I could hardly sleep last night. It’s going to be a long month of excitement as I anticipate what the next beer will be. It’s like getting to open a little gift every morning that is something I know I will enjoy. Today was not different. As soon as I woke up I ran downstairs, opened day number 2 and pulled out my beer. Today’s beer is the Hippa Heikki Extra Special Bitter from Panimo & Tislaamo Teerenpeli in Lahti Finland.
This brewery is located 107 km inland from Helsinki in the town of Lahti. Lahti is the capital of the region and is located on a bay at the southern end of Lake Vesijärvi. The work Lahti in Finnish actually means “bay.” They are a microbrewery that produces over 20 different styles of beer. Sadly their website is in Finnish, a language I have yet to learn, and so I was unable to garner much more information on them then that.
Extra Special Bitters are essentially more aggressive and balanced bitters. Bitters are the British term used for Pale Ales and so are typically on the hoppy end of the beer spectrum. ESBs tend to blend better the bitter hoppy notes with the sweet malty notes while not being too overpowering on one side or the other. Despite having the word bitter in its name, ESBs are actually not that bitter as the key to a good ESB is balance. Colors range from dark gold to brown and alcohol content is usually between 4%-7%. The one I am tasting is right in the range at 4.7%.
Appearance: Dark gold in colour with about 1” of head that quickly dissipates leaving small amount on the surface.
Smell: Citrus notes with hints apple and earthy tones. Malty, toasted caramel with moderate hop.
Taste: Crisp bitter front with some hints of sweetness from the malt. Bitterness lingers and is somewhat unpleasant.
Mouth feel: Body is medium with oily mouth feel and soft carbonation.
Overall: Not overly pleasant. Bitterness is there but does not move into the sweetness. The finish on this beer is one of an unpleasant bitterness that isn’t overly appealing. This particular ESB is not overly balanced and is not very strong beer for the style.
Do I like it: I am a big fan of bitterness in my beers. I love the lingering bitterness that comes with hops. I do not, however, like this beer. The overall beer reminds me of a bitterer Molson Canadian. It is a bit too light on flavour for me and doesn’t have much complexity. It’s not a “bad” beer, but I don’t like it.
This is the second beer from a Scandinavian country in as many days. This one was not as strong as the first, but I suppose they aren’t all going to all-stars. I wonder if the locations will be grouped together like this as the calendar continues. We shall see.