JUN/JUL 2006 | REGIONAL | WEST
Down On The Farm : A Brewery Is Born Again
By Mike & Lisa Pitsker
At the local farmers market, one can find vendors selling
fresh fruit and vegetables that they grew themselves, along
with small sausage and cheese companies selling simple, natural
products into which their owners poured their hearts. People
can identify with the handcrafted goods and with the men and
women who created or grew them. Folks visit the market for
social interaction and to find that special taste of something
new or unusual to bring home to their families. Farmhouse
Brewing Company understands that feeling.
“That’s the idea behind our brands,” said
Farmhouse Sales Manager Jeff Moses as he poured a sample of
Farmhouse Kolsch Bier, a light, airy, German-style ale with
a nice hop bite, cold-conditioned for a smooth, lager-esque
mouthfeel. “We wanted to create a brand that people
could identify with. And who doesn’t like barns?”
Moses grinned. “It would be un-American.”
The labels on the 22-ounce bottles depict reproduced paintings
of barns created by local artist and consultant Galen Griswold,
who has been creating paintings of barns and farmhouses for
30 years. Each style of beer is represented by a stylized
barn from the area in which the beer style originated. The
Hayloft Pils label shows a European-style barn and grain silo
with the brand name “painted” across the roof.
The label captures the Czech style almost as well as the beer
inside the bottle.
Farmhouse Brewing grew from its Coast Range Brewing Company
roots. For more than a decade, Coast Range has brewed its
own brands as well as more than 20 contracted brands in its
huge concrete warehouse in Gilroy, Calif. “We decided
to get away from [the Coast Range brands],” said Moses.
“I thought the brewery needed a new face.” The
old Coast Range logo is still painted on the outside of the
foot-thick wall facing Monterey Street, but the side wall
is freshly painted and waiting for a Farmhouse barn —
and inside, it’s all Farmhouse. “We kept what
was best of the original brands and made them better.”
Moses poured the Oasthouse IPA, and the floral aroma rose
from the glass like the smell of fresh-scythed hay in a meadow.
“Head Brewer Peter Licht likes big, malty beers,”
Moses continued. He must also like his hops; the beer is well
balanced, smooth malt to spicy hops. “We originally
thought this might be our flagship brand, until the Saison,”
The Saison 7 is a Belgian-style beer, and it’s Licht’s
favorite one to brew. “It’s difficult to brew,
and it keeps Peter’s attention,” Moses added.
“It’s the true farmhouse beer style: small batches
brewed by hand, unfiltered and pure.” The farmhouse
style was originally brewed by and for farmers and their hands,
brewed for taste with readily available ingredients and served
as a reward for a hard day’s work. The Farmhouse version
of the Saison carries its weight in flavor, and the tiny champagne-sized
bubbles reflect the artistic ability Licht developed during
his stint in the Master Brewers Program at UC-Davis.
One of the main differences between this and many other breweries
starts with the laid-back, down-on-the-farm style. “Because
of the contracts, we have cash flow,” Moses explained.
“We don’t have to rush our beer to market or force
a style. We can slow the process down to a manageable pace
and put out our product when the time — and the beer
— is right.” The Saison illustrates the patience
with which Licht, Assistant Brewer Steve Donohue and the rest
of the production staff are proceeding. There’s no rush
down at the Farmhouse. The beers come when they’re ready.
“It’s a craft,” said Moses, “an artisan
product.” He is slowly getting the best placements for
the brands, including Beverages & More throughout California,
Albertsons and Whole Foods markets, and soon, Raley’s
and Nob Hill. Moses is doing all the placement legwork to
leverage a stronger position with the distribution houses.
“The Stone Fence Robust Porter is a big beer with
a backbone and a smoky chocolate finish,” Moses said.
Lisa loved it and has used it in marinades since our brewery
visit. I liked the Siberian Night Stout, “a real dessert
beer,” as Moses described it, and a true imperial stout
at 11.5% abv. “It’s better when it’s warmer,”
Moses added, and he’s right; the flavors began to jump
out of the glass as the beer warmed to near cellar temperature.
I have a bottle cellared for a try next year. I’m betting
it ages well.
The last beer we tried was the newest brand, still in the
development stages. Two Tractor New World Ale is an American-style
pale that we tasted right from the conditioning tank prior
to filtering and carbonation. I love tasting the raw product;
I get a real feel for the flavor profile that way, tasting
the malts, yeast and boiled hops before dry-hopping and filtering
polish the brew for packaging. I’m looking forward to
this brand; the base flavors are all there, and I’m
interested in how the dry-hopping will change the profile.
Farmhouse also brews a soft, flavorful draft “Boot
Reer” that Lisa and our three-year-old son, James, enjoyed.
After a root beer and a handful of Skittles candy, James and
Moses played the house set of drums for a while, hosed down
some of the tanks and chased each other around the cash register.
If you visit the brewery, be sure to ask Jeff Moses about
his favorite Mexican restaurant downtown. And watch for his
brew festivals — the first Bay Area Beer Fest coming
up June 10 in San Mateo and the Monterey Beer Festival in
September. As a former television producer, Moses learned
to put on quite a production, and it shows, both in his role
as brewery salesman and as festival organizer.
Farmhouse Brewing Company is open for tours by reservation.
Call Jeff Moses to set one up for your group and sample some
of that Farmhouse hospitality.
Farmhouse Brewing Company
7050 Monterey St.
Gilroy, CA 95020
Mike Pitsker is an associate editor of the
Celebrator Beer News and a longtime beer-industry