“To me, ‘saison’ has lost its association to agriculture much the same way all of the beer has over time,” says Matt Schulze, head brewer at Arrowood Farms Brewery.
He brews on an actual farm surrounded by natural beauty about 15 miles outside of New Paltz, New York. Naturally, agriculture stays on his mind. However, it’s not just the 48-acre Arrowood farm he’s concerned with. In order to source 100% of his ingredients from NY state Matt thinks about many local farms. It’s been a goal of the brewery since it opened in 2016, and in 2019 they were nearly there with 94 percent of ingredients grown in NY. As of mid-2020 the Arrowood team achieved their goal.
“We are fortunate to exist here where there is such diversity in growing zones and microclimates,” says Schulze, “and that enough farmers and maltsters here have committed to taking part in the brewery ingredient supply chain.”
Though everything is sourced locally, the ingredients don’t necessarily end up in a farmhouse style beer. Arrowood has a line up of IPAs, lagers, porters, and stouts to keep craft beer fans happy, but about once a month they brew up something a little more wild for their farmhouse program.
Schulze says the difference lies in the philosophy behind each recipe, “Style-wise, I think it is a matter of control; farmhouse brewers are more willing to let the ingredients determine the characteristics of a batch of beer in a way that honors their true character.” He adds that more commercial styles like porter or IPA are about controlling ingredients and bending them to fit an existing mold.
Tasting Starling – Arrowood Farms’ Brett Farmhouse Ale
I made a visit to Arrowood Farms and after driving through the lush Mohonk Preserve to get there, I was ready for something a little wild in that Farmhouse category and Starling, Arrowood’s Brett Farmhouse ale with Sterling hops.
Schulze describes the flavor as ‘bright herbs, rustic, mineral.” I would add the very dry finish with a body that was still full, fresh hay, and a pleasant leathery funk like an old belt found way in the back of the closet.
As with any beer made with wild yeast, that funk will continue to increase with age, while hop character fades over time. When I had Starling fresh at the brewery it was perfectly in balance. In fact, I wrote in my notes that it was one of the only dry hopped Brett beers I’ve had with hop character that didn’t overpower the flavors from Brett.
The most important thing about Starling, in the brewer’s opinion is, “The interaction between our mixed yeast and bacteria culture with Sterling dry hops.” And I have to agree.
Even IPA lovers can find something to love in this dry-hopped farmhouse ale, “I really strive for balance on all of our farmhouse beers and relatively low acidity in most cases. For me it is more about creating something objectively delicious than using a certain yeast or Brett – that is the real way to anyone’s heart,” says Schulze.
Hops are grown on site at Arrowood, some of them can be seen from the stone patio just outside the taproom. I’m not sure if the Sterling hops in Starling are grown at the farm, but if they aren’t, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before more of the 48-acre farm is dedicated to hop growing.
It’s not just the ingredients grown onsite that will continue to influence Arrowood’s future beers, “Every year there are new, exciting ingredients being raised by farmers here in NY.,” says Schulze, “and we have a reserve of beer in barrels and foeders that are ready to be added to any neat ingredients we happen upon.”