Gotlandsdricka

Juniperus communis

Gotlandsdricka is a traditional ale that was brewed almost exclusively on the island of Gotland which lies off the coast of Sweden. The recipe included smoked barely malt extract and the boughs or berries of juniper (Juniperus spp.) trees which proliferated on the island. Juniper species are found throughout the north and south temperate world and also on any existing mountains in tropical regions. The common juniper, Juniperus communis, was the preferred species used in brewing Gotlandsdricka likely because it was abundant in the north temperate region of northeastern Europe where this recipe and many similar ones began being practiced.

For all intents and purposes, the majority if not all Juniperus species can be used to produce beer because, at least for me, they all tend to have a similar scents, flavor and medicinal properties. Juniper boughs and particularly the berries impart a citrus-like resiny flavour to the beer, as well as supplying plenty of tannins to bitter it. The plant also possesses strong anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties, and has long been used to help fight respiratory infections and cleanse the urinary tract.

Ironically, the common juniper is anything but common where I live in southern Onatrio. The species tolerates colder conditions further north with less biological diversity and therefore less of an opportunity for other species to occupy its preferred habitat. Instead, the pencil-cedar or eastern red-cedar, Juniperus virginiana, (despite being called ‘cedar’ it is in fact a true juniper) is quite locally abundant in open fields, fencerows and meadows. This species grows to a larger stature than the often squat J. communis, which provides more foliage to harvest with a decreased risk of over-harvesting and weakening the plant. I have however, included a small amount of J. communis berries in order to supplement the authenticity of this recipe.

Freshly collected Juniperus virginiana boughs & berries

Freshly collected Juniperus virginiana boughs & berries

I would definitely like to revisit this recipe by using fresh smoked malt and not malt extract which I have been using entirely up to this point. I did happen upon some darker malt than usual, so I’m going to interpret that as I was supposed to make this recipe now. So it isn’t entirely traditional, but the juniper is in there and that’s pretty much the point from what I understand.

Ingredients:

4 gallons water
3 litres dark amber liquid barley malt extract
1.3 pounds fresh juniper boughs with berries – Juniperus virginiana
1 ounce dried juniper berries – Juniperus communis
7 grams brewing yeast

Instructions:

1. Boil juniper boughs, berries and malt extract for 60 minutes.
2. Allow wort to cool to at least 75-80 degrees F
3. Pour into fermenter (including juniper boughs / berries) and add yeast.
4. Strain and bottle when fermentation is complete.
5. Age one month before consuming.

St. Peter’s Winter Ale

*** Sorry Rob, I beat you to it.

I was actually really surprised to find out from Nagy senior that no one had done a review of this beer yet. As far as I know, every member of the beer collective has tried this incredible brew. I suppose all of you were just so mesmerized and captivated by it’s holy demeanor that you just had to take a seat and appreciate this rather than take the time to review it. I can completely understand that, for I got a little bit lazy over the last week and rather than reviewing the rest of the Mill St. Sampler pack like I said I would, I just drank them all instead. I do like to occasionally relax and just simply enjoy my beers too! Although I don’t want to sound like reviewing them is a grieveous, painful process. It’s not. I shouldn’t be complaining.

Anyhow, getting back to the actual review. Here’s some fast facts:

– St. Peter’s Winter Ale comes to us from Suffolk England, where it is brewed at a restored medieval hall.
– The spring water used as the base of the beer has been continually supplied by an underground spring for around 700 years.
– The unique flask shaped bottle has been used by the brewery since 1770.

St. Peter’s Winter Ale is a really good breer. It is definitely deserving of the name Winter Ale, it is creamy, smooth and filling but not syrupy. The color is a deep copper/ ruby. 6.5% alcohol content contributes to a warming, satisfying mouthful. The head is thick to begin with (this one you ought to dump into your glass) and fades to a nice, thin veil. The aroma is slightly roasted, blunt and dry. To me this tastes like a spicy campfire with some damp peatiness. It’s just so damn good, you have to try it to know. This is not a good beer to start off the night with, because except for a few select Trappist brews, there are few beers that could top the complexity of a St. Peter’s.

Usually English beers are lighter in alcohol percentage and are much thicker, heartier, and could easily replace lunch. St. Peter’s has it’s own very unique style that separates it from all the other English beers that I have tried such as Caffrey’s, Tetley’s or Smithwicks. This ale is in a completely different world, although geographically very close to where those beers originated.

Wow. An absolute favorite. I look forward to Winter Ale’s appearing with all the other rarities on the shelves around Christmas time. This is one to buy lots of when you can, because they won’t last long at all. So stock up because they are available now! Age one and see how it tastes next Christmas. Click to read my paper review!