hist-brewing: Gottlandsdricka - style issues

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Thu Jun 22 22:28:51 PDT 2000

    I have received a suprising number of  inquirers regarding details
what kinds variances exist within the style and what parameters exist to
determine when an ale can properly be termed Gottlandsdricka.  Rather
then write several notes covering  largely the same ground i'll just
cover the points here as i assume that the inquiries in question came
from participants in this forum.
    Their is no commercial example of  the style in production
presently.  To the best of my knowledge this beverage has always been
made by home brewers although i suppose at some point the drink may have
been made at a public house.  Because of the non commercial nature of
the beverage their exists a surpassingly large variety of  variations on
the theme.  Nonetheless, the genre can be broken down into 6 categories
of  which three have a significant modern presence.  Despite these
differences within the style certain elements remain constant.

Q: What are the defining characteristics of Gottlandsdricka?:

A: The style has a flavor profile characterized by a dominant juniper
flavor and aroma with a distinct sweetness present in all but the
stronger varieties.  The use of wood in the mash, lautering and/or mash
out/sparging results in a significant tannin content which is assertive
in the still versions of  the drink.  One should also use Sorenson's
mash method as described in my May 16th post for best results when
making the traditional forms of the drink.
    A smoky character is  most definitely an inherent element in the
style.  Smoke induced qualities are more assertive then in contemporary
German and Scottish styles although they are of secondary influence to
the flavor profile when compared to juniper flavors.
    Bitterness perception should be fairly low to imperceptible
depending upon the variant. Whatever the source of  the bittering & anti
septic qualities they should not add a significant element to the
overall flavor.
    The mouth feel and body should be full with the stronger versions
having a pronounced alcoholic aspect.  While the use of rye, wheat and
oats in the grist bill
often provide these qualities they should not represent a large portion
of  the fermentables.
    Finally, the dricka should ideally be fermented in either an oak
vessel or a ceramic milk churn.  One can use a carboy (i do) with 3 or 4
ounces of oak chips and get good results.

Q: What spices are used for preserving and bittering the traditional
versions of  the dricka?

A:  Bog bean, Carduus (although not as common) and wood sage.  Alecost
is reputed to have been used although i have yet to meet someone  who
has actually made the drink with it.

Q: Can i use hops?

A: Only the modern versions of  the drink use hops.  They frankly don't
complement the other aspects of the drink's flavor profile so hopped
Gottlandsdrickas just don't suit me.  Also, hops should not be used with
other bittering agents as they result in an over bitter and astringent
beverage that just is not balanced.

Q: Is their a non alcoholic version of  Gottlandsdricka?  If so how
would i make it?

A: Yes.  Although i have no reason to think that such a product existed
until quite recently.  A non alcoholic version is presently made by
Viungs Rok & Malt.  Basically it's a wort that has been filtered and
force carbonated.  If  you have a filtering setup and keg equipment you
could make the same thing rather then fermenting the brew.

Q:  I understand that a rather strange malt is used during the
production of the Dricka.  Is their a retail source for the malt in the
states?  Would i have a real example of  the style if  i  used some
other malt?

A: Real Gottlands malt is floor malted and kilned over extremely low
Birch fires for 4-7 days with high smoke production.  This malt is quite
unique and has no near equivalent i know of.  It is not available
outside of  Gottland at all.  One can certainly smoke the malts you buy
(i use Beeston's malts) and get great results.  While the results are
not dead on they can be close enough to get a good idea what it's like.
I think that making unusual ales like the dricka is similar to making
lambic and other odd ales in that you can get something close to the
real thing but not something that is a carbon copy of  the original.

Q: What did you think of  the Zymurgy article about the style and the
suggested recipe that appeared several years back?

A:  A poor effort on the whole which described the making of  the modern
form of the drink which is poorly balanced and overly astringent.  The
background information was also rather shoddy and way to short.  In
summery don't bother with the article as it was a blight on an other
wise fine issue.

Q: What are these variants you keep bringing up?
A: see below -

    1) Orginal style, young & still :  This variant has no bittering or
anti septic agent in the recipe and no perceptible bitterness.  It is
served flat right out of  the fermenter 4-7 after the start of
fermentation.  Because the the yeast is "fed" during this time you have
a very sweet drink that is referred to often as as "woman's dricka".
This is a harshly astringent concoction that is made drinkable only by
the high residual sugars.  I don't like it and this variant is rarely
made now a days.

    2) Original style, still & old:  Typically this variant has a 20% or
so more fermentables, in the form of sugars & syrups, then does
Sorenson's recipe. And is served flat out of  the fermenter like the
last entry. It has little or no anti septic or bittering agents added
and has no perceptible bitterness.  This version tends to be quite
alcoholic do to a prolonged fermentation and has a lighter body then
other variants.  It typically has a clear sour taste and is often spiced
with mace, balm, cloves mugwort, woodruff or some combination their of
placed in one's mug several moments prior to consumption.  This version
of the drink is also rarely made now and is certainly an acquired
taste.  I for one like it only on a particularly cold and damp night
before going to bed.

    3) Original style, casked/bottled: This is the most common variant
of  the original style of production and benefits from 2 to 4 months
aging in the cask or bottle.  Sorenson's recipe comes from this
approach..  Certainly it is the best that the genre has to offer as a
result of it's balance, strength and longevity.

    4)  Original strong style, casked/bottled: This is has become some
what rare during the post war period although it still has it's
adherents.  Basically it differs from the previous entry in that it has
roughly 30% more fermentables then Sorenson's recipe.  Typically this
variant is aged for 6 months to a year after a prolonged fermentation,
is as alcoholic as a triple bock and has a sour characteristic.

5) Original style, 3 threads:  This is the most exotic take on the style
and one that has seen a resurgence of  interest recently.  Typically
it's made by taking 2 parts old and still and combining it with one part
of an original casked or strong that's undergoing a prolonged secondary
fermentation.  At the conclusion of the secondary the ale is spiced with
a sweet syrup, cloves, maybe some woodruff and served about a year
latter.  This is very alcoholic drink with the juniper flavors muted.
It bears some semblance to a smoky, alcoholic Flemish soured brown with
lots of aromatics, just imagine that!

6) Modern style:  This version uses about half an once of hops for
bittering and has a grist bill roughly 25% less then Sorenson's recipe.
This version is also sparged with juniper laden water.   This version of
the style also has little or no spices while retaining the smoky
character.  It is often referred to as "youngster's dricka" or "young
girl drink".  This is a poorly balanced and unpleasant drink to my

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