Generally, when you start a brewery (ideally, probably, before you start one), you sit down and choose three or four beers to be your core brands. This doesn’t have to mean they are some deep “understanding of your market” or some kind of “taste making” gamesmanship, rather – at least for us – it was a process of trial and error to figure out what beers best represented the farmhouse ale approach we have taken at Folly. It’s nice to be able to say to someone that a couple beers will always be around when a lot of what you brew is experimental, small batch beer. In a world of constant change, it’s nice to have some constants.
Mr. Dennis Talon recently talked a little about how we chose to be a farmhouse brewery in his write up for The Bar Towel (which you should read!). Here let’s extrapolate a little how we chose our current core brands: Praxis (New World Saison), Flemish Cap (Old World Saison), Inkhorn (Farmhouse Burin), and Imposter Syndrome (Farmhouse IPA).
One of the first ideas we had when we decided to start brewing farmhouse ales was to take it in a super traditional direction. We’ve always loved how in books like Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales there were Belgian breweries that just marketed their beers by colour. Or the same with some Quebec (or French chain…) brewpubs where you could find a White, a Blonde, an Amber, a Rousse, and a Bruin. No names, no styles: just colours. Put that in your BJCP and smoke it.
Well, maybe that was too iconoclastic to really just do. Where is the fun if you can’t name beers? Plus, our style of brewing takes a little getting into, so without a word more familiar to the Ontario vernacular (IPA, for example) we thought we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves. We still loved the idea in concept if not in execution, so we started out with trying to brew our take on a blonde.
When we were brewing for Habits Gastropub, we wanted to make an interesting saison with just one yeast strain and showcase one bright American hop. A more “new world” take on the saison style. Through a lot of homebrew piloting (which Christina has documented in Taps Magazine’s homebrew column back in January-February 2015), we settled on a recipe that was dry and clean, but with a bright citrusy Amarillo hop character. That was our main brand – Habits Saison – for most of the year. When we relaunched to Folly, we renamed it Praxis (you know, in the Hannah Arendt-sense), but the recipe – now about 20 batches in – remains the same.
Next we wanted to go a little lighter. I know, I know: isn’t beer nowadays supposed to be about maximizing flavour potential?! We started tinkering with the idea of a light, very classic and dry more “old world” saison using some spelt. Honestly, we kinda wanted to make a tribute to Saison D’Epeautre by Brasserie de Blaugies but, well, if you’ve ever shopped for bulk spelt, let me tell you, it ain’t easy to source. We slowly transitioned this idea to some wheat (a white beer, one might say) in a mostly pilsner malt base and ended up with our “Flemish Cap” old world saison. Our lightest and simplest beer, Flemish Cap is brewed with Escarpment Labs “new world saison blend” (one saison yeast, two Brettanomyces strains) and hopped with German Saphir hops.
But the black hole of hops is inescapable. There are just so many amazing hop verities around right now to make tasty beer with that we couldn’t resist. We found a blend of juicy Galaxy and spicy Sorachi Ace we loved and brewed a more reddish-hue saison (a rousse, one might say) and called it “Imposter Syndrome.” We ferment this one with some amazing Brettanomyces Claussenii with the saison yeast for a little farmhouse kick of extra pineapple-like character. So is it a Farmhouse IPA? A hoppy saison? A straight-up IPA? An ever-enigmatic “Belgian IPA?” That’s really up to you to decide. It’s not so sure itself.
Finally, we wanted a darker beer (a bruin, one might say). We started out with a Dubbel recipe that Chris had been using for years and brewed it with a mixed culture of Brettanomyces Lambicus (the Wyeast strain, for those interested) and our usual saison yeast. The first batch turned out to be a slightly funky Belgian-style Dubbel, but after fermenting a huge Belgian Strong Dark that went into a Pinot Noir barrel (more on that soon!), the Brettanomyces decided to get a little more acidic (Brettanomyces Lambicus can produce acetic acid given the right conditions) and funky. The beer went from tasting like a Dubbel to tasting more like a fast soured Oud Bruin. A Jong Bruin? So we had to scrap the Farmhouse Dubbel (whatever that was), we’re even happier having Inkhorn as a tart and vinous Farmhouse Bruin.
We do, of course, have more styles coming as one-offs and seasonal offerings. Our Farmhouse Porter “Little Barasway” and our slightly hoppy Farmhouse Triple “Quesada” will both be making returns as semi-regular offerings. As will an amber coloured (Amber!) 100% Brettanomyces Fermented (using Escarpment Labs’ “Mothership Blend” of 10 Brettanomyces Strains) American Brett Ale. And we’ve got another hoppy farmhouse coming too where we will be playing with different blends over Escarpment Labs’ Fruit Bomb Saison Blend. The Mosaic/Calypso version of Rhizome is on tap now and the Pekko/Citra will be out soon. Both the 100% Brettanomyces series and the hop blending series will be also making semi-regular appearances on our taps.
Our main brands, however, are the ones we hang our hats on. Drop by and try a flight of four of them sometime soon and see what other more fleeting things we’ve surrounded them with.
The Folly Team