Obscure farmhouse ale to save summer

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 1, 2019.

The grisette is often characterised specifically by lower alcohol, and is often dryer and lighter than saisons. Photos by Bloomberg

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At this point, even casual, non-neckbeard craft beer drinkers are probably familiar with the saison style of farmhouse ale — historically Belgian and French country brews designed to quench hot thirst after long days of manual labour on rural farms. While its rustically refreshing profile of CO2, spice and yeast has taken off, what about its obscure stylistic sibling, the grisette? Rooted in similar tradition (though some say it was produced for miners as opposed to farmers), the grisette is often characterised specifically by lower alcohol, and is often dryer and lighter than saisons. Here are seven A+ examples of this rediscovered style, which some of the best craft brewers seem to be obsessed with. — Bloomberg


Darling Ruby (4.5% alcohol by volume [ABV]) Allagash

Maine’s Allagash — famous for its Belgian-style White — is one of the more well-regarded domestic producers of rustic, European-influenced farmhouse ales. For its stab at grisette, Darling Ruby, the brewer took some liberties. With the addition of grapefruit juice and zest, the beer’s herbaceous and peppery flavour is balanced by bold tropical citrus notes. This quencher is canned, thankfully, for easy summer crushing.


Sif (5.1% ABV) Folksbier

One of Brooklyn’s most exciting producers is Folksbier, which takes an authentically country approach to brewing, despite its metropolitan location. (Case in point: It has been growing its own hops exclusively on the family farm in Northern Michigan.) Folksbier’s Sif is pretty much a perfect little beer. Named after the Queen of the Fields from Norse mythology, this grisette really reigns supreme — bready, fruity, yeasty and incredibly refreshing.


Seven Doors (6.1% ABV) TRVE

Recently, the metalhead brewer of Colorado, TRVE, vastly expanded the distribution of its brilliant beers, finally giving easy access to the East Coast. TRVE dry-hopped its great grisette Seven Doors for a New World spin on the style. The result is a de facto pale ale and saison hybrid. Grassy hay notes predominate upfront, making way for zesty citrus, with a peppercorn-laden dry finish.


Grisette (4% ABV) Side Project

In the Midwest’s oversaturated craft beer scene, Side Project out of Missouri stands apart. Originally, Side Project was just that — the passion start-up begun by owner and brewer Cory King while he was working at nearby Perennial Artisan Ales. When accolades immediately came in for the brewery’s superlative beers, its reputation was cemented. Grisette, fermented in neutral Chardonnay barrels and then aged for six months with wild Brettanomyces yeast, is a truly delicate delight. Its minor acidity, nicely subtle hoppiness and terrifically round body make for a quintessential table beer.


Grizacca (5.2% ABV) Oxbow

Allagash’s Maine brewing neighbour Oxbow also produces some of the country’s most highly touted farmhouse-style brews. In its year-round line-up, its grisette Grizacca stands as one of the very best. Pouring with a beautiful blonde hue and a thick, snowy head, it has been dry-hopped with the azacca hop varietal, which lends resinous complexity that does not go too far into unwanted bitterness. It is bright, floral and dry throughout.


Prince & Pauper (3.9% ABV) Mikkeller/Omnipollo

What happens when a couple of the most adjunct-obsessed, high-concept gypsy brewers get together to collaborate on a recipe? They brew something decidedly simple. Prince & Pauper is an unfussy grisette from Denmark’s Mikkeller and Sweden’s Omnipollo, labels associated with beers north of 30% ABV or brewed with bacon respectively. This modest grisette packs a lean alcohol content, and offers notes of coriander, honey and pineapple.


The Heathens Are Coming (5.4% ABV) To Øl

The Heathens Are Coming is a grisette classic in its structure, with a couple of modern twists. Elegantly fermented with Brettanomyces yeast and twisted with a smack load of hops, this is a beer meant for both drinking and thinking. (If you are trying to find a bottle, be prepared: It is part of a series of beers made by Denmark’s To Øl called F--- Art.) Think aromas of summer fruit, a taste of white pepper and an incredibly crisp finish.