Last year when I wrote about sexism in the beer industry, I was really nervous. I had seen what has happened to women calling out problematic issues in the restaurant and tech world, and I was worried. Thankfully I had the support of everyone at Folly and they felt it was an important message. And you did too. We received many, many supportive messages and responses to the blog post. When I posted the sign-up for our International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day event, I had to restructure the event so as to include as many women as possible. So, thank you. It’s been a frustrating year politically and that event was a shining light for me. We also made a kick-ass beer (Bechdel Brett). We also opened up the Folly bottle shop last spring and used this beer as the first special release – which was a very proud moment for me. Thanks for coming in and buying just about all of it during the first weekend!
While this was a fantastic event, and got a lot of people discussing the issues around women’s representation in the beer industry, it still stings whenever I see a new beer in Ontario (or anywhere) using objectifying images to sell their beer. It stings when I am only seen as a means to sell beer – when I am not visible as someone capable of making or drinking that beer.
Last March I attended a “Tech Talk” hosted by the Ontario Craft Brewers Association called “Growth & Opportunities: Women in Craft Brewing.” This event included a panel of women from the beer industry that I admire very much. I asked the group of women if they had advice on how to handle feeling invisible next to their male peers. The advice they gave was that I need to develop a thick skin – that I would need it as they felt it was a problem that might never go away. This advice felt pretty bleak. I was on my way out after the panel, with a heavy heart, when I was stopped by a QC Analyst. She told me they gave terrible advice and I don’t need a thicker skin. She said the route to change and feeling visible was to surround myself with people who will stand up and make sure everyone in the room feels equal.
So, well, that’s what I have been trying to do.
Despite how exhausted I am over what can feel like a constant onslaught of sexist marketing, feeling invisible while working or representing my work, I keep reminding myself of the people working to fight it. In addition to brewers and brewery owners working hard to create inclusive environments and products for employees and customers, there has been a lot of fantastic writing about sexism in beer. Robin LeBlanc wrote about it for Torontoist. Ben Johnston wrote about it on his personal blog. Even legend Stan Hieronymus used his personal blog to gently state his own frustrations about sexism in the beer industry.
There have also been many, many groups and events that aim to promote women – both working in and consuming beer. The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies is still creating fantastic, usually sold-out events. Queens of Craft in Guelph, Ontario offer exciting talks to engage women in exploring beer. The Craft Brasserie in Toronto is about to have its second Women in Beer event, where women from all aspects of the beer industry brewed special one-offs for the public. These type of groups and events can be found across Canada and are totally worth your time if you want to explore beer in a safe space.
So, yeah, it’s getting better. If you work hard, you can surround yourself with people who will stand up and make sure everyone in the room feels equal. How as a consumer and beer lover can you do this? Voice your concern. It doesn’t have to be a public outcry on Twitter. Just strike up a respectful conversation with your friends, your homebrewing group, your cat, your bartender – anyone. I have watched a lot of online discussions regarding sexism and inclusiveness in beer derail quickly. If we only talk about this during the 6 weeks leading up to, and following, International Women’s Day, it’s going to take a long time for these types of conversations to get easier. Not everyone is going to agree about what is sexist, sexy, and infringes on someone feeling included in an industry. That’s ok. Even though it can be frustrating, we need to respectfully talk and hear all sides of a discussion. That’s how progress is made.
Also, we can make some beer. That’s usually how I vent my frustrations. On March 11th we’ll celebrate International Women’s Collaborative Brew Day at Folly by making something awesome. If you’re a woman (or identify as a woman) and are interested in beer, brewing, homebrewing, or maybe interested in the beer industry as a career and want to hang out while brewing something weird, keep an eye out for a sign-up sheet. Last year we had a huge range of participants – professional brewers, brew master students, beer writers, homebrewers, beer bar servers, and women just getting into drinking craft beer. They made an awesome beer. I’m excited to see what we brew this year.
The sign up sheet will arrive online in the next couple of weeks. Make sure you have your eye on our social media, as we filled up fast last year!
Look, we love the upcoming holiday of Valentine’s Day as much as anyone. What’s not to love about love and flowers and chocolates and all that mushy joy? But while, at least since Chaucer (full disclosure: we just wikipedia’d that), Valentine’s Day has been about romantic love, we think it’s time to reevaluate the day.
We mean, what about the good old fashioned, goofy, silly love of spending time with friends drinking beer and chatting and maybe watching a stupid action movie? What about foolish love? As much as we need romantic love, in the state of the world today we could all do with some more simple, foolish love of the silliness and absurdity of life.
So this Valentine’s Day we’re hosting Not Another Valentine. Our own Folly Valentine’s Day, where we’re going to put on some silly action and comedy movies and drink some beers with friends. And what beer could be better than one we’ve brewed specially for the day?
On the Friday before Valentine’s Day we’ll be releasing our special Funny Valentine Tart Pale Ale (5.5%) at the pub and in the shop. It’s a slightly tart pale ale that we dry hopped with loads of mosaic hops making for a fun, grapefruity ale without the addition of any fruit. This is the latest in a bit of a different take on mixed fermentation that we’re excited to share with you all.
So come join us in celebrating friendship, fun, and foolish love this Valentine’s Day. Let’s share some spritzy and crisp citrusy pale ale and some silly movies and celebrate our Folly Valentines.
Well, it sure has been a busy few weeks here at the pub! We’ve been busy filling, capping, stacking, and labeling many, many bottles and are finally ready to formally announce that our bottle shop is open. The last two weekends we’ve been sort-of “soft launching” the shop, but now, after a seemingly endless week of filling (along with our normal brewing, cleaning, drinking, serving, cooking, and… oh yah, sleeping sometimes) we’re ready to formally launch this Friday April 29, 2016.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been getting loads of good questions about our shop! When is it open? Who does the art for our labels? What beer is being bottled next? And many other things. So, today we’re going to answer a few things.
First, our shop hours correspond to our pub hours exactly with the exception that the bottle shop has to be shut at eleven at night due to liquor laws. That means the bottle shop is open Tuesday to Friday from four to eleven and on weekends from one to eleven. We’re playing with those hours still and might push the weekend opening earlier depending on if we find we can keep up.
Speaking of keeping up! We probably don’t need to remind you all that we’re a pretty small brewpub and, as a result of that, we don’t have the most beer around for accounts, bottles, and our own tap lines. In fact, we’ve run out of beer both weekends we’ve offered bottles. Yay! That’s great! Thank you! Prayer hands emoji! But, at the same time, we want to make sure all you folks can get our beer to take home whenever you want… so running out is kind of crummy too.
Right now here is how our bottle shop will work. We will restock every Friday with all the beer for that week (there’ll be more beer than you can see in our shop fridge … we’re keeping the rest cold for you in our walk-in). Ideally that will feature some beloved core brands (Flemish Cap, Inkhorn, Praxis, Imposter Syndrome) as well as a few one-offs or seasonal beers. We’ll try to keep you posted via social media about what we’re stocked with and our supply levels from the Friday resupply, with the goal of making it to the next Friday without running out. If we keep running out, think of the shop as a pop-up that opens every Friday until it runs out. We will, however, always have bottles on Friday and (unless you’re all very thirsty) into Saturday and Sunday.
Now, how about that art? We convinced the amazing Ilana Van Zyl (who has her art displayed on our pub walls) to illustrate and design our labels. We think they’re amazing and unique, featuring aspects of the beer’s story or just a badass unicorn. It’s like the old saying, either have a good story or a badass unicorn with ink dripping from its horn. That’s what my mother used to say, anyway.
We’re also launching our newest Rhizome. Our Rhizome series is a rye-farmhouse ale fermented with Escarpment Lab’s “Fruit Bomb” blend that (almost) always uses two different hops. This one is Rhizome: Jarrylo/Belma. Check out the beer page for full deets. It’s on tap at the pub now, FYI!
And, finally, we’ve got a brand new one-off beer. Saudade is another American Farmhouse Ale, though this one is using Pilsner and Munich malts and a bunch of fun German Hüll Melon hops. If you haven’t tried these hops, then you’re in for a treat. They have an interesting, soft melon character with a lot of different ripe fruit vibes you might not expect in this kinda farmhouse ale. Saudade is also being tapped at the pub at four on Friday and we’ll have a bunch of bottles in the shop.
We’re super pleased to finally have the bottle shop up and running and overwhelmed by the warm response of our friends, fans, and neighbours. As the weather keeps warming up we’re both excited and nervous about what the summer holds for our scrappy little shop. Keep an eye out for some new merch soon too!
This is a modified version of the talk I gave at the Queen of Craft‘s Yeast the Beast session in Guelph. Queen of Craft holds four sessions throughout the month of March, bringing in women involved in the beer industry to speak on various topics. Proceeds from each of the sessions are donated to Guelph-Wellington Women-In-Crisis. My session was as entertaining as it was educational. Anita Caven (Microbial Enthusiast) and Siobhan McPherson (Burdock Brewery) shared the stage with me and gave awesome talks. Thanks to Karyn and Wellington Brewery for hosting us and organizing this amazing event.
Several people asked for the digital version of this talk. I hope you like my Pluto joke as much as I do.
Talking Farmhouse Yeast
Two years ago, when we started to design what Folly Brewing was going to be, we decided we wanted to primarily work with farmhouse yeasts. There were a number of reasons for that: Not many breweries in Ontario were creating saisons and farmhouse ales year round; These yeast strains can allow for a large range of flavours; And (my personal reason) they allow us to brew my favourite types of beers.
“Modern saisons defy easy categorization. They can be as contradictory as they are uniform.”…” For many modern brewers “Saison” is a nearly blank canvas; its definition, a moveable feast.”
Saisons are hard to define. Typically, saisons are easy drinking with a peppery, fruity finish. Not a whole lot to work with here. At Folly, we consider a saison to be a beer brewed only with saison yeast strains. Beers brewed with both saison yeast and brettanomyces, we call farmhouse. But that’s just Folly’s interpretation – and we sometimes break our own rules, calling what should be considered farmhouse an “Old World Saison.” Currently, many breweries are making saisons using different Belgian yeast strains and adding spices to create peppery aromatics. Some are calling their saisons, “Farmhouse Ales.” It’s a little confusing.
Saison and Farmhouse Brewery History
At the very least, the history is a little more consistent. Phil Markowski calling saisons’ a “blank canvas” may refer to when saisons and farmhouse ales were first brewed at independent farms, scattered throughout what is now the Wallonia region in Belgium and Northern France. Farms that brewed had what were called “farmhouses.” Their ales were brewed during the winter, ensuring a lasting supply to be consumed by seasonal workers during the warm and busy summer months. As brewing occurred at various farms, there were no set styles or rules. Brewers would include whatever grains or ingredients they had at their disposal. Oats? Spelt? Wheat? It all worked, and it was all good.
When the lines between Belgium and France were divided, higher alcohol and malt driven versions of farmhouse ales, known as bière de garde, were favoured in Northern France. Known as a “beer for keeping,” bière de garde’s high alcohol helped preserve the beer’s drinkability while stored for long months before being served in the summer. As malt-forward and high alcohol bière de garde charmed French brewers and drinkers, Belgian farmhouse brewers adopted saisons. With lower alcohol levels, saisons could refresh workers without worry of intoxication. Saisons were also hopped more heavily than bière de gardes to avoid spoilage during winter storage.
Defining Modern Saisons
So, with this beer style having a hard time finding what defines it – how did we come to have yeast strains that, at the very least, have become common enough that we can say “that’s a Saison! I think?”
Our historical saisons, the ones created by farmhouse breweries in Belgium, depended on mixed fermentation. After the boiling process, wort would be cooled in a shallow vessel, then fermentation would take place in wooden casks. All of this would be happening on a farm, which would have been the perfect place for wild yeasts to hang out. Yeasts used in fermentation of these beers would be reused in the next batch of beer. Every farmhouse that was producing beer would have had its own unique yeast strain, which could alter the flavour of the beer. Even if a farmhouse brewer required the use of a neighbouring brewery’s yeast, that new yeast would soon pick up qualities from the farm it was currently being used at.
When this “Farmhouse Brewery” tradition in Belgium and Northern France ended after World War 2, commercial producers that had the equipment and resources to brew consistent saisons recipes survived. Unlike the smaller farmhouse breweries, these larger commercial producers could meet the demands of the thirsty public. Brasserie Dupont in Belgium was, and remains, the brewer of iconic saisons. White pepper and bright fruit, the yeast blend used to brew Saison Dupont has become the benchmark for when we say “This is Saison.”
Follies of Dupont
At Folly, our Praxis (a New World Saison) is brewed using a Brasserie Dupont strain. Light pepper and citrus fruits, Praxis is our New World interpretation of a classic saison. As homebrewers, we were very familiar with using Dupont yeast and how it should taste. When we made the step into professional brewing, that meant working with commercial pitches. That first Dupont yeast pitch, though we were confident in our abilities to brew, had us in a panic. My co-brewer and I sat in the back room of the brewpub nearly crying – we had ruined our first beer! What should have tasted like white pepper and fruit was tasting like burnt plastic. Trying to remain somewhat calm, and with shaking hands, we tested our gravity. After what should have been a normal fermentation time, this beer with its brand new yeast pitch, was taking a little longer than normal. Being new to the farmhouse brewing game – this was an important lesson. First pitches can stall a little. Be patient. Good things will come. We’re now on our 20th generation of this yeast, and like the Farmhouse breweries of old, this yeast has picked up some Folly house character along the way.
Belgian and French Saison Yeast
Along with similar yeast strains, this Dupont yeast strain belongs to the category of “Belgian Saison.” There is a second saison yeast category used by brewers known as “French Saison.” Believed to be from the northern France Brasserie Thiriez, French Saison yeast will have white pepper aromatics, but with a healthy dose of orange peel.
The term “Farmhouse” seems to have stuck around as historical saisons tended to have some wild yeast in there. With multiple yeast strains working together, they were naturally mixed fermentations. As the saison style made its way over to North America, modern brewers began to play with mixed fermentation through adding brettanomyces directly to their saisons.
I’ve used the word Brettanomyces a lot already tonight. You probably noticed the word Brettanomyces, or Brett, at bars and on bottle labels.The reason it’s listed on tap boards and bottle labels is because it’s still very special. It has a mixed past of striking fear into hearts of brewers.
Ale and lager yeast belong to the genus saccharomyces. Brett is related, but different. Typically saccharomyces strains are called “clean” yeasts. The fact that Brett is not grouped with the clean yeast family should give you a good indication of where this is going! Working with Brett can lead to tricky equipment infections. A brewer may have wanted her saison to have funky brett character in it, but she didn’t want to find that same funk character in her pilsner. Brewers tend to be control freaks – the risk of your beer not working out due to a brett infection is scary. This ability to infect equipment and make beers that were meant to be clean “funky” keep many home and professional brewers away from the genus entirely.
And when brett’s bad, it’s really, really bad. Picking up a glass of beer, bringing it up to your nose … and inhaling band-aids, fecal aromatics, and horse sweat does not sound delicious. Brett got itself a real bad reputation.
Brett loves to hang out in wood. Back in the old days of brewing, the oak barrels that were used to ship and age beers in England were particularly prone to developing an infection from Brett. When the Carlsberg Brewery was first isolating different yeast strains in the early nineteen-hundreds, they identified Brett as a cause of spoilage in British ales. They named it after the Greek for the “British fungus.”
And even though Brett could do great things for a beer’s flavour, it’s bad reputation kept it out of breweries for a long time. However, more and more, especially in smaller breweries, Brett is intentionally being used. While the risk of creating infection and spoiling beer is still very real, the benefits Brett can offer are too tempting for some. Brewers are experimenting with using different strains to develop complex flavours and to more carefully acid balance their beers. American IPAs can have their hoppy tropical fruit characters enhanced with Brett. Darker beers, like stouts and porters, can develop cherry pie flavours through Brett. And some brewers try to build funky and complex flavours through aging brett in there beer.
While sometimes it’s assumed Brett beers are sours, this is not correct. Brett can acidify beer through lowering the pH slightly more than most other yeasts. This won’t sour a beer, but can certainly make it more tart. Various brett types will also create unique flavours which can make beer more complex and exciting.
Some common Brett Stains you might see include:
Brett Bruxellensis (or, as the cool kids say “Brett Brux”): If someone ever told you the pinot noir you are drinking tastes like “horse blanket” and “barnyard” – and you liked those flavours, then Brett Brux is for you. Used to bottle condition Orval, Brett Brux creates that classic earthy funk character found in so many brett beers.
Brett Claussenii (Brett C, My favourite of the brett strains): This strain of Brett can create tropical fruits flavours, like pineapple, and stone fruit. When blended with bright and fruity hops, this brett strain makes for delicious brews. Last Saturday, over 20 women joined me at Folly for International Women’s Collaborative Brew Day to brew a beer that was fermented entirely with Brett C. The brett will accentuate the fruity hops we used to make a super juicey, funk freebeer.
Brett Lambicus (Brett L – we’re noticing a trend here, right?): I love this strain. It can present like a cherry pie filling and can do some beautiful things to darker beers.
Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois: This strain is no longer considered a Brett strain, but it acts just like one. Like Brett, it can drop the pH and produce some cool, bright flavours in beer. At Folly we use a percentage of this strain in our Farmhouse beers to gain more tasty tropical fruit flavours. While this strain is the Pluto of our Brett solar system, we still love it just as much.
Farmhouse and Mixed Fermentation
So we know what saisons are. Or, at least we have an idea. They are peppery, bright, and dry and usually easy drinking. And we know what Brett does to a beer. It can create unique flavours, lower the pH resulting in a tarter beer, and if allowed to age they can create funky flavours. So, what is a farmhouse ale?
As I mentioned earlier, saisons were historically brewed in the farmhouses scattered throughout Wallonia and Northern France for the thirsty seasonal workers. When these saisons were being brewed, they were exposed to the wild yeast elements which could result in brett and other bacteria assisting in the fermentation – they were a mixed fermentation! At Folly, wanting to brew in the Farmhouse tradition, we blend our saison yeasts and brett strains to create “Mixed Fermentation” – Or, as we call them, “Farmhouse Ales.” This results in a dry, peppery beer with complex fruit flavours. Now, if you’ve ever been to Folly, you may notice that our Little Italy location in downtown Toronto is lacking the cows and fields typically required on farms. Thankfully we are able to rely on our brett strains to make up for our missing animals. The only pigs you’ll see at my brewery are already slow braised and covered in crackling.
Mixed Fermentation: Two Approaches
In mixed fermentation brewing there are usually two approaches, and they can have fairly different impacts on the overall flavour of a beer. As I mentioned earlier, when Brett and saccharomyces are pitched together, there will be some funk flavours, but the end result is usually more fruity and bright.
On the other hand, some breweries will do an initial fermentation with a clean, saccharomyces yeast, then later pitch in Brett for a secondary fermentation. This approach tends to lead to what is commonly known as funk. This secondary fermentation allows the Brett to slowly ferment sugars the saccharomyces left behind, resulting in complex funk flavours.
For our “Farmhouse Ales” approach, we like to use saison yeast strains with Brett. The various Brett strains add tartness and fruity brightness to beer while the clean saison yeast produce dry and peppery aromatics that pair well together. But, that’s just our approach to Farmhouse. There are no hard and fast rules – just make sure it tastes good.
It takes some courage and time, but Brett can be somewhat dependable to work with. Well, until it all falls apart and your Brett goes rouge. Michael Jackson, the famous beer writer with an unfortunate (and amusing) name said on Brett’s behaviour:
“Saccharomyces is like a dog and Brett is like a cat. It’s a little less predictable. It’s going to do its own thing; it’s not going to come when you call it and sit when you say sit. If you can respect its individuality and suggest rather than dictate what it does in your fermentation, it can reward the brewer and the drinker.”
When designing one of our beers, we wanted to capture that cherry pie flavour found with Brett L for our Belgian Dubbel. The first couple of batches were perfect – malty, rich, and cherries. Then, something happened. Our Brett went a little crazy. If beer writer Michael Jackson was in the room, he would say our brett acted like a cat. It did it’s own thing. It started to pull our beer in a tart direction. Instead of forcing that Dubbel, we leaned in to where the Brett wanted to go. Since we listened to our Brett, we were rewarded with a lovely, tart Belgian style bruin that is now one of our core beers.
And there we are. A style that’s hard to define and sometimes still confuses new customers. A history that feels more like a romantic myth. A type of yeast that can wreak havoc in a brewhouse and make beer taste like sewage if mishandled, or completely alter the identity of your beer. With all these problems, why do both home and professional brewers keep coming back to saisons and farmhouse styles? Why are yeast companies, like Guelph’s own Escarpment Labs, creating new blends of brett? And why are there online communities like Milk the Funk, dedicated to sharing practical information on farmhouse and sour brewing? While hard to define, there are marks of identity in how saison yeast presents itself. Dry. Peppery. Bright. The history feels romantic, but even brewers are big softies when it comes to a good story. And while taming cat-like brett can be daunting, the rewards are so fruity and so worth it.
Sometimes the beer community can feel exciting and warm to anyone that may be interested in participating in it. Unlike the uncomfortable commercials of macro beers from our past where sexy, demi-god-like women’s purpose is to suggestively hand glasses of yellow suds to the bloated everyman, craft beer is heralded as inclusive and welcoming to everyone who just wants to enjoy some beer.
Yet, it doesn’t always feel that way.
Like many industries and instances, craft beer has not been immune to the problems of sexism. There are too many examples of craft beer names and labels that render women as sexualized objects, rather than people who may also enjoy said beer. There are ads where craft beers have been described as “manly” rather than listing what the beer actually tastes like. My personal favourite, to which I am still trying to figure out the best (and most polite) response, is being asked where my beard is upon hearing my job description.
Our welcoming and inclusive industry sometimes has a hard time trying to walk the line between be a little funny, and being a little offensive. We don’t really like talking about this problem in a meaningful way that creates change. For all the chatter this topic gets every six months on Twitter, there are breweries in Ontario that still have labels with women who are selling sex instead of beer.
So, what’s to be done? If we can’t change the unfortunate labels, how do we try to ensure that this industry is not some boy’s club? That your gender identity has no bearing on your ability to enjoy beer and your capability for working at all levels in this industry? Well, there are several organizations that are doing awesome work to highlight women working in this industry, and bring women closer to beer in general. On the beer drinking side of things, Toronto’s Society of Beer Drinking Ladies and multipleothergroups across the country aim to create comfortable spaces for women to experience and geek-out over beer.
Events and organizations like these are important. They allow everyone to realize there is good work in beer production, and they encourage exploration in tastes (even if you’ve been told you’d only like wheat beers – they’re light!). They welcome those who may not have known anything about beer to come and try it out in a welcoming space. At some point we can stop having these types of events. We can stop counting the number of women achieving in beer and other industries. I’m really looking forward to that.
In the meantime, we’re inviting interested women to join us on March 5th and brew with us to celebrate IWCBD. You can be an experienced homebrewer, someone who is interested in homebrewing but not too sure how to get started, or even someone who just loves beer and wants to learn more about the production side of things. We’re looking at brewing with lots of salt and lots of brett c, and it’s going to be awesome.
When the beer is ready we’ll host a launch party at Folly that will include musical guests and a silent auction. Partial proceeds from our IWCBD beer will go towards Working Women Community Centre, an organization which provides services and programs to immigrant women in an effort to help them succeed in Toronto.
*Due to overwhelming interest in participation, we have decided to remove the sign-up form. Thank you for your interest and stay tuned for updates on our IWCBD beer! (Christina – Jan 13, 2015)
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.
Collaboration is sometimes a maligned word in beer. Often the repository for ideas too bold and brave for regular sales, they can be hit and miss at best depending on brewer’s ambitions, resources, and abilities. But when approached carefully, these adventures in collaboration can be some of the most rewarding experiences. Learning other’s limitations, their point of view on brewing, and coming together with friends to make beer are now integral parts of this industry.
Our history with collaboration is a somewhat particular because of two of our defining characteristics: we’re small and we’re a saison/funky/Belgian-inspired brewery. This means when folks drop by to brew with us, the experience of brewing is similar to using their own pilot systems. It also means, however, they get to play with yeast and fermentables that they don’t often inflict on their brewhouses. It has been a lot of fun seeing how other brewers join with us to brew farmhouse ales.
Our first collaboration was honestly a dry run of the whole process. Could we be affable for a whole day with a guest in house?! Newfoundland homebrewer Chad Levesque was visiting Toronto so we decided to use him as a guinea pig. We brewed a hoppy saison and called it “Kitchen Party” since we were a bunch of Newfoundlanders brewing in the kitchen at the time. It has since grown, been introduced to brettanomyces (brett), and has become one of our main beers: Imposter Syndrome.
The legendary George Eagleson of Stone Hammer was our first pro-brewer collaboration and we decided to play with a light springtime wheat saison using Galaxy hops. After some fun brew day discussions about the Readymade art movement and interesting brewery urinals, we called the beer “Galactic Fountain.”
George was followed quickly by Eric from Liberty Village who wanted to take a more experimental approach. We had Luis (co-owner and chef!) smoke up some wheat malt over applewood to create “Fume,” our smoked saison. We love the idea of smoke, so look for another smoked saison over the winter.
Jeff and the crew from Indie Alehouse were next. In what seemed like a whirlwind of excitement, we went from having drinks with them on a Friday night to brewing with them early the next Monday morning. We produced one big batch of wort (for us at least!) and split it three ways. One using our saison yeast, another using their witbier yeast, and a final one using a blend of our saison yeast and a brett blend from Indie. In the end we blended the saison and wit-fermented beers and dry hopped them with a fun newer hop called Jarrylo (we called the beer “Jarilo” after the Slavic god of the springtime) while we left the brett-fermented ale alone to be the stately farmhouse ale “Morana” (Jarilo’s twin sister and wife).
The hustle of the summertime and brewery construction stymied our collaborations a little, but soon enough we were back at it brewing with homebrewers. For one of our Cask Days beers, we brewed a Farmhouse Bitter with GTA Brews homebrew club. We also paired up with some more awesome homebrewers for a couple of beers that will be featured at the People’s Pint event that is being held at Lansdowne, November 15th.
Speaking of Lansdowne, our most recently tapped beer, “We’ve Already Got One,” is a true experimental collaboration. Jeremy dropped by with a sack of elderberries and we fermented a fun, funky saison with Escarpment Lab’s “Fruit Bomb” saison blend. It is, at the time of writing, on tap at Lansdowne and will be at Folly very shortly too.
And, finally, speaking of Escarpment Labs, we worked with them to create Escarpment #1 and #2. Both were lighter farmhouse ales playing with different saison yeasts and brett blends. Escarpment Labs is also our next collaboration, as these folks plan to drop by this week with a 100% Ontario Brett strain that we’re going to use to ferment a hoppy farmhouse ale.
We hope to make collaborations a continuing part of our project here at Folly and we’ve got a number of brewers who we’re looking forward to working with in the coming months. Amateur and professional brewers bring cool ideas to the table, which allows everyone to enjoy new and exciting brews.
Goodness, a lot can happen in a year! It seems like only yesterday that we announced that Habits Gastropub was about to start brewing onsite, and now, just over a year after the initial press release we’re a full brewpub with a whole new name (but a fairly similar attitude!). We’re using this blog space in the future to chat about what we’re up to with our various projects, collaborations, and brewing philosophies; but for now, let’s relive a little history so we’re all caught up!
This time last year we were in the final stages of getting our small brewhouse (we brew about 2.5 hL in a batch, which is about 2 BBL, 65 gallons, or just over a hogshead) put together and joyfully filling out paperwork to obtain the various permits and licenses needed to brew beer at a pub. Our idea was to brew beer that we like that isn’t brewed that much in Ontario. Mostly we wanted to brew Belgian-inspired things, like our saisons, but with a near fanatical focus on “milking the funk” and exploring modern mixed fermentation beers. We aimed to specialize in a yeast and fermentation driven approach, not do a little of everything. And, as luck would have it for a small brewery focusing on yeast, a small yeast lab focusing on brett and other interesting yeasts and bugs – our friends at Escarpment Labs! – opened at just about the same time offering us a chance to buy things we couldn’t even dream of when we were planning. Currently we’re about 70% on our way to being 100% Escarpment Labs cultures.
Anyway! When we finally got all of our paperwork and inspections done in January 2015, we hurried to get our carefully piloted new world (it’s dry hopped with Amarillo) saison (we used to just call it “Habits Saison,” but now as Folly it’s called “Praxis”) to our guests. For a while we only had one tank and with the brewhouse living in the middle of the kitchen, and we could only brew on days (Sunday) when the kitchen wasn’t busy cooking up tasty foods.
The part-time gig could only last so long. Running out of beer sucks! And as we saw our beer running out we quickly realized a part-time nanobrewery in a gastropub wasn’t enough. We wanted to make more beer, to work at it full-time, and to make it clear we’re a brewpub. We brainstormed new names, drew up drawings, ripped up the stage, installed a glistening stainless steel wall, ordered more tanks, and fanatically brewed up new recipes for the new brewpub. All summer we brewed and built and now, finally, it’s done.
One of the things you learn in this brewery building process is how friendly your brewery neighbors are. While in planning Brad Clifford, formerly of Get Well fame, but now brewing under his own name, helped us with some of the common nanobrewery hurdlesand Jason Fisher of Indie Alehouse helped will countless other licensing questions. The fantastic George Eagleson from Stone Hammer was the first to drop in to collaborate, with the teams from Indie Alehouse and Liberty Village following shortly behind. Our friends at Bellwoods helped with our first grain order and Rainhard has helped out in that department too, allowing us to ship two palates of grain to his stately brewery. And that’s not even counting the countless homebrewers from GTA Brews and the People’s Pint who have dropped by to brew and support us. Or all of our other fantastic new (somehow newer than us even!) neighbors Burdock and Lansdowne who have shown us nothing but warmth. Jeez! That turned into a bit of a love in! But for all the puffery about “craft beer camaraderie,” it’s refreshing to experience it.
So, just over a year after announcing an onsite brewery, and transitioning to Folly Brewpub, we’re now working on keeping our four main brands on draft, growing our barrel program (six Ontario wine barrels from Lailey and Westcott Vineyards so far!), and brewing new tasty beers. And that’s what this blog space is all about! In the coming weeks we’ll get you all caught up on our barrel program, talk about some of our house mixed fermentation cultures, how we decided on our main brands, more on collaborations (especially our recent one with Lansdowne!), and just other general fun things you learn brewing for a small brewpub in downtown Toronto. There is a lot to say and only so much time! For now, please Folly us along and see where we’re going next.