Logsdon Farmhouse Ales is a titan of farmhouse brewing in the U.S. (so much so that they literally own the domain farmhousebeer.com). It’s hard to remember perfectly but if their mixed fermentation saison Seizoen Bretta wasn’t my first brett beer, it was definitely close.
Logsdon was founded in 2011 in a literal little red barn on a farmhouse where founders David Logsdon and Charles Porter focused mostly on mixed fermentation beers. As I remember them these first beers used a light hand on the brettanomyces character, showcasing the drying and slightly funky characteristics of the wild yeast.
Shilpi Halemane joined the team in 2015 and he is now the head brewer of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. He’s carried on the vision from that old red barn and also has his own point of view on farmhouse brewing.
“I’d say Farmhouse Ale is an idea more than a defined style. That idea is to utilize the ingredients available to you (many times including wild yeasts/bacteria), which would reflect on the old way of brewing,” he says.
And speaking of wild yeast and bacteria, Halemane got Logsdon into the coolship game after joining the team.
Where Classical Farmhouse Brewing Meets Modern
To keep the feeling of farmhouse in all of their beers, the team at Logsdon only uses technology when they need it most and haven’t upgraded their equipment to the high-tech standards seen in other production breweries.
“We brew on a fairly rudimentary system, and mostly use free-rise fermentation practices to drive our flavor profile, as we do not have a modern temperature control system, says Halemane.”
But with Logsdon signature beers like Seizoen and Seizoen Bretta, that use four and five yeast strains, respectively, yeast management couldn’t be left to old-world systems.
“As any brewer can tell you, it is difficult to use multiple yeast strains and get consistent yeast harvested for the repitching, so the ability to re-culture our yeast blends is critical for those beers.”
Yeast and bacteria are essential to the flavor profile of all farmhouse beers and with finicky wild yeast strains it can be hard to control their growth and keep pitches consistent for future brew days. Logsdon has so much yeast that needs careful handling that it almost makes sense that Wyeast, one of the premiere yeast providers in the world, was founded in the same red barn as the brewery.
After the yeast is cared for, stored, and cultured using modern facilities, the techniques bounce back to the traditional farmhouse styles with manual blending to taste.
“Blending is not a technique we save only for multi-year barrel aged projects, but something we regularly employ in creating unique offerings with shorter timelines as well.”
The final step in production at Logsdon is one of the most interesting mash ups I’ve heard of between rustic brewing practices and contemporary brewing techniques.
“Brettanomyces is added at bottling, by way of blending brett beer into the bright tank (bottling tank) with a calculated amount of sugar prior to bottling,” says Helmane. This approach could only be executed on such a scale by a brewer intimately familiar with his brett strain. A less yeast-focused brewery could end up with exploding bottles. (Homebrewers, take great caution if you try this at home!)
“We keep a tank of brett beer around for this purpose, and top it up when we need to, using the same Seizoen Bretta recipe. In this way, we can adjust the amount of brett beer flavor to our taste.”
Yeast-Forward Brews at Logsdon
Beer at Logsdon falls into roughly three categories, the aforementioned mixed fermentation beers using several specifically cultured strains for unique and slightly funky, but not too wild, outcomes.
“Other beers we make are the complete opposite, relying completely on the microorganisms from our environment to drive the fermentation,” says Halemane. This second category is made up of the Spontane series of coolship beers, which have sour and funky flavor profiles that can be really intense (and great for sharing if you ask me!)
Finally the third category of beers fit somewhere in between the first two, as Helmane says, “allowing us to direct the bulk of fermentation in one direction then allow nature to take its course with the addition of whole fruit, or blending of barrels from different programs to drive a unique refermentation in the bottle.”
He adds that the wide ranging nature of the farmhouse category allows for all three of these types of beers to exist at one brewery, and to be appreciated by the right kind of drinker.
“It’s [farmhouse brewing] a space where we can experiment to our content with different ingredients, methods, wild yeasts, acidity levels etc., and the fans (consumers) of the style are open-minded and not opposed to a little experimentation themselves, which we appreciate!”
What Does Seizoen Bretta Taste Like?
This beer is one of my favorites not only because of how beautiful it is in the glass (oats and wheat in the grist make to a tight, long lasting, bright white head) but also because it is approachable for first-time farmhouse drinkers (I describe it as “rustic champagne”) or consumers that have loved these styles for a long time (the flavors of hay, herbal funk, and pepper in layered complexity without any “poopy” aromas are hard to find elsewhere).
The wild yeast, brettanomyces holds the key to Seizoen Bretta’s, or Bretta as they call it around the brewery, flavor. Those that fear the funk should drink it young.
Halemane says, “When it’s younger, the grains, hops and Saccharomyces (brewer’s yeast) strains we use are more prevalent. Aromas of wildflowers, honey, crackers, spice/pepper are not uncommon.”
For those looking for more adventurous flavors waiting for Bretta to age a bit might be the more exciting choice. “As it ages…the brettanomyces used in our bottle conditioning adds layers of funk, subtle acidity, and overall complexity. In general, our blend of yeasts will fully dry out the beer, leaving almost no residual sugar,” says Halemane.
For IPA Lovers Trying Mixed Fermentation Beer for the First Time
Halemane says, “Don’t be scared away by descriptors like “funk”, “barnyard”, and “leather”. When done properly, these are subtleties of the overall beer profile and should be well integrated. Some strains of brettanomyces interact with other ingredients, like hops and fruit, to create new aroma/flavor compounds that couldn’t be produced by a standard fermentation.”
He adds that many IPAs have the same general flavor profile although notes from hops can vary from beer to beer while farmhouse ales will range in texture, acidity, color, and pretty much and variable on the spectrum. So instead of comparing the flavor profiles he thinks it’s about changing the mind set.
“The world of farmhouse ales is very diverse, so go in with an open mind and try a few before you settle on whether the style is or is not for you. Talk to your bartenders and bottle shop folks and see if they can steer you towards beers that are in your wheelhouse.”
He adds a fun experiment for those getting used to beers with flavors from Brettanomyces,
“If you’re new to brett beers, I recommend buying a few bottles of the same beer and try it fresh vs. aged a few months to get an idea for how these beers can evolve. There is no one-size-fits-all description for these types of beers, as there are many different strains of brettanomyces and many different practices being used around the world. But if you need to start somewhere, you really can’t go wrong with Orval as your starting point for exploration. Just grab some Seizoen Bretta next time!”