The term “farmhouse ales” conjures up romantic mages of simple country beers brewed on self-sufficient farms as a matter of necessity.
The first sentence of the introduction to Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski perfectly sums up most people’s approach to this style of beer, and mine too. Farmhouse ales, as far as this book goes, include two major categories: Bier de Garde and Saison. Two beers which most Americans don’t see in stores very often, and aren’t inclined to try unless they’re getting a sampler from a brewpub.
Prior to reading this book, I’ve only had an opportunity to try Bier de Garde once, and a Saison once or twice, and very far apart. That said, I was excited to read this book because who doesn’t like the idea of a farmhouse beer? Even more exciting than that, I did know that many of these beers are fermented at high temperatures and turn out well. As a homebrewer who likes to brew year-round, this is also very appealing to me, as I don’t have a convenient way to control fermentation temperature.
After reading Farmhouse Ales, I have a greater appreciation for the style(s), and an even greater appreciation for Phil Markowski’s work. Farmhouse ales are a very broad and general type of beer (within the two sub-categories described in the book), and within each sub-category, there seem to be a nearly infinite number of variations, making it extremely difficult to get very specific. Markowski takes the approach of highlighting historical and modern examples of each style, and describing their qualities, leaving it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions as to how one should brew a beer in each style.
Each of the two major sections of the book (Bier de Garde & Saison) are divided into subsections: a historical review, how to find and appreciate modern examples, and how to brew your own. These sections are jam-packed with information, nearly demanding several re-reads from the reader before possibly digesting it all.
If you have ever been interested in Farmhouse ales and their rich history and tradition, I highly recommend this book.