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Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition Paperback – November 17, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Phil Markowski
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Brewers Publications (November 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937381845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937381847
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I found this book to be fun and informative to read.
Timothy George Roettiger/Belgian Mare Brewery
The brewing notes about the styles are highly instructive, providing the parameters of grains that can be added, even the ranges of various spices for Saison.
Jeff Stearns
What's great about this title (and all of the others in this series) is that it can inspire anyone who's brewed before.
Christopher W. Mitchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Stearns on April 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
Farmhouse Ales focuses on the Biere de Garde of northern France and the Saison ales of Belgium. Neither of these styles is a single type of beer, but rather a category of ales made locally with various brewing methods and array of ingredients, including spices. The brewing methods in these areas continue to evolve and do not necessarily relate to the styles of the past. Although the styles have an amorphous nature, this book provided me with a clear understanding of Biere de Garde and Saison.

Experienced brewers will discover plenty of information in this book, especially ideas that go against the common convictions about brewing. What about fermenting at high temperatures? Mixing yeasts? Red wine type yeasts? Warm storage? Markowski takes the view that brewing is a process of experimentation, rather than following set recipes. Obviously this book is not for a beginning home brewer.

Markowski argues that though the classification of beer styles is useful, the classifications should not be used to inhibit the brewer from coming up with something much different. I agree with this. What is the use of always imitating commercial beers? Our fascination with brewing is to discover a new taste through experimentation.

This book covers the past and present styles of Biere de Garde and Saison (including an informative essay by Yvan De Baets on how Saison evolved), and provides a list of the breweries producing the styles, detailing grains, hops, temperatures and other brewing details, along with tasting notes on the beers they produce.

In sections on brewing the styles, the sample recipes are just guidelines (in the spirit of experimentation) rather than set formulas.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Bigfoot on July 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book contains a wealth of practical information for the experienced homebrewer, without being dry or stuffy. Thankfully, there are no pages wasted on "brewing for beginners" or "equipment you'll need to get started"; it is assumed the reader already has a basic knowledge of all-grain brewing procedures, and beer appreciation in general.

Discussion of historical and geographic influences on saison and biere de garde are interesting and kept to a minumum. Of particular interest is the text devoted to paragons of both styles- describing their evolutions, specific malts and hops used, abv and attenuation, yeasts, gravities, fermentation temperatures, aging, water profiles, and so on... everything one would need to reverse-engineer a clone beer, if one chose to do so.

It is not, however, a collection of clone recipes. The samples recipes for variations of both styles are intended as guidelines, easily adaptable to individual brewhouse procedures and efficiencies. Also, the parameters are so diverse that it is difficult, if not impossible, to define style guidelines, a fact that the author acknowledges. This loose end can be frustrating to the reader.

Overall, a useful book; solid information, and nothing irrelevant or overtechnical.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Mitchell on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a homebrewer, it's hard to read this book and not immediately want to brew. What's great about this title (and all of the others in this series) is that it can inspire anyone who's brewed before. For the less-adventurous among us, there's plenty of information here to credibly recreate a "typical" saison or biere-de-garde even if you've never tasted one before. For the more seasoned brewer, however, the frank discussions of the intricate history of these beers and the vageries of style inspire you to create your own unique farmhouse ale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brock Harrison on June 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is what every beer book should aspire to be. Farmhouse Ales presents the state of the art in knowledge about the history, ingredients, and brewing techniques of two fascinating and delightful styles of Belgian Ale. Much of the information presented here has not appeared anywhere else in easily accessible form. And the authors have done an outstanding job in being thorough in their presentation of information while at the same time writing in a style that makes this book a pleasure to read. Whether you plan to brew saisons and biere de gardes professionally or on a homebrew level, or whether you just want to enhance your appreciation of two neglected but rich and complicated styles, this book is a must-read. I myself especially treasured the comprehensive information on the yeast strain utilized by Saison Dupont, and on the historical origins of the style. If you're a brewer, this book will make you a better one, and if you're a beer lover, this book will make you love it more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Hoffman, author:Radiation Days: A Comedy VINE VOICE on October 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
These are some of my favorite beers: I like to brew them and I like to drink them. This is an excellent book that has helped improve my beer. It's also alerted me to the tyranny of the idea of 'beer styles'. Not every family of beers can be described by referring to the standard beer judge criteria-sometimes history and culture are just more important.
Well-written and fun to read, this is one of the best books for advanced home-brewers.

Lynn Hoffman, author ofThe New Short Course in Wine
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Smagalski on November 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
An introduction to farmhouse ales is a liberating experience for those who live by the rules of endless possibilities. In Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition, Phil Markowski provides a vivid literary experience by clearly defining the elusive quality that holds such allure for the beer enthusiast, whether as a brewer, historian, or beerficionado. Enhanced by a superb historical essay on Saison by Yvan DeBaets and a well-grounded foreword by Tomme Arthur, this volume stands as a comprehensive guide to the brewing traditions that so clearly define France and Belgium.

Traditional Farmhouse Ales comprise the family of beers known as Biere de Garde and Saison, although the line that separates the two styles is often blurred by traditions that have struggled to endure, despite the upheavals of changing borders and paradigms, World Wars, and industrialization that led to the closure of countless small farmhouse breweries.

My personal experience has consisted of esoteric discussions that seek to delineate the differences between Bieres de Garde and Saisons. Our conclusions echo the subtle intangibles that Markowski so clearly defines. In his observation about Saison, he states, "These vague and varied descriptions will frustrate anyone foolish or stubborn enough to try to pin down these wildly complex, deceptively simple rustic ales," and of Biere de Garde, he says "If there is any accepted physical or sensory standard, French brewers may quietly acknowledge it, but will put their own spin on it to make it their own."

Markowski pushes onward, however, seeking to define them by presenting their historical significance and the conditions under which they developed.
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