Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the European Tradition Paperback – Nov 17 2004
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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. You must decide what overall weight of grains you will use and then calculate percentages of the grain types. You also must calculate the amount of hops you will use to achieve the target IBU. 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. Such details must come from a lot of labor in the brewery.
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.
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