Beer: Forest Bänger
Brewery: Põhjala (Tallinn, Estonia)
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double
12.5% ABV / 35 IBU
Põhjala’s Forest Series of beers is mostly retired but can still be found on shelves. When the supply of bottles runs fully dry, I sincerely hope all of the beers go back into production. The concept behind the series—mixing and matching botanicals with foraged items like birch bark and spruce tips—has produced some of the Estonian brewery’s most gonzo beers. The experience of drinking them is also delightfully immersive, with each sip triggering a sensory guessing game.
Põhjala was birthed in the ancestral home of Baltic porters and imperial stouts, so Forest Bänger is as good as any place to start exploring the brewery’s wares. As part of the Forest series, this boozy imperial stout features a couple notable foraged ingredients: Estonian juniper and smashed rowanberries, a slightly bitter berry native to northern Europe. Neither of these ingredients overwhelms what is otherwise a well-balanced stout; aside from a hint of gin on the nose, neither are really that easy to discern.
Forest Bänger is completely about the blend of malts, particularly the Birch smoked rye malt, the Cherry smoked pale malt, and Peated malt. Not only does this brew feature 11 (!) different malts, but it also has multiple types of smoked malts. What’s left is a medium-bodied stout with a really good amount of chocolate flavor (again, from the malts) but matched evenly with the smoked malts, creating a very mellow and sippable rauchbier. Skip cordials and use this as an aperitif instead, paired with simple butter cookies or something super decadent like linzer torte. Another stellar offering from a brewery that excels in the art of dark beers.
For more info on Põhjala, please head here.