Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Natural Beer Please

  • Select beer that has been brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law). Most German beer is brewed according to this purity law. The Reinheitsgebot ensures that beer is only made from barley, hops, water, and yeast. No additives or other ingredients are used when a beer is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, although certain artificial brewing aids such as PVPP (polyvinylpolypyrrolidone) can be used as long as they are filtered from the finished beer. PVPP is relatively safe[1][2], but there is a risk that detrimental chemicals may originate from such unnatural compounds, such as bisphenol-A (BPA) that has been found to leach from polycarbonate food and beverage containers[3]. Many ingredients that are not allowed by the Reinheitsgebot can be completely natural. Such ingredients include rice, corn, herbs, spices, and mineral salts.
  • Look for ingredients listed on labels. Ingredients may be listed on bottled and canned beer. This is a strong indication that the brewer strives to or indeed does only use natural ingredients. But there is no absolute guarantee that only the listed ingredients are used because beer is not regulated like food by the US government. Therefore, there is a chance that ingredients may be excluded. Also check to see if the label states that only natural ingredients were used to make the beer.
  • Be wary of light beer and verify that it has been brewed with natural ingredients. Light beer may be produced using industrial enzymes[4], although many breweries such as Anheuser Busch use natural enzymes. The industrial enzymes more completely break down (hydrolyze) the carbohydrates that are derived from the grain that is used to make beer. The fully hydrolyzed carbohydrates can be completely fermented by the yeast, leaving very little residual carbohydrates in the finished beer. The completely natural enzymes that are usually used in the brewing process are provided by barley malt and wheat malt. Industrial enzymes may be derived from bacteria or other sources and are processed into a usable form. Such enzymes are not synthetic, but it is unlikely that most people can consider beer to be made with these enzymes to be completely natural.
  • Look for unfiltered, hazy beer. Various additives, brewing aids, and modern technologies can be used to make beer look clear and brilliant. Perfect filtering can, however, be conducted purely with natural, inert diatomaceous earth (the primary filter medium) if sophisticated equipment is properly utilized. Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized skeletons of ancient algae. Compounds that are used to clarify beer and aid filtration can be used early as well as late in the brewing process. PVPP and carrageenan may be added to to boiling wort, while PVPP and other compounds can be added later in the beer making process. PVPP is a non-toxic synthetic plastic, while carrageenan is extracted from seaweed. Some people may want to avoid carrageenan as it has been associated with certain health conditions and is a refined, processed product. The PVPP should be completely removed by later filtration, but some types of plastic, especially when heated, can contribute carcinogenic compounds[5]. Certain types of filters may be made of plastic material and filter aids can be impregnated or dosed with PVPP, but this should be much less of a concern as beer is filtered cold. Silica gels are often dosed into cold, fermented beer to clarify it and aid filtration. Silica gels are synthetic but non-toxic and relatively safe. A common form of silica gel is used to absorb moisture in packaged food, and is found in little packets that clearly state that they are not edible.

    • Beer can also be clarified using natural ingredients. Traditional British ales, as well as many other beers, are often clarified (fined) with isinglass. This is merely collagen (protein). This collagen used for brewing is actually the ground-up swim bladders of sturgeon, and if anything is nutritious, but notvegetarian. Gelatin can also be used to clarify beer.
  • Hops growing in Yakima, WA
    Hops growing in Yakima, WA
    Avoid beer packaged in clear bottles. A relatively large amount of beer is made with light-stable hop extracts. Such extracts may be used with beer that is packaged in clear bottles because clear bottles provide no protection from harmful light that causes beer to become skunky (see How to Prevent Skunky Beer). These hop extracts are used in the place of actual hops (whole flower or pellet hops), and are made by reacting hop alpha acids (and sometimes beta acids) with certain chemicals. Such hop-derived manufactured compounds include tetrahydro-iso-alpha-acids and hexahydro-iso-alpha-acids. Beer that can become skunky when exposed to light is typically packaged in protective brown bottles, but is also found in less protective green bottles.
  • Choose beer that contains living yeast. Beer that contains living yeast in the bottle may be relatively natural because harmful additives or preservatives that may be present would kill the yeast. Live yeast produces carbon dioxide, and therefore bottle-conditioned beer that is carbonated naturally in the bottle must contain living yeast. Unfiltered beer will contain yeast, but may not contain living yeast. Kegged beer may be unfiltered and contain living yeast, but is usually carbonated before it is added to the keg.
  • Find beer that has been naturally carbonated. There may be unwanted contaminants in industrially-produced carbon dioxide. Yeast produces carbon dioxide that naturally carbonates beer. Naturally-carbonated beer may be bottle-conditioned with living yeast, carbonated by yeast before bottling in pressurized fermentation tanks, or carbonated using recovered carbon dioxide that is stored in pressurized tanks. Large breweries are able to recover and purify naturally-produced carbon dioxide from fermenting beer using sophisticated equipment. This carbon dioxide can then be used to carbonate beer. Beer that has been naturally carbonated before bottling need not contain living yeast, and can be clear and brilliant.
  • Determine the risk for chemical contamination. Many cleansers, sanitizers, and other chemicals are used during the beer production process. Traces of such chemicals can be found in finished beer, and different breweries use different types of chemicals. Large breweries analyze their beer for contaminants using sensors and sophisticated laboratory techniques to ensure that the product has not been adulterated. Cleansers are typically rinsed from the inside of brewing vessels and fermentation tanks, but sanitizers are typically not rinsed, as the rinse water can introduce unwanted microorganisms. Remnants of sanitizing chemicals do make it into finished beer, but the active chemical compounds that kill microbes are oxidized or otherwise neutralized and converted into harmless compounds. Nevertheless, the sanitizer does introduce unnatural compounds to the beer. Some breweries such as Anheuser Busch use pure steam to sanitize vessels and tanks, thus minimizing or eliminating chemical contamination.
  • Choose beer that is brewed in archaic breweries or with old equipment. Historic breweries (such as those found in Europe) that use vintage equipment may brew beer using natural ingredients, processing aids, and components. The brewery equipment may lack plastic components and chemicals may be used sparingly. Old brewing equipment that is made of copper, iron, and wood may be incompatible with many modern chemicals, thus eliminating the use of certain potential contaminants. The beer made in such archaic breweries may not be filtered or overly processed. However, such equipment may be a source of organic, natural contaminants such as potentially toxic copper salts.
  • Select organic beer. Organic beer will be made almost entirely from ingredients that are free of pesticides and other chemicals. However, not all organic beer is made solely from organic ingredients. In the US, organic beer may be made using 95 percent organic ingredients. Certain non-organic ingredients may be used for the remaining 5 percent of the total ingredients. Conventionally-grown hops and certain other non-organic ingredients are allowed. Check with breweries to determine if their beer is made using only organic ingredients, and determine if they use processing aids, additives, or chemicals that may not be desirable.
  • This came from the nice people at

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Truly a holiday miracle……

    Dear El Treasuredete,

     Manu de Landtsheer called me on my cell phone last week and what he had to say was pretty surprising. In case you don’t know, Manu is the owner of Malheur Brewery in Buggenhout, Belgium—and a key supplier to us since the first days of the club. In fact (and in the spirit of Michael Jackson himself, I digress a little here), the first time I met Manu was over a dinner in Antwerp—I think it was the spring of 2002—in the company of Ben Vinken (Bier Passion) and Michael Jackson. The Michael Jackson Rare Beer Club was just a concept then but Manu opened the conversation by telling us that he had been pondering the possibility of making a beer in exactly the same way that fine champagne is made and, if we would commit to taking it for our new club, he would commit the next eighteen months to the project. Of course, this was just an idea and there was nothing for us to taste but Michael knew Manu’s capabilities and immediately said yes. We shook hands and Manu went to work. What followed was magnificent. In the Fall of 2004, we introduced Malheur Brut Reserve to our members and, in successive years, we featured Malheur Brut Royale and Malheur Black Chocolate. Each was a brilliant champagne style beer and before we really realized it, Manu had launched an entirely new category—Bières Brut—in Belgium.

    Then, in 2006, we convinced Manu to do a final champenoise style beer as a one-time special for the club—this being a version of the original Brut Reserve—but bigger than anything he had done previously. Manu agreed to name it The Michael Jackson Commemorative Selection in honor of the great man that had so much to do with the development of the category. Michael was still very much alive and wasn’t fond of the name—he said that calling it “commemorative” made it sound like he was already dead. But our argument prevailed this one time—they usually didn’t with Michael—simply because I told him that maybe it was a good idea to commemorate the living since they actually give a damn. And the rest, as they say is history. Michael loved the beer and it received massive accolades. Less than a year later, Michael sadly died. The commemorative took on the meaning Michael originally feared but I think I was also wrong—while he is no longer here, I am sure that Michael still gives a damn.

    Enough digression. What Manu called to tell me was that they found 240 bottles of this famous beer at the Texas warehouse of their USA importer. Needless to say, I was absolutely amazed. Since I had consumed the last few precious bottles from my own cellar almost a year ago, my first question was with respect to how well it was ageing. I knew that the beer is date stamped with a best before of January 2008 but that really doesn’t mean a lot—many of Manu’s beers are even better after the best-before date—so the question was simply “how is this one holding up?” The answer was that there is sediment at the bottom (flakes) but when the bottle is chilled they disappear and the beer becomes a little cloudy. When it is opened, the natural carbonation is as intense as usual and all the flavors that made this beer great are intact. At this point what I can say with confidence is that the beer is still very good but that it is probably not going to get any better and, if you want it to drink rather than keep it as a memento, you should probably consume it by New Year’s just to be safe. All the same, if it fits with your plans, it is pretty compelling and a real opportunity to drink a little history. And that is the short story. Manu is honoring Michael by offering the beer to his many friends in the Rare Beer Club and we are happy to participate. To learn more about this astounding beer, go to this link to view Michael’s original tasting notes at . If you want to place an order (3,6 or 12 bottles), just go to and we will get this historical beer to you in time to ring in a very special New Year. Of course, you can always call us at 888-380-2337 to discuss any questions you may have. And we all know that when it is gone, it is gone. Truly a holiday miracle……

    I hope this beer will help you have a great holiday season!


    Robert Imeson


    The Rare Beer Club

    The Question Now is How many do we need.  And I think it is a Need not a Strong Desire!

    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Beer, cheese tasting at Eats

    Eats Gourmet Marketplace <>  in Stuyvesant Plaza, Guilderland, will host a free tasting of artisanal beers and cheese from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Friday (12/5). Stephanie Pelham, owner and founder of Eats, and Chad Farrington of Tri-Valley Beverages will present pairings of artisanal beers and cheeses. Many of the offerings are locally produced; others represent classic combinations. The event is open to those age 21 and older. Attendees may purchase featured items at discounted prices during the tasting. Eats specializes in store-prepared entrees and salads, European and local cheeses, meats and sweets plus charcuterie, pantry items, beverages and gifts for food lovers. The phone number is 453-EATS.

    Saturday, November 29, 2008

    Beer Book: Christmas Beers

      Posted by Jay Brooks

    This may be the best Christmas present for a beer lover … ever, at least in terms of its connection to the season. Christmas Beer, or the full title, which is “Wishing You a Merry Christmas Beer, The Cheeriest, Tastiest and Most Unusual Holiday Brews, is all about beer for the holidays. Lavishly illustrated with more holiday beers than you knew even existed, author Don Russell — better known to the world as Philadelphia beer columnist “Joe Sixpack” — recounts tale after tale of the traditions and history that made holiday beers so special. There are also recipes, trivia and Russell’s list of the “World’s 50 Best Christmas Beers.”

    Christmas Beer

    Published by Rizzoli Books with a list price of $19.95 in the U.S.  

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Michael Jackson’s Final Word on Belgian Beer

     Great Beers of Belgium – Sixth Edition 

    Boulder, CO – Thursday, November 20, 2008 – 
    Michael Jackson’s legacy as “the beer hunter” prevails in the new sixth edition of the 
    Great Beers of Belgium. This final text, 15 years in the making, displays Jackson’s 
    superior talent as a writer and his tireless passion as a lover of beer. 
    This updated version contains listings covering 326 different beers across 13 style
     groups, on more than 500 pages of text and enhanced with nearly 
    800 color photographs. The text includes over 50% more information than the third 
    and last edition published in the U.S. in 1998. “Michael Jackson’s fascination with 
    Belgian beer drove him to continuously research and expand this book,”
    said Ray Daniels, Director of Publications at the Brewers Association.
     “This final revision gives the most complete picture of Belgian beer ever 
    assembled in the English language.” Along with an image of the beer bottle and
     appropriate glass, Jackson intricately describes each beer’s character and flavor.
     He takes care to provide the reader with the background of each brewery and the
     personal stories of the people behind these amazing beers.
     “Revised and updated shortly before his death, this work represents the pinnacle of 
    Jackson’s meticulous research and masterful writing, presented in a beautifully 
    illustrated visual environment,” said Daniels. Originally a newspaper reporter,
     Jackson began to fully focus on the worldwide resurgence of beer in the mid 1970’s.
     His award winning television series, “The Beer Hunter” has been shown in 15 different 
    countries. Jackson’s accolades extend to all mediums of journalism and in 1997,
     he was the first non-brewer to be inducted into the Confédération des Brasseries de Belgique, 
    The Union of Belgian Brewers. The book is supplemented with practical information for 
    travelers to Belgium and those who seek good Belgian beer in communities around the world.
     It is perfect for at-home reference and as a travel companion. Visit the Great Beers of Belgium
     Web site for more information and sample listings. The book may also be purchased online at
     the Brewers Association’s Beer Enthusiast Store, at

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    I guess Beer is the new Intellectual drink now.

    So smart en up and read this.  It's long so don't get cought reading it at work.  It's still about beer you know.

     Thanks Laurie for passing this along.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    It's Time for NY Hops again?

    Hops, anyone? New York State may be getting back on the beer-brewing map. (Thomas McDonald for The New York Times)

    New York is famous for high finance, skyscrapers and the Erie Canal. But hops?

    Well, yes. In the 1800s, farmers, eager to serve beer-thirsty immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe, started planting hops upstate. Breweries thrived. By the middle of the century, New York State was the nation’s leading producer of hops.

    Then fungus arrived, killing the golden crop known as 
    humulus lupulus. Upstate New York, it turns out, gets too much rain in the summer growing season, leading to humid conditions that fungus thrive in. In the days before effective fungicides, powdery mildew and downy mildew started killing the party.

    Around the same time, irrigation systems were built in eastern Oregon and Washington, which have dry summers. Business moved west, particularly to the Yakima Valley, where it remains today.

    But the sold-out New York Brewfest on Friday night at the South Street Seaport is one indication that hops may be returning to New York. Commercial growers and home brewers have been peppering Ian Merwin, a professor in the horticulture department at Cornell University, with questions about growing hops upstate.

    Demand for hops has increased because of the popularity of home brewing and because some hops growers in the Yakima Valley are now growing Pinot grapes instead.

    “There is the potential if the supply remains limited for hops growers,” Mr. Merwin said.

    He added that home growers with just a few hops plants probably will not attract much fungus, and that commercial growers may enjoy a “honeymoon phase” before hops-specific pests start showing up.

    “If you’re lucky, it could be 10 to 15 years,” he said.

    By then, New York might be back on the beer-brewing map again.

    By KEN BELSON The New York Times

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Feel the Blade's Pain

    This past week's festivities, centering around a business trip/fun quest to NYC and the celebration of the 50th anniversary  of El Treasuredente's arrival in this part of the solar system, brought to the fore an issue that I've been pondering for some time: namely, in the days of mega-tap draft systems and vast numbers of sometimes unfamiliar beers, how can we be sure that we are actually being served the beer we've ordered?
        I am well aware that my palate is not the most sophisticated, and that my beer vocabulary may not be as broad as some, but i think that most members of our humble association (if it indeed existed) would agree that i have some experience with a wide variety of beers and make at least an effort to differentiate among them and to identify their myriad flavors and components.  Yet twice this week i have questioned the identity of beer that was presented to me (once privately, once to the establishment).  Possibly i was wrong, but maybe not.  And there is a secondary question: is not the customer always right? 
        On my NYC trip (following the work portion) my friend Chico and I made our first visit to Manhattan beer mecca the Gingerman (11th and 36th , near Park, where, I had excitedly read, they were serving the rare Duvel Green on draft.  The beer came in the appropriate, lovely green-scripted  tulip, but... there was no head at all, no hint of the golden beauty and champagne effervescence of bottled Duvel-- indeed, very little hint of the complexity or depth of flavor of the best of Belgian-styled ales. Indeed, I would almost have sworn i was drinking a pilsner of some sort.  Very disappointing. A very inferior beer. Was it run to the wrong tap? Was it old? Is the brewer foisting a "light" beer on the American market?
        The Gingerman has an amazing selection of drafts and casks and I would otherwise recommend it highly- I washed the disappointment away with a fantastic Sierra Nevada Chico Estate pale ale -a bit darker/fruitier than the usual SN product, though very much within their narrowly-defined, hop forward style.  I finished with a Green Flash tripel- i love their products and that, too was excellent. Still... I doubt I am the only one to wonder, and I'd bet that somebody asked the question that I failed to ask. I'm sure the beer was expensive to acquire, but It does no one any good to sell an inferior or questionable product.
        Then, on the trip to celebrate the mathematically-inclined one's birthday, we stopped by our city's most renowned beer bar, where the Landmaster and i ordered the Harpoon Glacier Fresh Hop Ale. We had enjoyed a bottle of the same beer just the night before and were anxious to try it on draft. And here both of us have little doubt that what was served was simply not the same beer. No hops at all, no quality. Mediocre at best-- and we very much enjoyed the "same" beer in the bottle. When we asked the bartender, he sampled and then said the beer was as it was supposed to be .  He did not offer to exchange it despite our obvious incredulity.  Were the lines tangled? Were they trying to offload some junk? Does no one ever challenge them?
        Of course my self-doubt has crept in as I write this-- after all, we're talking about two very well known beer bars with (presumably) sophisticated staff.  Maybe my palate is to blame? And yet, i don't think so.  We as consumers should not be afraid to voice our opinions on this subject-- in the long run we get what we want, and the bars become more responsive to their customers. If we express any doubt at all, the bar should have the courtesy and professionalism, not to mention the respect for its clientele, to exchange the beer we are questioning. I'd be sure to return to such a bar sooner. And that's a win- win.
    Down in one
    The Blade

    The Ginger Man 11 East 36th Street, NY, NY 10016 Email: Tel: 212-532-3740

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    How to Open a Beer with your Rng

    New brew pub opens in Windham

    Cave Mountain Brewing Co. opened six weeks ago on Main Street in the Greene County village of Windham. The business is currently pouring its own beers — Oktoberfest, Highlander grog, English nut brown ale, hefeweizen, American blonde ale, Irish red ale, Centennial IPA and oatmeal stout — and will add seasonal specials like smoked porter. A half-dozen beers from other New York craft brewers are also on tap. Food highlights include tuna skewers, ale-battered onions rings and deep-fried cheesecake.

    The owners are Tim Adams, a chef and former home brewer, and his wife, Amber.

    Located at 5359 Main St. (Route 23), Windham, Cave Mountain Brewing is open from 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon on weekends. Call 734-9222.

    I didn’t find a Web site, but there’s a note from the owner here.

     If you don't aleady check Steve Barnes blog you should.

    Saturday, November 8, 2008

    Steve Barns Say We gett'en a Biergarten

    wolffs-logo2.jpgThe renovated North Albany firehouse that was home to the nightclub Noche will be reborn in the spring as Wolff’s Biergarten, according to the owner of the business.

    Matt Baumgartner, who owned Noche from December 2005 to spring 2007 and also owns Bombers Burrito Bar on Albany’s Lark Street, tells me it will be a traditional beer-garden space with communal seating, 50 German and Belgian beers and a rustic sausages-and-schnitzels menu. Instead of table service, customers will order and pick up food from an open kitchen, equipped with grills for the sausages. Renovations are set to begin next month to turn what was once an upscale, swanky club into a comfortable, casual restaurant with more wallet-friendly prices. Baumgartner’s partners in Wolff’s Biergarten are James and Demetra Vann, who were partners in Noche; James Vann is also vice president of Bombers.

    noche-exterior.jpgBaumgartner says the building’s garage door and expansive open space — it was where the fire truck parked — make the location, at 895 Broadway, ideal for creating the sort of convivial beer garden he’s enjoyed in New York City (Radegast Hall & BiergartenZum Schneider) and Munich.

    “It will be significantly different from Noche — much more casual,” says Baumgartner.

    Gone will be Noche’s low leather booths along the building’s south wall and the bright-red, cast-iron spiral staircase going to the building’s second floor. The gorgeous, 32-foot-long walnut bar built for Noche will remain: That’s where the beer taps are. Baumgartner envisions darts and other games, televisions and additional amenities to attract crowds seeking a fun night out or a quick bite. He expects to be open for lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch.

    “I want it to be a place where big groups — eight to 10 people or more — go for great beer and sausages, hearty cooking (and) good conversation,” he says.

    Baumgartner sold Noche in March 2007 to Jack Valente, whose family has owned Valente’s Restaurant in Watervliet for more than 50 years. Under its new owner the club foundered through the rest of 2007, was renamed Jack Rabbit Slims last December and made a run at becoming a venue for live music. Jack Rabbit Slims closed in May.

    When Noche first opened, Baumgartner estimated he and his partners had spent about $500,000 to renovate the space. How much Valente paid for Noche was never publicly released. Baumgartner says the building’s owner approached him about leasing the space again after Jack Rabbit Slims closed.

    In addition to investing in businesses in the industrial area around Broadway, about a half-mile north of Clinton Avenue, Baumgartner also lives there, having bought a former factory building and renovated it into two loft residences.  

    In related news, Baumgartner says he finalized financing earlier this week for the Schenectady version of Bombers. He bought a building on State Street, near the Proctors complex, and plans to begin structural work the week after Thanksgiving. Long delays on the project mean he will be renovating two restaurants simultaneously and trying to open both in the spring.

    He says with a laugh, “There will be a lot of driving back and forth.”

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Field Trip to Southern Cal.Anyone?,0,3246874.story?track=rss
    A craft beer revolution is brewing in Southern California
    Posted: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0800
    Local breweries such as Pasadena's Craftsman Brewing, the Bruery in Placentia and Dale Bros. Brewery in Upland are putting their twist on the regional-beer movement. 

    It's been 75 years since actress Jean Harlow christened the Los Angeles Brewing Co.'s first shipment of Eastside beer after the repeal of Prohibition. Beer making in L.A. has been sporadic since then, but there are signs that a craft brew revolution is brewing.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    Tripel Karmeliet Named World’s Best Ale

    Tripel Karmeliet is a historical “3 grain” beer, using barley, wheat and oats, and is refermented in the bottle. The recipe originated in a Carmelite monastery in 1679. Today it is brewed according to the same recipe at the Bosteels Brewery in Belgium.

    The were also three other big awards. Primator Exkluziv was named World’s Best Lager, Kaltenberg Konig Ludwig Weissbier was declared the World’s Best Wheat Beer, and our own Rogue Shakespeare Stout was named World’s Best Stout/Porter.

    The rest of the awards are available at the World Beer Awardswebsite.

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    Farmhouse Ales - Book Review

    An introduction to farmhouse ales is a liberating experience for those who live by the rules of endless possibilities. InFarmhouse 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. He examines the terroir, including the climatic conditions that led to their development, the geology that affects the water of the region, European grain profiles, Belgian and specialty hops, adjuncts, spices, and the complex nature of yeasts that stray wildly from (or may include) the single-strain traditions of lager brewing. His discussions include technical details on decoction, infusion and step infusion mashing, and the results of storage or “garding” under a variety of conditions. 

    Not only does he present detailed information for the seasoned brewer, but he also encourages creativity on one’s own terms. His descriptions are so vivid that even a non-brewer can envision working in his own simple farmhouse brewery, with mash tuns and hoses, cool ships and vats, replicating the delicate nuances of these distinctive beers. 

    Markowski’s proficiencies in chemistry and math define the scientific art that makes the crafting of these beers possible, even for one who does not have the advantage of living in Hainaut, Nord or Pas de Calais. His descriptions present visuals for the mind’s eye and paint the palate with flavors so intense they become real. With your senses fully piqued, he stimulates action by providing sources for ingredients so you, too, can create your own magical interpretation of these beers.

    He inspires by providing full details of examples that define each style, noting a full description of each brewery and technical specifications that comprise each beer: Plato readings, ingredients used, temperatures, and storage or garding. He follows each with clear tasting notes that serve to illustrate the broad range of possibilities in these refreshing beers. In the words of Markowski, “…almost anything goes.” 

    For more information: Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition


    I feel a Farmhouse Ale Poll coming on.  Which ones do you think should be included?