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Defining farmhouse ale; reconsidering history

Lars Garshol, author of “Historical Brewing Techniques: The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing,” writes about “What counts as a farmhouse ale?”

It’s simple, but . . . “Farmhouse brewing is about the tradition, not the source of the ingredients.” He explains.

He also weighs in on the matter of whether saison was really a farmhouse product. Roel Mulder has suggested otherwise. Cutting a long story short, Garshol concludes saison is a style that belongs in the farmhouse family. But first, he makes two important points.

– “Farmers who grow grain will brew beer as long as it makes economic sense for them, and whether there is industry nearby won’t necessarily affect the economic logic at all.”

– Some facts can neither be proved as undeniable nor disproved.

This is as true of American brewing history as it is of farmers in the Hainaut region of Belgium making beer in spring for the harvest work. The history in the centuries after, or perhaps even before, the time Thomas Hariot describes brewing on Roanoke Island between 1584 and 1586 is incomplete.

Start with the thought there were a lot of farmers growing grain. Accept that there’s more about brewing in the Americas than has already been documented. Go.

Monday beer briefing: Provide your own commentary


Cedric Burnside, Wildwood Revival 2019We spent Friday through Sunday listening to live music at a delightful festival south of Athens (Georgia). It was terrific. Cedric Burnside, pictured above, was particularly excellent. Here are links to some excellent beer reading.

1) Ambitious Brew! Revised!
        Highly recommended. *****

2) Tracing the Origins of Beer Language, from Michael Jackson to Emojis.
        I’ll have more to say about this soon, perhaps Wednesday.

3) The Original Originals — In the Czech Republic, the Budweiser War Opens an Eastern Front

4) The Coziness of a Belgian Cafe.

5) Now Rising to the Top of the Beer World: Foam.

6) Start drinking up now, please.

7) Thirty Years of Beer at Pike Brewing.

8) Why Oh Why Is the Good Beer Guide Still Getting British Beer Styles So Totally, Shambolically Wrong?

9) German Court Says a Hangover Is an Illness.


10) The mysterious and not fully understandable wine defect popping up in natural wines: mouse.
        The beery companion: Cereal Killer — Why THP is Bad for Beer and What You Can Do About It.


ReadBeer, every day.
Daily newsletter: Inside Beer.
Alan McLeod, most Thursdays.
Good Beer Hunting’s Read Look Drink, most Fridays.
Boak & Bailey, most Saturdays.

Monday beer briefing: Storytelling, tribes & what is this about sheep?


1) Ken Burns’ Soft-Focus Look at Country Music.
2) Ken Burns’ New Documentary Is in Love With Country’s Myths, Not Its Music
These two reviews do not reflect how well Country Music has been received. The series is very entertaining and mostly loved. As a consequence, it acts an advertisement for country music, and I’ve already read stories about how one result will be still more tourism in Nashville. That’s fine, but Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Carl Wilson point to what was not included, and how the series could have been better.

Last month, Jeff Alworth wrote about the importance of storytelling to breweries. This includes recruiting others, writers or customers are both welcome, to tell the stories. But the tales the breweries would like repeated pretty much word for word may not be the ones folks such as Erlewine or Wilson end up reporting. That’s why it is called reporting.

When I gave the keynote at the Beer Bloggers Conference (now called Beer Now) a few years ago I opened it by playing a clip from James McMurtry’s “Life in Aught-Three.” It begins, “Not that I advocate drinking or nothing. It’s just my job you see. I used to think I was an artist. Come to find out I’m a beer salesman.”

Just a few things I thought about as I assembled links this week.

3) Making sense of rival tribes.
Mike Veseth writes about Wagnerians and Martians and conflicting ideas of wine in America. Wagner believed that wine should be an affordable part of ordinary life and a constant companion at mealtime. The Martian view is that “…anything less than superlative was unworthy, that no price could be too high, and that the enjoyment of wine required rigorous preparation.”

The price question is a constant in beer circles (and pops up pretty much every day). But it is one that brewers must continue to consider if they are serious about inclusivity.

There was plenty of good reading and interesting news last week, so I will leave it to you without comment. Other than suggesting you don’t go directly No. 12, skipping the rest, because the headline is so seductive.

4) Do Electric Sheep Dream of Pilsner? — Halfway Crooks Beer in Atlanta, GA.
5) Riding the Rails: NY Hudson Valley Breweries Near the Metro North Train Line.
6) The Adventures of Nelson and Goldy — Employees of the Month — Pellicle.
7) Under the influence – the empowerment of female beer influencers.
8) The Future of Cask Ale.
9) Why Traditional Cask Ale is Making a Comeback.
10) Craft and local – with Jordi Sánchez Puig of Lupulina.
11) Dixie Brewery rebirth update.
12) Two Amish men escape police after being pulled over for drinking and driving their horse and buggy.


13) On music and wine.
There are many sections of this article where is would be easy to hit search (wine) and replace (beer). For instance, this, “WineBeer is a multi-sensory experience. We smell it. We taste it. We see it shimmer in the glass, and we feel it wash across our palates. The only sense we don’t use when evaluating wine is hearing.” Oops. Bad choice, because Fred Eckhardt taught us to listen to our beer.

So try this, “Comparing winebeer to music also helps us grasp the importance of complexity beyond flavor. Of course, a great wine will taste of many things from fruit to flowers, soil to spice. But, what keeps us engaged is the order in which these layers of flavors present themselves and how they transform on the tongue.” That works.



ReadBeer, every day.
Daily newsletter: Inside Beer.
Alan McLeod, most Thursdays.
Good Beer Hunting’s Read Look Drink, most Fridays.
Boak & Bailey, most Saturdays.

Monday beer briefing: Ted, Harvey’s & Afro.Beer.Chick


1) Racist email sent to Chicago beer writer leads to positive international Twitter response: #IAmCraftBeer.
The disclaimer: Chuck Klosterman commented on a podcast recently that journalists tend to overrate the importance of what they see on Twitter, and I certainly understand the world does not look like my Twitter feed. I follow @afrobeerchick
and @jnikolbeckham so I watched this unfold, first seeing familiar names/faces in my feed, then new ones as awareness increased. Change is a process, and I think it is OK to be optimistic this will speed the process. I recommend (again) you also read what Afro.Beer.Chick wrote after Fresh Fest, and listen to Garrett Oliver on the Drinking Partner podcast.

2) Beer Culture Summit.
Read the agenda and plan accordingly.

3) Cream of the crop.
4) Inside Harvey’s.
Jeff Alworth teases us with beautiful pictures in 4), promoting an upcoming podcast interview. While waiting, consider the questions The Pub Curmudgeon asks about why Harvey’s has found favor with the craft fraternity. “Going back forty years, they were just a small curiosity in the roll-call of independent breweries, to be be filed alongside the likes of Burts and Paines. According to the 1978 Good Beer Guide, they had a mere 24 pubs, of which only half sold real ale. They also provided beer to the 26 pubs of their erstwhile local rivals Beards, who had closed their own brewery in the early 1950s due to a yeast infection, but only half of these had real ale. Yes, their beer was good, but in the South-East south of the Thames Gales, King & Barnes, Youngs and Shepherd Neame were more highly regarded.”

5) Chicago craft pioneer Golden Prairie returns 20 years later. Has its time passed or finally arrived?
Yes, there are young brewers who will tell brewers who were making beer 25 years ago that their beers are irrelevant. There is every chance they will be wrong. Because, “Ted was the artistic one.”

6) How the Hell is White Claw Hard Seltzer Outselling Budweiser?
Selztergate is official. Lew Bryson chimes in. And asks: “So, will hard seltzer be around next summer or even this winter?”


7) 10 Picks from Burnt City & Omega Yeast’s Inaugural Kveik Fest.
I had hoped to find a recap of the festival that was about more than a few of the beers, but this list is an excellent reminder that kveik has a value well beyond trying to recreate Norwegian farmhouse ales. I do wish, though, there was more detail about how using kveik made the beers different than they would have been were they fermented with a different yeast strain.

8) Muri: A Mystery Solved.
“It has nothing to do with Norwegian farmhouse ale, and was just an honest mistake by someone trying to rescue an old family yeast.”


9) How the Orange-Wine Fad Became an Irresistible Assault on Pleasure.
10) Orange wine is not ‘an assault on pleasure,’ it’s a window into our changing tastes.
So much fun. “New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov called the article ‘the equivalent of a mad Yelp review.’ It was ‘largely uninformative, slightly misleading,’ according to Rachel Signer, editor of the natural-wine magazine Pipette. ‘Without context these trend pieces perpetuate cultural erasure and undermines a subject people obviously care about,’ wrote Whetsone magazine founder Stephen Satterfield. So what was the point?”



ReadBeer, every day.
Daily newsletter: Inside Beer.
Alan McLeod, most Thursdays.
Good Beer Hunting’s Read Look Drink, most Fridays.
Boak & Bailey, most Saturdays.

Monday beer briefing: The future we choose


1) Forecasting the Future of Craft Beer.
2) Beer Town: The future of brewing in Atlanta isn’t what it used to be.
Alan McLeod wrote kindly about the pungent minimalism of last week’s links, so let’s do that again. Except for this quick thought. Josh Bernstein writes about the big picture and Bob Townsend about the scene in Atlanta, which happens to be where we live.

These are stories about the business of beer. It appears there are 2,000 or so breweries in planning across the country. They should know going in that Brewers Association economist Bart Watson forecasts that about 500 to 700 will close in the next two years. They better have a good business plan. But I am still bothered by the implications of this from this argument on #1: “Beer companies looking more like beverage companies is a step in the right direction.”

Is it? Isn’t it ok to be “just” a brewery? I can’t help but think about something the late Greg Noonan said more than 20 years ago (and I’ve cited here before): “When the homebrewers stop entering the profession, and the backyard breweries are squeezed out, then it will become stagnant. You gotta keep getting the guys who say, ‘Cool, I can sell the beer I make. I can do it.’ ”

3) Community-Minded Craft Brewers Are Reviving Time-Honored Table Beers.
4) Dangerous Stouts and Dad Metal — An Afternoon With Mastodon Drummer Brann Dailor.
5) What Are the Best Trends in Beer Right Now?


6) White Claw shortages have millennials in a panic.


7) Wine study: 28% of Brits think ‘terroir’ is a breed of dog.


8) The Hopeless Hunt for the Perfect Wine.
9) Why a Wine’s Alcohol-by-Volume is Lying to You.



ReadBeer, every day.
Daily newsletter: Inside Beer.
Alan McLeod, most Thursdays.
Good Beer Hunting’s Read Look Drink, most Fridays.
Boak & Bailey, most Saturdays.

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