We'd set out some hours earlier on a pair of bikes, trying to ride across the island to an old fortress called Kastelholm. We could have made it to the castle, but stopping for lunch slowed the process. So did a tour of the brewery. Tasting Stallhagen's beers brought us to a crawl. Autumn days are just too short. Kastelholm will have to wait for another visit.
As the weather's cooled, our trip's tenor has changed - from languid to brisk. Shorter days bring a flash of color and a flurry of movement between darkness. Setting out by bike on a June morning can feel like the beginning of an epic. In October, it's a race.
federweißer. In Scandinavia, grapes struggle. The pub replaces the cafe as the latitude shifts, and the inclination of a tippler is to crawl inside. Beer soaks up murky light better than wine, a wan companion for brighter skies.
Finns love their beer as much as German's do, or Poles and Czechs. And, especially in recent years, they've embraced small scale brewing and high-quality products. Stallhagen is among the breweries that have sprung up to meet a surge in demand, but they're intentionally limited in scope. Katarina told us, as she brought us into the tank rooms and showed us the bottling plant, that they have a hard time selling large amounts - which is fine with them. All of their beer is hand made (a point made over and over), unpasteurized and carefully attuned to the seasons. Åland is a small place, and demand for their product is mostly limited to the the islands. "The state alcohol stores need promises for a certain number of cases for each outlet," she said, shaking her head. "That's not how we make beer. We like to sell in small shops and in the bars."
Inside, a man was showing a group of elderly people from Mariehamn (the archipelago capital) how to pour beer and drink it properly. They sat obediently as he pantomimed reverence and contemplated each sip.
The smell of new beer is so much different than old, stale brew - in contrast to a bar's morningtime funk, the brewery smelled like rising dough and fresh grain. The seven brewers in galoshes worked with clanging efficiency; bottles rattled, hoses gushed, pumps gargled. It seemed like lighthearted work, and altogether sober.
I told the bartender here that we'd been to Stallhagen brewery the day before and she acted surprised. We were surprised, though, that we'd found it in the capital. There are only a handful of mainland bars that carry it; Poseidon was just the closest place to get out of the elements. Drinking the beer - and remembering the color of island leaves - reminded us of another element of autumn in coastal Finland. When maritime places begin to turn away from their beaches, and the smell of woodsmoke wafts in the air, the terrestrial takes hold over the water. October seas are unfriendly. Better to drink in the hops and wheat of summer fields, just now emerging in the glass.