With the explosion of the craft beer scene over the last decade or so, it has become increasingly difficult to define different beer styles. As brewers experiment with different ingredients and recipes to give their own take on a style of beer, the characteristics we associate with that style become muddled and confused.
This is especially true when it comes to Farmhouse or farm style beers. The term Farmhouse is thrown around frequently without any real consistency between how and when it is used. Many breweries label a beer as “farmhouse” because it is their take on a Belgian-style Saison or a Biere de Garde even if the process in which the beer is brewed is exactly the same as how that brewery makes their IPAs, stouts, and other beers. Other Farmhouse beers are actually brewed on a farm in the traditional style and intent that originates from Belgium and France.
Historical Farmhouse Brewing
Farmhouse ales first showed up in areas of Belgium and Northern France around the turn of the 20th century. The main purpose of farmhouse ales was to take well water that was often contaminated and unsafe to drink and turn it into something that could be safely consumed and stored. There are a few defining characteristics of Farmhouse beers and, more importantly, the process by which they were brewed. The original Farmhouse brewers used natural, untreated water; naturally cultivated yeast; and ingredients that were grown on their farm or on other farms within their close vicinity.
Since there was such a high degree of variability in the ingredients available to these brewers, their beers lacked consistency in their recipe construction and flavor. That’s why Farmhouse beers are defined less by the common characteristics of the beer and more by the process by which the beer is brewed.
A Philosophy as Much as a Process
Because of the emphasis on local ingredients, Farmhouse beers are deeply tied to the location where they are brewed. That’s why many people classify Farmhouse beers as “beers with a sense of place.”
Many breweries will cherry-pick ingredients from around the world to suit the beer that they want to make. They will treat their water to give it certain characteristics, buy their malts and hops from one of just a few suppliers, and use yeast that was created in a laboratory specifically for brewing.
Conversely, Farmhouse breweries let the ingredients they have on hand dictate the type of beer they brew. That’s why many people choose to think of authentic Farmhouse brewing as a sort of brewing philosophy. The focus isn’t about choosing ingredients that will achieve a specified end goal; it’s about allowing the materials one has determine the outcome.
Eugene's Farmhouse Brewery
At Agrarian Ales Brewing Company, we strive to live up to this philosophy. We grow 100% of the hops we use ourselves and make a point to use locally-sourced ingredients. Almost every ingredient in our beers comes from a 30 mile radius around our farm which makes our beers an authentic representation of the terroir of Eugene and the Southern Willamette Valley. If you’d like to learn more about our take on Farmhouse brewing, come ask us. Our employees would love to talk your ear off about our brewing process (and they will if you let them).
In addition to our brewery, we also have a tasting room that is dedicated to making delicious dishes from locally-sourced ingredients and what we grow ourselves.
For a taste of the Willamette Valley, there is no better place to visit than Agrarian Ales, Eugene’s Farmhouse brewery. Come visit us soon!