The hazy hop forward juice bombs, resinous westies, imperial mocha choca-lata stouts, and pretty much anything that contains lactose can make us forget that when we drink beer we are drinking a beverage steeped in historical significance. However, when a Farmhouse Ale brushes over our palate we are swiftly reminded of the human nourishment and advancement beer fostered in the past.
Once a fairly obvious term referring to beers that were brewed in the colder months to sustain farm workers throughout the warmer season – after all water wasn’t that safe to drink at the time. The origin of the Farmhouse Ale is often honored to Belgium and France, with the Saison and Biere de Garde respectively.
Often these beers were brewed on the individual farms, who would cultivate and maintain their own yeast strains.
The individuality of each of these farmhouses’ brews was highlighted when the craft beer world caught word of the ancient Norwegian Kveik yeasts. Still finding their footing in modern day breweries, ‘Kveik’ translates simply to ‘yeast’ as, at the time, it wasn’t a specific strain. But being unique to each household meant one person’s beer would differ greatly to their neighbors, with underlying commonalities.
Just as Kveik is a family of yeasts, ‘Farmhouse Ale’ which is a family of beer styles which share similar characteristics.
Straw to gold in colour (though there are darker iterations), integrated hop bitterness, a brush of tartness, a bone dry finish, often high carbonation, and present character from specific yeast strains often unique to the brewhouse. So, Old Macdonald had a farm and on that farm he had Saison, Kveik, Biere de Garde, Grisette and more.
Today the term Farmhouse Ale continues to pertain to these myriad of styles which are still being brewed in countries far and wide - from rural towns, industrial plots and bustling cities far from the farms of their humble origin. The new-found love for Farmhouse Ales has led not just to growth, with breweries dedicating themselves to Farmhouse styles, and experimentation, such as La Sirene’s Funq IPA, but also an appreciation and honoring of historical tradition from both brewers and drinkers alike.