As most craft beer lovers realize, our palates change frequently. It comes with time, mood, weather, seasons… pretty much anything can trigger the appetite for a particular taste.
While I have the every day cravings that can go from hop bomb DIPA’s to thick and warming Imperial Stouts, I’ve noticed my more frequent than not gravitation towards Farmhouse and Sour styles (I’m being vague here). Now, I know I’m not the only one and certainly far from the first to make this transition. I know plenty of enthusiasts that know far more about sours, wild yeast, brettanomyces, funky yeast strains and bacteria like lactobacillus than I could ever pretend to know.
What intrigues me are these small breweries that are mastering these styles. Farmhouse style ales, the most famous being Saisons, were once thought to be a dying style. Before that they were considered beers for the working class. The funky, earthiness produced by the yeast strain of Saisons (and other yeast/bacteria) was thought of as undesirable. Fast forward to today, and these tastes are sought after. “Horse Blanket”, “Barnyard”, “Haystack”, all these terms can actually be thought of in a favorable way. Sour beers or Wild ales on the other hand were embraced by a smaller group of fans of Lambics, Geuzes and the sort. Spontaneous fermentation was something that was avoided for a long time as well though. Sour was a taste that was thought of as “not belonging” in beer.
However nowadays, with the large growth in experimentation of barrel aging and domesticating wild yeast, brewers are learning how to control the yeast and bacteria and know when a desired result is met with the ever changing life of an unpasteurized ale. Some brewers like Allagash are even going more bold with the use of coolships and just letting the wild yeast infect and do it’s thing. Yep, I said “infect”. That’s what these sours are, whether purposely or not, they are technically “infected” by wild yeast.
So why the long ramble about Farmhouse and Wild ales? For the past year and change I’ve liberally walked around telling anyone who would listen to me that Hill Farmstead in Vermont was my favorite brewery. They could do no wrong. Sure, they make great hoppy beers and even great porters. What really jumps out however are their Saisons and Biere De Gardes… the country taste that quite accurately reflects the old barn that they brew out of.
In my last post about GABF, I went to add on that I fell in love with Crooked Stave and Funkwerks. Both breweries that are not shy about sours and funks and the use of (even 100% at times) brettanomyces. Add these breweries to Hill Farmstead and other favorites like Jester King and Freetail who are doing some amazing things in these categories. We now see more small breweries popping up with these specific styles being their focus. Logsdon is the latest brewery that I’ve been lucky to sample and have also fallen for it quite a bit.
The point? None, other than to proclaim my love for these new/old styles. Perhaps also, I’d like to remind everyone that your palates do and will change and you may or may not like something eventually, but it never hurts to experiment. Much like modern cuisine, even something that was once thought of as a last resort or poor man’s food; if properly prepared could be one of the finest things you’ll ever have.