The Farmhouse Ale Style: Fad or Fashion

A couple years ago an emerging Black IPA beer style peaked the interest of craft brewers/drinkers and soon swept over the marketplace like a tasty plague. Pretty soon Black IPA wasn’t just a specialty beer, but a regular brand from breweries like Stone and New Glarus. While the rage of Black IPA’s seems to have slowed as of late, it seems “Farmhouse Ale” has taken its place. But what is a Farmhouse Ale?

farmhouseDefining a Farmhouse Ale

While Farmhouse Ale is not listed in the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines, a quick internet search (and a slightly lengthier read of Phil Markowski’s book “Farmhouse Ales”) tells us that Farmhouse Ales are usually categorized as the Biere De Garde’s that originated in northern France or the Saison’s that originated in southern Belgium.

Both beer styles were traditionally brewed in the winter time in farmhouses for distribution amongst field workers during the growing season. Because these beers were brewed by hundreds of different brewers, each with their own strain of yeast and limits on available ingredients, the beers likely varied widely in flavor profiles.

What Markowski Says About Biere De Garde

  • Golden to deep amber with a high amount of clarity
  • Faint hop aroma masked by a toasty malt character
  • 6-8% ABV
  • “Favors and displays upfront malt character and sweetness, generally balanced with a paradoxal dryness”


Brewsconsin Reviews New Belgium Lips of Faith Biere De Garde Collaboration with Brewery Vivant

What Markowski Says About Saison

  • Deep golden to light orange with higher than average carbonation levels
  • Fruity and sometimes spicy Belgian aromatics
  • Flavors can contain spiciness attributed to yeast and often have a detectable level of hop bitterness
  • “Flavor is typically dry and refreshing with fruit and spice flavors dominant”
  • 6-9% ABV

* Traditionally were 3-5% but modern versions tend to be 6-9%


Brewsconsin’s Review of Goose Island’s Saison’s; Pepe Nero and Sophie

Fad or Fashion?

Markowski’s  defines and classifies two fairly loose styles, Saison and Biere De Garde, as Farmhouse Ales. While Farmhouse might be all the rage right now on the market, it is fair to say that for the most part brewers are being fairly true to style…at least the modern version of it. Even beers like Spotted Cow from New Glarus which would usually be classified as a Cream Ale sort of works as a Farmhouse Ale. The addition of corn likely could have been used by farmhouses looking to get a little extra sugar into their beers so the alcohol would help them keep from winter when they were traditionally brewed until the growing season.

While I originally thought that the Farmhouse Ale was just a marketing tool, I realize now that the style does have a deep-rooted history and that modern brewers’ takes on the styles are usually quite enjoyable and fitting based on all definitions I have researched.

What Next?

If Black IPA was the last craft brewing marketing fad and Farmhouse Ales are just coming into their own (Belgian IPA’s had a quick run in there somewhere, even a few Belgian Black IPA’s reared their heads), what will be the next fad beer style? Also, does that style exist yet? While Farmhouse Ales are modern interpretations of classic styles, Black IPA kind of invented its own style. In fact it is still a specialty category in the BJCP style guidelines. Either way, it is exciting to be here still in the early stages of this craft brewing revolution.

*This blog was powered by Ommegang Hennepin and Goose Island Pepe Nero



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