Farnham Ale & Lager: Left Wanting More
The tasting room
Perhaps you have noticed the “brewery open” signs littering the section of Route 15 that curves around St. Michael’s College. Farnham Ale & Lager, based out of the Quebecois town of Farnham, opened its doors quietly and without any formal announcement this past month.
Squatting in the space Infinity Brewing just left, the previous tap lines, bar, wall decorations (besides what Farnham added) and set-up are all still intact. Farnham is using the space until their formal tasting room is finished – right next door.
They are currently installing a 15-barrel brewhouse with 30 fermenters to produce more beer, and more varieties. Brewing on the pilot system that was originally supposed to be used for the Farnham brewery in Quebec reaps only two styles.
Although it was nice having the small tasting room to my friends, the bartenders and myself, it had an empty atmosphere –Farnham’s brand didn’t quite fill the space. Limited seating and bar space made the small space seem bigger than it really was and a tiny Bose Bluetooth speaker struggled to fill the room with music loud enough to decipher.
At this point in time, I don’t think it is really worth paying $5 for tasters when there are only two beers on tap. That said, I will definitely be returning to the brewery in January once their permanent space is open for business. Farnham gives an alternative to all the Vermont breweries, allowing me to experience different styles from a foreign brewing company practically at my doorstep.
I had a taster of each style: their Weizen 12 and their IPA 58.
The numbers, which are prominent on their cans, stand for the beer’s IBU (international bitterness unit, an arbitrary scale of which to rate the bitterness of a beer across all styles. The higher the number, the more bitter the beer).
Their Weizen (short for hefeweizen, a style of German wheat beer) was citrusy, with a prominent banana and floral flavor, finishing with a fresh fruit taste. The 12 IBU rating on this beer is accurate as you receive little to no bitter notes. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this beer even though hefeweizen’s are far from my favorite style as I usually find them too ‘wheaty’ and sweet. This one, however, was very drinkable.
IPA’s are one of my favorite styles of beer so I was looking forward to tasting the second style, their American IPA (Indian pale ale). Alas I was disappointed with this particular IPA. Maybe I am biased and spoiled by having access to the hoppiest Vermont double IPA’s like Heady Topper and Lawson’s Double Sunshine, but this IPA did not even compare to the average American IPA I have ever had.
Unlike an American IPA, which is characterized by a hoppy and bitter profile, the Farnham vareity was much closer to an English IPA, with less hoppiness coming through but rather a touch of maltiness and dominant floral notes. It wasn’t a bad sip by any means, however, I think calling it an American IPA was a bit far fetched considering the follow through.
The bartenders told me that this IPA, 58, is not their original IPA, which has an IBU level of 64, but rather a spin off of sorts, just to last them until January when they will make the move next door.
When Farnham previously tried to sell their beers in American beer stores they were often marked up and labeled as ‘imports’ because they weren’t from an American brewery. To combat this problem, they decided to open a sister brewery here in the States allowing the beer brewed at the Ethan Allen address to be sold alongside American beers, without the expensive markup. Once the move is made next door and enough beer is produced to be canned and sold, Farnham expects to line the shelves in local beer stores including the Winooski Beverage Warehouse.
This article was originally published in the Saint Michael’s College award-winning newspaper, The Defender, in the Fall of 2015.