Farmhouse Ale Recipe: Secrets of Belgian Farmers

In this article, we will dive into the world of farmhouse ales by providing you with one of our favorite farmhouse ale recipe as well as providing you with some tips on how to develop your own recipe.

Farmhouse ales, traditionally brewed on farms in Europe, are known for their unique flavors that come from the local ingredients and the specific yeast strains used in the brewing process, since each farm would have its own recipe and ingredients no one farmhouse ale will taste the same. As a result, trying different farmhouse ale recipes allows you to experiment with various ingredients, resulting in you creating your own complex and refreshing beverage that will be tailored to your own personal preferences of what you like about this unique beer.

A typical farmhouse ale recipe will often include a combination of malted grains, such as two-row malt, Vienna malt, wheat malt, and hops like Hallertauer, for a subtle but distinctive aroma. Some farmhouse ales incorporate additional ingredients like flaked oats and corn sugar to add complexity and a smooth mouthfeel.

As you develop your own farmhouse ale recipe, pay close attention to the brewing process, as this can greatly impact the finished product. More so than many other beer styles it is important to monitor the temperature during the mashing, boiling, and fermentation stages to ensure consistency and the development of the desired flavors. It is also worth experimenting with different yeast strains, such as Wyeast 3711 French Saison, to create a farmhouse ale that reflects your tastes and preferences.

The Basics of Farmhouse Ale Recipes

Understanding the Beer Style

Farmhouse ale is a beer style that originated in Europe, specifically from the rural regions of Belgium and France. It was traditionally brewed by farmers during the colder months using ingredients available on their farms, such as grains and local spices. This refreshing and light beer style has been around for centuries, offering unique and complex flavors to drinkers.

Difference between Belgian and French Farmhouse Ales

Belgian and French farmhouse ales share many similarities in terms of their characteristic flavors and brewing techniques.

However, there are some differences that set them apart:

– Belgian Farmhouse Ales: Also known as Saison, Belgian farmhouse ales exhibit a more spicy and fruity flavor profile. They often have slightly higher alcohol content and are typically brewed with Belgian yeast strains, which contribute to their distinct flavors and aromas.

– French Farmhouse Ales: Referred to as Bière de Garde, these ales have a more malty and earthy taste compared to their Belgian counterparts. They are usually brewed with French yeast strains and tend to have slightly lower alcohol content.

Characteristic Features

Farmhouse ales showcase some common features that make them unique among other beer styles:

– Refreshing: Their light body, moderate carbonation, and dry finish lend to a crisp and refreshing drinking experience, perfect for warm weather.

– Tart: Farmhouse ales typically exhibit a subtle tartness, which can be attributed to the use of wild yeast strains and/or local bacteria during fermentation.

– Aroma: These beers generally possess a mix of fruity, spicy, and earthy notes, resulting from the use of specific yeast strains and the addition of spices or herbs in the brewing process.

– Appearance: Farmhouse ales often have a hazy or cloudy appearance and range in color from pale gold to deep amber.

Farmhouse Ale Recipe

The following is a basic farmhouse ale recipe you can use to brew your own batch; it will produce approximately 5 gallons (19 liters) of beer.  The amount of water you will need will depend on the brewing process and equipment you use, however, most systems will require approximately 7-8 gallons (26-30 liters).

Hops Selection

For a balanced and flavorful farmhouse ale, selecting the right hops is essential. A popular option for this style of beer is Hallertauer hops, due to their mild and earthy notes. Typically, you’ll want to add the hops at different stages during the boil to achieve a mix of bittering, flavor, and aroma.

Follow these guidelines for hop additions:

– 1.0 oz (28 g) Hallertauer hops, 4.7% a.a. (60 min)
– 0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertauer hops, 4.7% a.a. (30 min)
– 0.5 oz (14 g) Hallertauer hops, 4.7% a.a. (10 min)

Choosing the Right Yeast

The yeast used in a farmhouse ale plays a crucial role in developing its distinct character. Select a yeast strain that imparts fruity and spicy flavors, such as Belgian or French saison yeast varieties. These strains will help to create that desired farmhouse-style flavor profile.

Importance of Grain Bill

The choice of grains for your farmhouse ale is crucial for creating a complex and enjoyable beer. A combination of different malt types will yield the best results.

For this recipe, we recommend:

– 6.0 lb (2.7 kg) two-row malt
– 4.0 lb (1.8 kg) Vienna malt
– 1.0 lb (0.45 kg) wheat malt

Incorporating these various grains will provide a balanced body, unique flavors, and a rich color to your farmhouse ale.

Additional Ingredients

To further enhance the character of your farmhouse ale, consider adding the following ingredients: flaked oats, corn sugar, or even orange peel (bitter or sweet) to add depth and complexity to your beer.

In particular, adding flaked oats (1.0 lb/0.45 kg) and corn sugar (0.75 lb/340 g) can enrich the beer’s mouthfeel and boost fermentation. As for the orange peel, use it sparingly to avoid overwhelming other flavors in the beer, most people will use approximately 1 oz (28 grams).

Farmhouse Ale Recipe Instructions

1) Heat 7-8 gallons (26-30 liters) of water in a large pot or kettle to 152°F (67°C).

2) Add the two-row malt, Vienna malt, and wheat malt to the water, stirring to combine.

3) Maintain the temperature at 152°F (67°C) and let the grains steep for 60 minutes.

4) After 60 minutes, strain the grains from the wort and discard the spent grains.

5) Return the wort to the pot and bring it to a boil.

6) Once the wort is boiling, add the Hallertauer hops (1.0 oz/28 g) and boil for 60 minutes.

7) After 30 minutes of boiling, add the second hop addition (0.5 oz/14 g Hallertauer hops).

8) After 50 minutes of boiling, add the third hop addition (0.5 oz/14 g Hallertauer hops) and the corn sugar.

9) After 60 minutes of boiling, remove the pot from the heat and cool the wort to 70-75°F (21-24°C).

10) Transfer the wort to a fermenter and add the Belgian or French saison yeast.

11) Ferment the beer for 2-3 weeks at a temperature of 68-72°F (20-22°C).

12) After fermentation is complete, bottle the beer or keg and add the optional orange peel for additional flavor (if desired).

13)  If bottling allow the beer to carbonate and condition in the bottles for 2-3 weeks at room temperature.

14) Chill the bottles for at least 24 hours before serving.

Note: The amount of water and the brewing time may vary depending on your equipment and brewing process. Make sure to sanitize all equipment before use to avoid contamination and follow proper safety precautions when brewing.

Tips When Brewing a Farmhouse Ale Recipe

The following are some additional tips to help you brew this recipe…

Mashing Out

Once the mash is complete, many brewers will include a mash out step in order to stop any further enzymatic activity.

Here’s how to perform a mash out:

– Once the 60-minute mash is complete, raise the temperature of the mash to 168°F (76°C) by adding hot water or heating the mash tun.

– Hold the mashing temperature at 168°F (76°C) for 10-15 minutes to allow the enzymes to denature.

– Drain the wort from the mash tun into your brew kettle or pot.

– Begin the sparging process by slowly adding hot water to the grain bed to extract the remaining sugars.

It’s important to note that a mash out is not always necessary, and some brewers choose to skip this step. However, it can help to increase efficiency in the brewing process and extract more fermentable sugars from the grains. As with any brewing process, make sure to sanitize all equipment and follow proper safety precautions.


After the grains have been steeped in the water for 60 minutes, the next step is to rinse the grains to extract as much of the sugars as possible. This process is called sparging. To sparge, you will need to add additional hot water to the grains in the pot or kettle and then drain the wort into your fermenter.

For this recipe, you can use approximately 3-4 gallons (11-15 liters) of hot water at a temperature of 168°F (76°C) for sparging. Slowly pour the hot water over the grains, making sure to distribute it evenly. Allow the water to sit for a few minutes, then slowly drain the wort into your fermenter. Repeat this process until you have collected the desired amount of wort for your recipe.

Sparging helps to extract more fermentable sugars from the grains, which increases the alcohol content and improves the flavor of the beer.

Secondary Fermentation

Some people will use a secondary fermentation; this step helps clarify and mature your farmhouse ale, enhancing its overall taste and quality.

If you decide to do so proceed as normal, i.e. after the mash out; cool the wort to 72°F (22°C) and transfer it to the primary fermenter. Ensure proper sanitization to avoid contamination. Fill it to the desired level with cold spring water (if needed), pitch the yeast (Wyeast 3711 French Saison), and allow the primary fermentation to occur.

After the primary fermentation, rack the beer to a secondary fermenting vessel, a process referred to as secondary fermentation.

The length of time for a secondary fermentation can vary, but it is usually recommended to let the beer sit for 1-2 weeks before bottling or kegging.

It’s important to note that a secondary fermentation is not always necessary and can increase the risk of infection or oxidation if not done properly. If you choose to perform a secondary fermentation, make sure to sanitize all equipment and follow proper safety precautions.

Fermentation and Conditioning

Understanding Fermentation

Fermentation temperature is a vital when brewing farmhouse ales. During this stage, yeast is introduced to the wort, which converts sugars into alcohol and produces carbon dioxide. To begin fermentation, pitch the yeast into the cooled wort at an appropriate temperature, typically around 68°F (20°C) for farmhouse ales.

One popular yeast strain for farmhouse ales is saison yeast, which is known for its fruity and spicy characteristics. A popular choice among brewers is the White Labs Saison Yeast, known for its solid performance and distinct flavor profile.

When fermenting a farmhouse ale, it’s crucial to maintain a steady temperature for the yeast to work effectively. For saison yeast strains, a fermentation temperature of around 68°F (20°C) is recommended, and then it’s allowed to free rise until the final gravity (FG) is reached.

During fermentation, monitor the activity of the yeast through the airlock and hydrometer readings. Once the activity has slowed and the gravity readings are stable over several days, you can move on to the conditioning phase.

The History of Farmhouse Ales

Origins of Farmhouse Ales

Farmhouse ales date back to ancient European traditions where farmers brewed beer for consumption on their farms using their own grain. Most farmers brewed specifically for Christmas and the late summer work season. In areas with abundant grain, beer was used as an everyday drink. The recipes and techniques of these ales were passed down through generations and varied from farm to farm.

Wallonia and the Farm Workers

In Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, farmhouse ales have a strong historical connection to the farm workers. Known as saisonniers, these workers were employed during the harvest season, and beer was brewed as a safe and refreshing drink for them. The resulting ale, dubbed saison, was often golden or amber in color, with a dry and slightly tart taste. The alcohol content typically ranged from 5% to 7%, providing a pleasant, drinkable beverage without excessive intoxicating effects.

Belgium: The Birthplace of Farmhouse Ales

Belgium is often considered the birthplace of many farmhouse ale styles, including saison and bière de garde. The brewing process for these ales is not overly complex or specialized. Farmers used the ingredients available to them on the farm, which varied depending on the region. This allowed for a wide range of flavors and styles within the farmhouse ale category.

Some traditional ingredients found in farmhouse ales include:

– Barley
– Wheat
– Spelt
– Rye
– Local hops
– Wild yeast strains

While modern techniques and ingredients have evolved over the centuries, farmhouse ales still retain their rustic, artisanal roots. Today, beer enthusiasts appreciate these special brews’ unique flavors and history, which carry a taste of the past into the present moment.

Farmhouse Ale Recipe FAQs

What are key ingredients in a farmhouse ale?

Farmhouse ales typically contain a base of malted barley, along with added grains, such as wheat or rye. A variety of hops can be used, depending on the desired flavor profile. Yeast plays a crucial role in fermenting the beer and contributes to the smoothness and taste. Some farmhouse ales also feature additional ingredients like fruits, herbs, or spices, for added complexity and unique flavors.

What distinguishes saison from other farmhouse ales?

Saison is a type of Belgian farmhouse ale known for its dry, crisp, and refreshingly fruity nature, with spicy or peppery notes. This style typically has a higher alcohol content compared to other farmhouse ales. The difference between saisons and other farmhouse ales often comes down to the choice of yeast strains and fermentation temperatures, which give saisons their distinct characteristics.

How do you add fruit flavors to a farmhouse ale?

To add fruit flavors to a farmhouse ale, you can either use real fruit, fruit purees, or fruit extracts. Real fruit and purees can be added during the secondary fermentation stage, while extracts tend to be added during bottling. Each method offers unique flavors and textures to the beer, so it’s up to your preference and desired result.

What role does yeast play in brewing farmhouse ales?

Yeast is essential for fermentation, and the choice of yeast strain can greatly influence a farmhouse ale’s flavor profile. Traditional saison yeast strains, for example, provide a lively mouthfeel, fruity esters, and spicy phenols which are characteristic of the style. Experimenting with different yeast strains can help you find the perfect combination of flavors for your farmhouse ale.

What is the ideal water profile for brewing a saison?

The best water for brewing a saison generally involves a balanced mineral content that contributes to the mouthfeel, flavor, and overall character of the beer. Saisons tend to benefit from a higher sulfate-to-chloride ratio, which enhances the perception of dryness and bitterness. Adding gypsum or calcium chloride to your brewing water can help achieve the desired mineral balance.

Are there differences between American and Belgian farmhouse ales?

Yes, there are differences between American and Belgian farmhouse ale recipes. Although both styles can have similar core ingredients and a similar brewing process, the main difference lies in the flavor profiles, yeast strains, and brewing traditions. Belgian farmhouse ales typically emphasize the yeast-derived flavors, while American farmhouse ales often focus more on the malt and hop characters. The variations in ingredients and techniques can result in unique and diverse flavor profiles for each style.

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