Sima – not just for Vappu!

The Herkkujen Suomi (Delicacies of Finland) event was held for the fifth time last weekend at Rautatientori, incorporating the Syystober beer festival. While you might question the wisdom of having another beerfest so soon after SOPP, it strikes me as a very good idea to have these food and beer events together–for two reasons: it can bring smaller local breweries to the attention of people who wouldn’t go to a purely-beer event, and it treats beer properly, placing it at the heart of food culture rather than positioning it as something to fear.

It’s at Syystober that the Finnish beers of the year are announced, the overall winner this year being Plevna‘s Siperia imperial stout (the winner every year in my book). But something else caught my eye as I roamed the tent.

Simapaja, based in east Helsinki, describe themselves as “the first sima brewery since prohibition.” A two-person operation, they’ve been brewing only since last September, and this was their first event appearance.

You may know sima–the Finnish version of mead–from May Day activities, but the stuff you find in most supermarkets is mostly made with brown sugar instead of honey, and fermented for a very short time. This leads to a sickly-sweet, not particularly tasty result.

Dry & sweet sima from Simapaja
Dry & sweet sima from Simapaja

Simapaja does things differently. Using local honey, and fermenting for four weeks, they’re producing two distinctive mead varieties: Wandering Minstrel, a dry mead flavoured with lemon and blackcurrant leaves, and the sweet Innkeeper’s Daughter, flavoured with mandarin. I can’t claim any expertise with mead, but I found both to be very tasty. They’re available from Alko via sale-to-order, and should be in stock in Alko’s Arkadia flagship store. If you’re around east Helsinki, keep an eye out in your local bar.

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