Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beer Style of the Week - Farmhouse Ales - Week 5

Farmhouse Ale -Saisons or Biere De Garde – Week 5Farmhouse Ale- Originally brewed in France as Biere de Garde and in Belgium as Saison (meaning season) during the late fall and winter months, the Farmhouse Ale would be tapped for the warm summer months in both countries as a flavorful beer that would last without refrigeration for several months. There are a wide spectrum of brewing ingredients and techniques used to create Biere de Garde or Saison. There are combinations of old traditions and newer methods employed to brew a batch nowadays, but to be authentic to the style, they should all, first and foremost, be bottle-conditioned. There may be some differences in malts, hops, yeast and water. The colors may vary from amber/orange to leathery brown. While there may even be vast differences from one to another, a beer within the style range should not be overly hopped and have just enough malt body to carry some of the fruitiness and mellow citrus bitterness known to the style. The aroma may have a slightly musty basement smell (in a good way, of course) or woody smell. An earthy smell is very common, as is a floral scent. The flavor profiles should possess a light peppery spiciness and/or resinous quality with a well-hidden alcoholic bite. Herbal tastes vary with coriander, basil, mint and/or allspice. A light taste of citrus zest and a mild taste of cloves are usually noticed in any farmhouse worthy of the name. The alcohol content ranges from between 5.5% and 8.0% alcohol by volume (ABV).Many of the old farmhouse brews were developed for the farmworkers as a nourishing, thirst-quenching beer. These particular ales were brewed at a lower 3.5% - 5% ABV level, perhaps so that the workers wouldn’t injure themselves with the farm equipment or animals.

Many French home brewers have in the past added citrus rinds and/or pulps, or other fruits into their Farmhouse ale, kicking up the alcohol level and flavor profiles in many crazy directions.

From the lands of Origination– Easy to find in New England (ask your local packie)

Biere de Garde - France

Les Freres De La Biere / Thiriez Xxtra– Biere De Garde - France - a fairly light (4.7% ABV)

25.4oz dark green bottle. No freshness date.

It pours a hazy pale gold color with a big, slow-fading pure white head and lots of sticky and sliding lace.

It smells like a fist full of freshly rubbed hops or resinous buds. Another smell that comes to mind is a dry desert and cut oak.

This moderately malted brew has a fresh bagel taste with a mild grassy finish.

The hops are edgy and sharp-edged, but not over-done. Resinous floral hop flavors abound.

Ever inhale deeply on a slightly clogged unlit hash pipe? Me neither, but the experience might be very reminiscent of that.

At 4.7%abv, it's one of the few brews I've had that tastes stronger than it actually is. This brew is quite different from anything out there today. Uniquely flavorful and totally refreshing! A must try!

Les Bière Des Sans Culottes - Brasserie La Choulette – Biere de Garde- France 7%ABV

16.9oz tall green, corked bottle. Best Before date notched on the side. Nice artwork paying tribute to the "trouserless" laborers who did the handiwork of the French Revolution. BTW - The fighters appear to be wearing trousers, but the woman leading the charge has raised her flag while lowering the top of her blouse. Ou la la!!

It pours a cloudy honey gold color with a small, but lasting white head and some sticky and trailing lace.

The aroma is a pleasant mix of dried malt, hay, lemony citrus and faint whiff of alcohol.

The malt has a nice herbal quality to it. A light sweetness and buttery biscuit taste provide a uniquely satisfying maltiness.

A lime-like bitterness is upfront. Hints of coriander, cloves and faint taste of pears adds to the brew's fine subtle character. The 7% ABV is well disguised.

This is one those rare beer purchases that turn out to be an amazing find. I wish I had bought more.


Fantôme– Fantôme Brasserie – Soy, Belgium – 8% ABV

750 ml dark green capped and corked bottle.

My mother-in-law (a Heinie and Stella fan) tasted and fell in love with this Saison at a local beer tasting. She purchased a bottle to share over a dinner of Belgian Beef stew. NICE PAIRING!

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