Gotlandsdricka is a traditional home-brewed ale made on the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea. On the island, it is known as drikke or drikko. It is a smoky, full-bodies and bitter-sweet ale flavoured with juniper.
Gotlandsdricka is a fairly close relative of Finnish sahti, Norwegian Maltøl / Konnjøl and Estonian Koduõlu / Taluõlu. Similar brews were once widespread everyday drinks in the Nordic countries, but they have only survived in isolated locations or been limited to special celebrations.
There is no wider commerical distribution of Gotlandsdricka and the beverage has become a potent cultural marker for the island. Each fall, the annual Drikke Brewing Championships takes place on Gotland. Gotlandsdrinka is also a prominent feature of the annual Gotland Medieval Week, although hampered by certain legal complications due to it being home-brewed and varying in alcohol content.
Traditionally, only women brewed Gotlandsdricka on Gotland, with men being involved only by fetching water and juniper boughs.
Traditional Gotlandsdricka is fermented, unfiltered and unpasteurized.
It is made from ingredients such as water, malt, hops, juniper boughs, yeast (from the old brew), and (sometimes) something sweet. Some recipes call for pors (Myrica gale).
The end result is a smoky, full-bodied and bitter-sweet beverage with strong juniper notes.
Gotlandsdricka can vary in colour from dark yellow to golden brown, sometimes with a pink tint.
Gotlandsdricka is consumed while it is still young and fermenting. It takes about a week to ferment and should not be kept for more than another two weeks.
The alchol content vary, chiefly depending on the amount of sweet ingredients added.
Historically, Gotlandsdricka was served with meals on Gotland, and it was drunk by everyone, including children. It could also be used as a flavouring, e.g. on top of porridge.
At least since the Viking age and until the Industrial Revolution, only women brewed ale and Gotlandsdricka on Gotland. Men would fetch water and juniper twigs, but not be involved with the actual brewing.
Modern recipes for Gotlandsdricka often include sugar, but that would have been difficult and prohibitively expensive for the average Gotland family back in the day. Instead, other sweet ingredients were used, such as brich sap. Also, when honey and wax had been extracted from honeycombs, the remaining combs could be boiled in water, and this water could be used as a sweetener for Gotlandsdricka.
Hops were not introduced to Scandinavia until the 13th century. Before that, Gotlandsdricka was made without hops. Once hops were introduced to Gotland, it was added to the recipes for Gotlandsdricka, but only fairly small amounts of hops were used and hops did not replace the juniper boughs and pors (Myrica gale).
Traditionally, dregs from a previous batch were used to add yeast fungi to the Gotlandsdricka.
The northern part of Gotland was industrialized in the early 1900s, and during this period, a lot of families there stopped brewing Gotlandsdricka since people moved away from the traditional farms and other drinks became more readily available. Southern Gotland, however, preserved the tradition, as this part of the island didn´t go through the same heavy industrialization.
In the late 1960s, Sweden went through a wave of renewed interest in old traditions, and on Gotland, this resulted in a revival for the Gotlandsdricka.
In 1991, the Gotlandsdricka Brewing Championship was launched in southern Gotland, and it has been held annually ever since.
There is no standard recipe for Gotlandsdricka, since each farm developed their own methods and also needed to be flexible and adjust according to availability of ingredients, wood, etc. It comes as no surprise that different farms employed different rules when making Gotlandsdricka, e.g. regarding which wood to use for the malting, if the bark should be kept on, and how fine to ground the malt.
First, grain must be malted into malt. This can be wheat, rye, barley or oats – depending on what’s available. The grain is allowed to sprout and is then dried. In Gotland, the drying traditionally took place in a small hut called kölna, typically built on top of the brewing house. A fire was lit below the kölna, which gave the malt a smokey flavour. (Alternative method: Circulate the hot air in pipes under the malt to reduce the smokey flavour of the Gotlandsdricka.)
The dried malt is ground and placed in a wooden mash tun.
Water is boiled with juniper boughs and berries, and poured onto the malt in the tun.
A porridge-like mixture is formed (“mash”) which is agitated and then left to rest for several hours.
Filling the rostbunn
A lattice of shaved juniper branches i placed at the bottom of the rostbunn and the other layers are added step by step. (The rostbunn is a wooden tub with a tap at the bottom.)
Getting the different layers right in the rostbunn is difficult and surrounded by many superstitions. The layers must be compact enough for the liquid to flow slow, but not so compact that they stop the flow completely. To avoid a blockage, the area near the tap needs to be carefully padded with juniper boughs. The rostbunn is then lined with threshed straw or thinner branches of juniper, before the mash is placed in the middle of the bunn.
Hot brewing liquor is poured over the mash in the rostbunn. The tap is opened and the lännu (wort) is collected in a container. Pouring takes place several times, or continously. The early lännu is extra strong, and was sometimes set aside to make a Gotlandsdricka for special occasions.
Boiling the lännu
The lännu is boiled. The longer the boiling, the sweeter the Gotlandsdricka, since more water evaporates.
Now, additional flavourings such as hops, pors (bog myrtle) and honey can be added.
The brew is set aside to cool, and is then filtered.
Yeast is added. Traditionally, this would be yeast from a previous batch of Gotlandsdricka. (Just like we utilize saved sourdough to add yeast fungi to a new bread dough.) Today, many brewers use purchased yeast instead; either baker´s yeast or ale yeast.
The yeast is added and the Gotlandsdricka is poured into wooden barrels to ferment for 4-5 days. Today, some brewers use steel, glass or plastic containers instead of the traditoinal wooden barrels.