Reviewed: The Lost Abbey Farmhouse Lager
Official description: Farmhouse Lager is a lighter version of our long-time brew, Avant Garde. It is our first foray into the 12oz bottle/six-pack world, as we have been mostly known for large format (750ml bottles). Still beginning with an initial malt sweetness and a subtle hop presence, this lager finishes smooth and crisp. Perfect for an evening out on your porch or with some fresh baked bread pulled straight from the oven.
The Lost Abbey – The Lost Abbey Farmhouse Lager – 12oz bottle served in Rastal Harmony glass – 5.8% ABV
Farmhouse Lager is a newish beer from The Lost Abbey, debuting in late 2017 in six-packs of 12oz bottles. You’ve probably seen it on store shelves sitting next to six-packs of Devotion Blonde Ale, one of the brewery’s original recipes sporting the new 12oz format as well. Before these six-packs debuted, Lost Abbey beers were sold exclusively in single 375ml or 750ml corked and caged bottles. Devotion Blonde Ale and Farmhouse Lager are now the top-billed beers on Lost Abbey’s year-round lineup.
As stated in the official description, Lost Abbey’s Farmhouse Lager is related to Avant Garde, an older recipe that was marketed originally as a Biere de Garde, but suddenly changed to being called Avant Garde Farmhouse Lager at some point in 2016. Biere de Garde is a French-style farmhouse “ale” that is characterized as being the winter counterpart of saison: stronger, darker, maltier, and meant for storing in a cellar for several months. I put “ale” in quotations because Biere de Garde can be made with top-fermenting ale yeast or bottom-fermenting lager yeast. Tomme Arthur described Avant Garde as utilizing lager yeast back in 2011. But then Avant Garde was dropped from Lost Abbey’s portfolio altogether. It seems this newer, lower ABV version has taken its place.
Also worth noting, on the Lost Abbey website under “Brewing Process”, there’s this neat tidbit: “In some cases, like our Avant Garde, we toast our own grain creating a signature flavor of fresh baked dough and bread from the oven that we are searching for.” I wonder if the same is true for the mini version I’m sampling today?
I’m sampling Lost Abbey’s Farmhouse Lager from a 6-pack of 12oz bottles that I picked up from the brewery directly for $12 plus tax. Annoyingly, you only get a Best By date on the label instead of a bottling date. In my case, the bottles’ reverse labels have a barely legible “6/30/21” embossed. That means the brewery has given Farmhouse Lager a generous 6-month or longer freshness window.
Into my glass, Farmhouse Lager is crystal clear, deep golden in color with roaring carbonation. It’s topped with cream-colored foam that rises over the edges of the glass without spilling over. Its meringue-like head sticks around almost indefinitely. You’ll be drinking it well before the foam collapses on its own.
The aroma isn’t particularly farmhouse-y; there’s no Brett for instance or spicy Belgian yeast. As stated in the introduction, this beer is closer to a French farmhouse-style so heads in a different direction. I get homemade bread rolls, freshly-cut grass, sweet Valencia orange, and yellow pear. Warming up to room temperature, apple pie with buttery pie crust comes through. Yum!
Diving into the beer, Farmhouse Lager is just sublime. The malt character is truly outstanding – leaps and bounds above my expectations. It’s dense, chewy, fatty, and oily in a truly mesmerizing way given this beer’s lean ABV and Plebeian looks. Farmhouse Lager isn’t sweet by any means with spiced apple and whole wheat bread crust at the front of the palate. For balance, there’s impressive background bitterness that comes across as grassy, herbal, and peppery with a semi-drying effect. In the finish, there’s a subtle citric and lactic acidity that really places this pale lager in its own category. It even comes across as minerally as you really come to appreciate the water profile of the beer. Chalk and slate flavors linger after gulping it down. What an experience.
Perceived Specs for The Lost Abbey Farmhouse Lager
As far I can tell, Lost Abbey is the only brewery in the world with a Farmhouse Lager as a year-round recipe. And there’s no consensus on what that even means. (Allagash and Jester King have released Farmhouse Lagers that were lager/saison hybrids.) I think we’ve been programmed to equate “Farmhouse” with Belgian ales, especially saisons and funky ales utilizing Brettanomyces. French-style, mini Biere de Garde is not what comes to my mind. But Lost Abbey’s approach is superb. Its combination of lower ABV and focus on bready malt flavors push Farmhouse Lager into familiar, blue-collar territory, but then it builds on what makes session pale lager great in the first place. Styles like IPA, imperial stout, and sours overwhelm with intense bitterness, roast, and acidity, respectively. Farmhouse Lager doesn’t have the luxury of these to hide its flaws. It must be perfect in the details with so much exposed, and it is.
VERDICT: 95 pts (SUPERLATIVE)
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