Beer Review: Driftwood Farmhand Ale
While southern Vancouver Island may not be well known for it’s farms, there is a well known Farmhand. It’s the saison from Driftwood Brewery based out of Victoria. A saison is a pale ale, but is a separate style from what most of us know as pale ale. That’s because we mostly know the English genre and a saison is from Belgium.
Often in beer circles you hear about Belgian styles, this is because they have some distinct features when compared to English ales and German lagers. The tend to have more spice and fruit flavours and a cloudiness to them. The saison style comes was developed in Southern Belgium farmhouses (and therefore I’m making an educated guess that that’s why Driftwood’s version bears the name Farmhand).
I’ve had this beer before, and I find it’s identifiable from other local beers simply by it’s looks. It’s a cloudy copper colour with a noticeably frothy head which lasts quite awhile. While most other beers have a head which is bubbly, this is more a foam which floats on top. It’s not that different from what you might find on a stout, but this is a much lighter beer.
Flavour-wise this a much more complex pale ale. The brewers at Driftwood added black pepper to this and use a yeast strain from Belgium, so right away there’s some difference in the ingredients used (I’ll get into yeast at a later date if you want?). It’s got a noticeable variety of spiciness to it. For the record, when referring to spiciness in beer, it simply means it tastes as though spices have been added, it doesn’t refer to heat, like what chili peppers cause. There’s also the classic fruitiness associated with Belgian beers. If you’re someone who only drinks the big brands the Farmhand would be closest to Hoegaarden, but that’s akin to comparing Alexander Keiths to the Amnesiac. It’s the same genre, but on opposite ends. It’s the Bourne films compared the National Treasure series. Yes, ok, their going to be found on the same shelf, but anyone serious about that area is going to make the same choice every time. Basically, I’m trying not to insult the guys at Driftwood by comparing Farmhand saison to the Hoegaarden witbier, because there are a variety differences in type and style, but for novices, it’s an uncommon style, and the only corporate version I can think of is Hoegaarden.
Anyways, this Farmhand is an excellent summer beer (which is kinda why it was developed). A patio and a pint would be ideal for this sudsy sipper.