.” The Telegraph (London), September 17, 2018.

2. Schulte-Peevers, Andrea. “10 Secrets to Doing Oktoberfest Like a Local.” Festivals + Events. AFAR, July 23, 2019.

3. “Every Tuesday is Family Day at Oktoberfest.”

4. Latson, Jennifer. “How Oktoberfest Has Weathered Stormy Times.” Time. AFAR, October 12, 2015.

5. “The history of Oktoberfest.”

6. Seidl, Conrad. In The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver, 624-25. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

7. “The History of Beer At Oktoberfest.” American Homebrewers Association.

8. “BJCP Beer Style Guidelines.” edited by Gordon Strong and Kristin England, 2015th ed. N.p.: Beer Judge Certification Program, 2015.

9. Porter, Erin. “Every German Word You Need to Know for Oktoberfest.” TripSavvy. Last modified August 20, 2019.

10. “Lufthansa’s traditional dirndl crew flights celebrate Oktoberfest with onboard “beer on tap”.” Lufthansa Group. Last modified September 19, 2018.


Beer Education: Belgian Witbier

(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.) 

I want to share with you about another traditional, Belgian-style beer – the Witbier. Witbiers are described as refreshing, elegant, tasty, moderate-strength wheat-based ales.¹ Cheers!

The Witbier is a 400-year-old Belgian Beer Style.¹ In Flemish, the word “wit” means “white”, and signifies a beer made with wheat.² According to Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, in the 1500s, “spices from far-flung lands started to become available in Europe” and quickly found their way into European cooking – and brewing.³ The Witbier is a relic from this movement, often incorporating one or more spices into the brew, popularly coriander or Curacao orange peel⁴ but sometimes ingredients like chamomile, cumin, cinnamon, and Grains of Paradise.¹ Records show multiple variations of white beer brewed in the Flanders region of Belgium because wheat grew especially well there, and unmalted grains were cheaper for brewers to use than malt. Early Belgian Witbier was usually brewed during the summer months and meant to be consumed quickly as a summer refresher. This beer began to be made year-round and became quite popular in Belgium – that is until World War I. The war forced wheat to be rationed for bread making only.² By the 1950s, Witbier had nearly gone extinct – “a victim of wars, fashionable lagers, and brewery consolidations.”³ Fortunately, a man named Pierre Celis changed it all. Celis, a milkman and former brewery employee, held a certain fondness for Witbier, and set about reviving it.² He started a new brewery called De Kluis, which was dedicated to creating a Witbier called Hoegaarden, named for the town where the brewery was located.⁴ It became quite popular, and inspired other Belgium as well as international breweries around the world to brew Witbiers.

Witbiers have light, grainy, spicy wheat aromas, often with a bit of tartness. Moderate perfumey coriander, often with complex herbal, spicy, or peppery notes may appear in the background. You’ll also get moderate zesty, citrusy-orange fruitiness.¹

The Witbier’s appearance is very pale straw to very light gold in color. The SRM, or Standard Reference Method is a way brewers measure a beers color, and Witbier should range between 2-4.¹ See SRM chart below.

Additionally, it may appear hazy from the wheat and oats.²

With the Witbier, the mouthfeel tends to have medium body, smoothness and light creaminess from the unmalted wheat and oats.¹

The flavor traits of the Witbier are similar to its aroma – pleasant malty-sweet grain flavor (often with a honey and/or vanilla character²) and an orange fruitiness. Herbal-spicy flavors are common and subtly balanced. There may be a low spicy-earth hop flavor, but it won’t get in the way of the spices. Additionally, hop bitterness will be medium-low, and won’t interfere with the refreshing flavors of fruit and spice.¹

Some brewers add another traditional touch to their Witbier by conducting a limited lactic fermentation, blending in a portion of soured beer, or adding lactic acid to enhance the tart crispness of the beer.²

The book The Brewmaster’s Table³ suggests several excellent food pairings with the Witbier. Author and Brewmaster Garrett Oliver states that, “as nice as some other beers are with salads, witbier has to be the overall winner.” He does caution against using dressing that is overly sweet, and suggests that vinaigrettes are the best way to go.

Later, Oliver says, “at brunch, Witbier tastes better than the best orange juice you’ve ever had.” He continues to say that “the orange aromatics awaken the senses and then provide a beautiful counterpoint to egg dishes” and “bacon and sausages will swoon before its quenching acidity.”

Another pairing he calls “a real star” is Witbier and fish, because it is light enough to complement “even the most delicate fish” while with stronger dishes it “lifts the oils and brightens flavors without disturbing the essential qualities of the fish.”

I hope this post offered you some insight to yet another wonderful beer style. Keep your eyes peeled, Stormcloud Brewing Company may be releasing a limited small-batch Witbier in the very near future!


¹ BJCP Beer Style Guidelines. 2015 ed., Beer Judge Certification Program, 2015, pp. 48-49.

² De Baets, Yvan, editor. Belgian Beer Styles Course. Cicerone Certification Program, 2020, pp. 48-50. Road to Cicerone®.

³ Oliver, Garrett. The Brewmaster’s Table. First Eco Paperback ed., HarperCollins Publishers, 2005, pp. 81-96

⁴ Oliver, Garrett, editor. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 842-843.


Beer Education: Dubbel and Tripel

(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)

To quote the Oxford Companion to Beer, “Belgium is to beer what Cuba is to cigars and France is to wine.”¹ On that note, I wanted to share with you some information about two traditional Belgian-inspired brews – the Dubbel and the Tripel.

The Belgian monastic brewing tradition started long ago, stemming as far back as the Middle Ages. Many monasteries followed the Rule of St. Benedict of 530 A.D., which told monks how to live a spiritual life and run a monastery. One of the Benedictine values required that monasteries be self-sufficient. This led monks to create wares they could sell – some made bread, some made cheese, some sold eggs, and some made beer!²

The beer of these early monasteries tasted quite different than the modern Belgian beers we know and love³ – and this is largely because of the destruction many of them faced throughout history. Nearly all the monasteries in Belgium were closed or destroyed during the French Revolution in the 1790s. Many were rebuilt, but were once again demolished during World War I. After rebuilding following the war, beer styles such as the Dubbel and Tripel began to emerge. These styles helped return monastery breweries to prominence, but most had to rebuild again after World War II.² One thing that’s certain, the Belgian brewing tradition is resilient!

The Dubbel and Tripel are styles that emerged from what is known as the Trappist tradition. Currently, there are only seven breweries in the world that can legally call their beer Trappist – meaning they are brewed on monastery grounds under the supervision of monks.¹ You may also hear the term Abbey beer, which means while not Trappist, it is brewed in association with an actually monastery.² Because of these specifications, you won’t hear secular breweries calling themselves Trappist or Abbey, even when they make Dubbels or Tripels. Out of respect for this tradition, you’ll often hear these style of beers brewed in America called “Belgian-inspired” or “Belgian-style.”

Discussing the Dubbel and Tripel may lead you to wondering, is there such thing as a Singel? What about a Quadrupel? And what do the names mean?

Yes, there is such thing as a Belgian Singel, but “they remain an elusive beast that rarely leaves the walls of the few monasteries where it’s made.”⁴ As far as Quadrupels go, you may know them under a more familiar name – the Belgian Dark Strong Ale (like Stormcloud’s The Farthest Shore.) Quadrupels and Dark Strongs are pretty universally accepted as synonymous names for the same style.²

As far as these numerical names go, it’s not as simple as one may think – historians can’t seem to agree on where the names come from. Not only that, but there isn’t an exact mathematical relationship between the styles.⁴ Generally, but not always, the alcohol content goes up with each style. They do not double or triple in alcohol content as the names might imply, but instead the average alcohol content goes up by about 1.5-2.0% ABV.

Dubbels are described by the Beer Judge Certification Program 2015 Style Guidelines as “A deep reddish-copper, moderately strong, malty complex Trappist ale with rich malty flavors, dark or dried fruit esters, and light alcohol blended together in a malty presentation that still finishes fairly dry.”⁵ It lists the ABV being somewhere between 6-7.6% and the IBUs being between 15-25 with a low perceived bitterness. Dubbel’s color can range between light amber to dark amber.²

In Dubbels you’ll often find the flavors of caramel, brown sugar, dark rum, raison, plum, or dark cherry.² The Brewers Association recommends pairing this beer style with apple-smoked saysages, washed-rind cheeses, and milk chocolate.⁶ Trust me, I know our Dubbel (B., Sirius) is an excellent food beer – it goes with just about everything on our menu!

Tripels are described by the Beer Judge Certification Program 2015 Style Guidelines as “A pale, somewhat spicy, dry, strong Trappist ale with a pleasant rounded malt flavor and firm bitterness. Quite aromatic, with spicy, fruity, and light alcohol notes combining with the supportive clean malt character to produce a surprisingly drinkable beverage considering the high alcohol level.”⁵ It lists the ABV being between 7.5-9.5% and the IBUs between 20-40 with moderate perceived bitterness. Tripel’s tend to be light gold to gold in color.² I always remember that Dubbels are darker than Tripels through alliteration.

In Tripels, you’ll often find esters that produce flavors such as orange, lemon, apricot, peach, pear, or banana.² A few food pairing suggestion include roasted turkey, triple creme cheese, and caramelized banana creme brûlée.⁶

I hope this blog post taught you a little something you didn’t know about two traditional Belgian-inspired brews. Now all you need is to order a B., Sirius Dubbel or 228 Tripel to go! Cheers!

References for this blog post:

¹Oliver, Garrett, editor. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 1-3.

²De Baets, Yvan, editor. Belgian Beer Styles Course. Cicerone Certification Program, 2020, pp. 67-73. Road to Cicerone®.

³Mulder, Roel. “The Original Belgium Abbey Beers.” Zymurgy, Mar. 2020, pp. 42-43.

⁴Reis, Mike. “A Beginner’s Guide to Belgian Beer Styles.” Serious Eats, edited by Niki Achitoff-Gray, Serious Eats Inc., 4 Mar. 2014,

BJCP Beer Style Guidelines. 2015 ed., Beer Judge Certification Program, 2015, pp. 52-53.

⁶Baker, Jess, et al. The Guide to Craft Beer. Brewers Publications, 2019, pp. 65-70.


Beer Education: Sahti

Right before our temporary closure due to COVID-19, we at Stormcloud Brewing Company had just put on tap an incredibly unique beer called a Sahti. I would love to share with you what I learned about this style!

According to The Oxford Companion to Beer, the Sahti is “a farmhouse beer style indigenous to Finland” and “is one of the oldest beer types still brewed today.”¹ It is traditionally made with rye and juniper,² and often with baker’s yeast¹ instead of brewer’s yeast. According to the BJCP Style Guidelines, “the juniper acts a bit like hops in the balance and flavor.”² Sahti’s also often have a banana-clove character, but it is completely dependent on what yeast is used. Since the Sahti is a Farmhouse Ale, it can vary greatly by ingredients, taste, and location brewed – and is adjustable according to the brewer.¹

Sahti is considered an Historical Beer style, and for good reason – casks of Sahti were discovered on a sunken Viking ship dated back to the 9th century, and “some historians even claim ancient beer styles like Sahti were the motivation behind developed agriculture in Scandinavia.”³  According to beer historian Mika Laitinen, the fact that it has survived the arrival of distilled alcohol, the onset of the era of cheap industrial beer, and prohibition is thoroughly impressive. He believes that “without its rich and unique taste, the traditional would surely have been dead by now.”⁴

The word sahti come from the Swedish word saft, meaning “juice” or “sap.” One thing I found particularly entertaining was that the Finnish-speaking brewers would intentionally refer to farmhouse ale as “juice” to mislead and evade the Swedish-speaking taxmen.⁴

The photo below is a woman brewing Sahti in Karvia, Finland around 1930. Aside from a few details, it is a similar setup to what brewers would have used in the Iron Age.⁴ Prior to the existence of metal cauldrons, brewers used wooden vessels which could not be heated to a boil over a fire. Instead, many Sahtis were not boiled, and those that were used hot stones put directly into the liquid.⁴ Additionally, past and present Sahti masters do not use thermometers, but instead measure the temperature using their fingers and the tip of their elbow.¹

Sahti was traditionally served in a large wooden vessel called haarikka, which was intended to be shared.⁴ These were most often passed around and consumed in the sauna.¹ You can see photos of haarikkas below.

If you haven’t yet tried a Sahti, I hope this has inspired you to do so and take a sip of history! On that note, I’d like to leave you with an old Finnish saying:

“In drinking sati, the feet get drunk first, and then the head.”


References for this blog post:

¹Oliver, Garrett, editor. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 709-711.

²BJCP Beer Style Guidelines. 2015 ed., Beer Judge Certification Program, 2015, pp. 58.

³ Bryant, Duncan. “Sahti: One of the World’s Oldest Beer Styles.” American Homebrewers Association, edited by Dave Carpenter,

⁴Laitinen, Mika. Viking Age Brew. Chicago Review Press Incorporated, 2019, pp. 6-63.

All photos came from Mika Laitinen’s Viking Age Brew. A great read if you’re interested in learning more about the Sahti beer style.