What do farmhouse ales taste like?

Answered by Tom Adger

Farmhouse ales, also known as saisons, are a unique style of beer that originated in farmhouse breweries in Belgium and France. These beers are renowned for their complex and distinct flavor profiles. When it comes to the taste of farmhouse ales, there are a few key characteristics to consider.

1. Funky and Earthy: One of the defining features of farmhouse ales is their funky flavor. This can be described as a combination of earthiness, wet hay, and even a touch of barnyard. It may sound unappealing, but this characteristic is highly sought after by beer enthusiasts who appreciate the complexity it adds to the brew. The funkiness is often contributed by wild yeast strains or bacteria used in fermentation, such as Brettanomyces or Lactobacillus.

2. Tartness and Fruitiness: Farmhouse ales typically exhibit a tartness that can range from subtle to pronounced. This tartness is often reminiscent of sour or unripened fruit, such as green apples or unripened strawberries. It adds a refreshing and lively quality to the beer, making it perfect for warm weather enjoyment. The fruitiness can also extend beyond tartness, with flavors of citrus, stone fruits, or even tropical fruits occasionally present.

3. Spicy and Peppery: Another common characteristic of farmhouse ales is the presence of spicy and peppery notes. This can be attributed to the use of specific yeast strains, such as Belgian Saison yeast, which produce compounds called phenols. These phenols contribute to flavors reminiscent of black pepper, clove, or even coriander. The spiciness adds complexity and a subtle kick to the overall taste profile.

4. Dry and Crisp: Farmhouse ales tend to finish dry, meaning they lack a significant residual sweetness. This dryness contributes to a crisp mouthfeel and makes the beer incredibly refreshing to drink. It also allows the other flavors to shine through and prevents the beer from feeling heavy or cloying. The dry finish is often achieved through the use of highly attenuative yeast strains that consume most of the sugars during fermentation.

5. Herbal and Floral: Some farmhouse ales exhibit herbal and floral characteristics, which can vary depending on the specific ingredients used. It’s not uncommon to detect herbal notes reminiscent of hay, chamomile, or even freshly cut grass. Floral aromas, such as rose, lavender, or hibiscus, can also make an appearance, adding a delicate and aromatic element to the beer’s flavor profile.

It’s important to note that the taste of farmhouse ales can vary significantly across different breweries and individual batches. Each brewer may have their own unique recipe, fermentation techniques, and ingredient choices, resulting in a wide range of flavors within the farmhouse ale category. Exploring different farmhouse ales from various breweries can be an exciting journey, as you never know what delightful and unexpected flavors you may discover.

Personal Experience: As a beer enthusiast, I’ve had the pleasure of trying numerous farmhouse ales from different breweries. One particular farmhouse ale I tried had a prominent funkiness that reminded me of freshly cut grass and a damp cellar. It had a subtle tartness that was reminiscent of green apples, and the finish was exceptionally dry, leaving my mouth crisp and clean. The beer also had a peppery spiciness that added a delightful kick to each sip. it was a unique and complex brew that showcased the distinct characteristics of a farmhouse ale.

Farmhouse ales offer a one-of-a-kind tasting experience. Their funky, earthy, and tart qualities, combined with spiciness and a dry finish, create a refreshing and complex flavor profile. Exploring the diverse range of farmhouse ales available can be an exciting adventure for beer enthusiasts looking to expand their palate and discover new and interesting flavors.