Thursday, September 8, 2011

Harvesting Farmhouse Ale

2011 Smuttynose Big Beer Series Release #5

New Hampshire has always been seen as a very grounded state and its residents are known for their pragmatism and practical view of the world.  These characteristics can also be found in the agrarian region around the Belgian-French border region, the birthplace of a loose family of beers known as “farmhouse ales.”  In fact, this salt-of-the-earth origins gives farmhouse ales a unique breadth of permissiveness not seen in any other beer style.

While most beer styles are quite rigidly defined, saisons and biere de gardes (the two recognized styles of farmhouse ales) can use nearly any type of grain, hop or spice; some expressions are sweet and floral while others can be bitter and dry.  The style’s permissiveness arose from necessity.  Farmers would brew these beers with whatever ingredients they had on hand to provide refreshment and nourishment for “Saisonnaires,” seasonal farm hands who provided extra labor during the growing and harvesting seasons. 

The brewers at Smuttynose have been most captivated by the unique yeast strains that imbue saisons and biere de gardes with their signature characteristics.  When brewing Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale,  our staff supplements the natural enzymes found in the malt with an extra dose of amylase, which breaks complex sugars into simple, fermentable ones.  This means nearly every bit of starch has been converted to sugar and consumed by the yeast during fermentation.

As with past releases, the 2011 expression of Farmhouse Ale is a strong, unspiced saison, but it has been tweaked a bit.  We dropped the starting gravity from 17º Plato to 15º Plato, which means there are less sugars in the wort at the start of fermentation.  This results in a slightly less alcoholic beer, but fret not dear readers; the beer tastes better!  By reducing the alcohol presence, the other subtle flavors can mingle together to create a delicate, nuanced flavor experience.

Stat Box
8.2% ABV
15 IBU
Starting Extract: 15ºPlato  Finishing Extract 0ºPlato
Malt: Pilsner, Aromatic, Wheat
Hops: Warrior-Bittering, Liberty and Sterling-Finishing
Special Guests: Cane Sugar-to lighten the body, Amylase Enzymes-to increase fermentability
Yeast: White Labs Belgian Saison I  WLP565 
Production Size: 150 barrels (4650 gallons)

Farmhouse Ale has an immense versatility when introduced to food pairings.  Its subtle complexity means you can put it next to almost anything, except the most intensely flavored foods.  From traditional western European peasant foods like cassoulet, roasted fowl, root vegetables and pickled food stuffs to less obvious pairings like ceviche, sushi and brandade, chances are you can create a delicious pairing with whatever you have on hand as well!

In a brewery full of turophiles, we had no shortage of cheese pairings for such a versatile beer, but the best options were earthy, nutty and more firm in texture; cheeses like manchego, aged gouda and morbier 

We hope you enjoy our newest offering in the Big Beer Series.  Gravitation, our Belgian Quad, should be out in mid-September.

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