The 10 Best Farmhouse Ales (Saison, Bière de Garde, Grisette, and Sahti) of 2022
There is something so poetic about a farmhouse ale. Sipping on one evokes visions of fields of golden grain waving in the wind and bucolic farms filled with rolling hills, pastures, and meadows.
Which isn't too far off, considering that farmhouse ales gained their name from those very places.
Traditionally, brewers in France and Belgium made these beers in the winter, storing them until they were ready during the hot summer months, when laborers would drink them throughout the day as they tended the crops.
Often referred to as saisonniers in French, these farmhands drank beer for the people. We're not talking about expensive ingredients and crazy adjuncts here. Local town folk made these beers with whatever they had on hand, often crops leftover from the previous year.
These are simple beers reminding us of simpler times.
French vs. Belgian Farmhouse Ales
Throughout history, farmhouse ales picked up nuances based on where they were brewed.
For example, in France farmhouse ales became known as bière de garde ("beer to keep" in French). Capturing more of the funkiness of farmhouse ales, French bière de gardes were also a little sweeter.
On the other hand, in Belgium, saisons (literally translating to season) dominated. These beers run a bit more of the flavor spectrum, fluctuating from crisp and hoppy to tart and sweet.
What Defines a Farmhouse Ale?
More of a category than a single style of beers, farmhouse ales usually encompass a variety of beers such as saison, bière de garde, grisette, and sahti. But in general, farmhouse ales have similar features. Mainly, these beers are effervescent and sunny with a touch of funk often described as hay.
Hey, another farmhouse reference. See what we did there?
We tend to drink farmhouse ales in the warmer months because they're thirst-quenchers—dry, but crisp and light, yet packed with flavor. Consider farmhouse ales like the goldilocks of beers—they're just right.
The Rise and Fall and Rise of Farmhouse Ales
As one can imagine, the popularity of farmhouse ales correlated directly with the rise and fall of farming.
With the advent of the industrial revolution and the regression of farming, farmhouse ales...well, almost bought the farm.
But today, the modern craft beer industry has breathed life back into this country craft. Sure, brewers no longer make farmhouse ales for those out picking crops and toiling in the fields, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy them out on the back patio or in a beer garden.
Many breweries around the world have hung their hat on these homesteading beers, but two in particular have perfected this pastoral pastrime: Hill Farmstead Brewery and Side Project Brewing.
Unsurprisingly, you'll see the list below dominated by these agrarian beasts.
Whether it's a saison or a bière de garde, sipping on one of these brings us back to a simpler time.
And we could all use more of that these days.
Untappd's 10 Highest-Rated Farmhouse Ales of 2022
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