Before modern times, most water sources were often more or less contaminated and waterborne diseases were common. In Europe, it was customary to prevent the contamination of drinking water with small amounts of ethanol. Ethanol is made by fermenting carbohydrates. In all of Northern Europe and in Finland, too, the most readily available source of carbohydrates was grain. Barley is well-suited for our cool temperate climate. Finland's traditional beer is called sahti. Sahti is a top fermented, unfiltered beer made of barley malt, small amounts of rye malt, (sometimes wheat and oat malt as well), and water, spiced with juniper. Hops are not used - in fact hops became widely adopted in European brewing only in the 13th century. Sahti has a characteristic full, bananalike flavour with some bitterness from the juniper.
All mild, fermented alcoholic drinks in Finland are classified into tax categories according to alcohol content per volume. Category I consists of drinks having at most 2.7 percent alcohol per volume. Category III covers all drinks with 2.8 to 4.7 percent alcohol. Category IV includes those drinks that have more than 4.8 percent. (Category II is no longer mentioned in the law.) Only drinks in category I and III are sold in supermarkets or kiosks. Retail sale of category IV drinks is a state monopoly. All strong beer, wine, and liquor is sold in Alko stores. In the city centre of Tampere, there are Alkos in Sokos, Stockmann, and Anttila deparment stores. Anttila's Alko has a better selection of beers than the Alko at Sokos. Most of the other Alkos in the city are somewhat further away from the centre or in big shopping centres on the outskirts of the city. There are no public holidays during the congress, which means that Alkos are open at regular hours: at best between 9am to 8pm. It is also important to note that all retail sale of alcohol is allowed only between 9am and 9pm. Restaurants and pubs serve alcohol usually until half an hour before closing time.
According to ratebeer.com, the five most highly regarded Finnish beers are: Sinebrychoff Porter, Siperia Imperial Stout of Plevna, Siperia Imperial Stout Hanniku of Plevna, Hollolan Hirvi Kivisahti (this one is a sahti), and Stadin Vintage Ale (a barley wine). Two of the beers at the top of the list are brewed by Koskipanimo at Plevna brewpub right here in Tampere on Satakunnankatu across the street from the northern edge of Keskustori, the central market square. Koskipanimo beers are available in several pubs in Tampere, the nearest one to the congress venue being Oluthuone Esplanadi with a terrace right in the middle of Hämeenpuisto (the park avenue next to the venue) just a hundred metres northeast of Aleksanteri school. In the evening, go players flock to Olutravintola Konttori at Verkatehtaankatu 5, our sponsor and the regular meeting place of Kanpai, the local go club. Konttori has got go sets, an excellent selection of beer (including Finnish and Scandinavian) and whiskey, and a very helpful and knowledgeable staff.