My favorite type of brews are farmhouse ales. Brewed after the summer, they're very carbonated with a spicy and fruity flavor. Bittering varies but it's usually on the light side of the IBU scale. In France they're called Saisons and a year ago I brewed a nice one (more on this later).
These ales are always well received and experienced by non-beer lovers as well. Imagine my surprise when I found out about Farmhouse Ales in Norway.
Farmhouse Ales in Norway
My wife and I love to travel. In recent vacations, we've been exploring more of Europe and visiting places that both of us have never been to. We've never made it up to the major Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway, or Finland, but we got a taste of Iceland a few years back. We did that IcelandAir layover for a few days and explored the southwestern portion of Iceland by car. It was a lot of fun and the beer was unique in its taste.
Those beers were clean but mild hopped and spiced, something I was not used to. I thought making a homebrew like this for the winter would a be great thing so I started scanning for recipes online. I then stumbled across the Brewing Nordic website. I found a great article by the Author Mika on how the make a great Norwegian Farmhouse Ale. My interest was piqued so I read on.
The ingredient list is pretty straightforward except for one thing. Mixed in with the usual Pilsner Malt, Hops, and Yeast are Juniper branches. Yes, they lauter through Juniper branches to infuse the wort with a Juniper taste and smell. It was like making Gin but for Beer! The other interesting part was that no one measured any original (OG) and final gravities (FG), they had no idea how strong their Farmhouse Ale got!
I also loved the photos of how they made the Ale and how it was 'protected' during fermentation. After reading that article I gained an appreciation for how each village or town has its own customs and norms. How this particular Farmhouse Ale will undoubtedly be brewed completely differently in the next town, and the next after! You'd never know unless you went there and sampled the local flavors!
Travel West Young Man & Woman! Or East as the case may be
One of the great things about traveling is that you get to learn a lot about a country's culture. You get a crash course if you stay in a small town or village somewhere. Of course, you can visit a big city like Paris and learn about French culture but I'm of the opinion that the out-of-the-way places are the best.
In southern Germany, my ancestral village has a small brewery. They only make a few lagers (one is a Pils and my favorite) and they only sell locally. You can't get this beer anywhere else in the world, just there! If we stayed in Frankfurt or Munich, we'd of course drink great beer but we'd have missed this unique brew. The fact that it's scarce and only found in the local area makes the Taubertal so much more inviting. It's like a hidden gem.
The moral of this story is to get out and explore. The next time you're traveling and in a strange place, don't go to the big restaurants, go find that out-of-the-way cafe or town. Sample the local brews and don't be afraid to get off the beaten path. You might thank me for it one day.