Farmhouse shandy is an incredibly refreshing craft beer cocktail that brings together the loose concept of shandy and the even looser style of saison (farmhouse) ale. There are no strict rules surrounding it. It is very much open to interpretation and you have complete freedom in your choice of saison and soda. I guess it is safe to say that it is a loosely defined cocktail.
Let’s look into making one version of farmhouse shandy using saison ale.
What is Saison?
A saison is a type of farmhouse beer. Farmhouse beers comprise a category which is incredibly interesting and incredibly delicious. I need to and will devote a separate post to it, written in the manner of this English vs America IPA article to discuss it. Chris and I are excited to orchestrate and execute a farmhouse beer tasting for the noble purpose of clarifying the category:)
For now let’s just establish that saison ales are just one style that falls under the blanket farmhouse beer category. A very diverse style that is commonly referred to as… farmhouse ale…(just to make things more confusing). Saisons vary in color, mouthfeel, alcohol content, spice level, sweetness, hop aroma intensity…
It is particularly difficult to classify them if it weren’t for one main ingredient that gives them their modern day key traits – yeast.
Contemporary saisons are made with a specific yeast strain which results in a dry finish, a distinct earthiness and contributes unmistakable fruity and peppery esters. (There are exceptions to that too, you are looking at one below…)
Saisons originated in the Southern half of Belgium as low alcohol hydration intended ales brewed right before the weather warmed up enough for work in the fields to commence. The farmhands wanted something thirst quenching that they could drink a lot of on hot summer days and be able to continue working.
Modern saisons are often brewed with grain bills that result in much higher alcohol by volume content and are therefore very suitable for a sprightly dilution courtesy of fruit flavored sodas.
How to Mix a Farmhouse Shandy
The ratio between saison and soda is up to you. Consider the alcoholic content and exact flavors of the particular saison you are using and match it with a suitable soda. For example I used Crooked Stave Colorado Wild Sage Brett Saison.
It is an artisan saison brewed with sage and lemongrass and fermented with a strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast. Plenty of funk, plenty of tartness and ginger and a bit of orange accompanied by distinct lemongrass. Herbal and grassy notes and a pronounced spicy finish. Medium mouthfeel with ABV 7.2%.
As a farmhouse shandy ingredient definitely a potential partner for a citrusy soda. I picked blood orange.
Follow these simple steps:
- Start by making sure that both saison and soda are chilled and will be cold and refreshing. You are aiming to defeat your thirst here, not just to satisfy hedonistic cravings:)
- Pour the saison in each glass first and then add the soda. I am assuming you will not be drinking alone, but if so – good for you and cheers!
Ratios wise, iff you follow the guidelines of the radler you’d go with a half and half ratio. Or if you prefer a more minimalist approach you can go with just a splash of soda as I mentioned in our grapefruit shandy post.
My favorite approach to farmhouse shandy is to use just over three quarters of saison to a quarter of soda (3:1 ratio) mostly because most sodas are usually too sweet for my taste. Unless I score a San Pellegrino soda – dryer and with a less sugary flavor.
Garnish your Farmhouse Shandy
Before hops saisons were typically bittered (flavored) with whatever bittering agents there were around the farm – flowers, herbs etc. Herbal and grassy notes have always been a landmark characteristic of the style and opting for fresh herbs as garnish makes perfect sense.
I love the delicate savory fragrance of thyme and chose it for the farmhouse shandy version in this post. Had I had an actual blood orange on hand I would have used it too. A lemon slice and a delicate sprig of sage is also a great combination for a garnish and I urge you to consider it.
More Farmhouse Shandy Ideas
These are just a few tried and true combinations Chris and I really enjoy and recommend. I am sure that you can easily come up with more using your favorite saison as a starting point.
- raspberry saison and sparkling lemonade
- rye saison and prickly pear soda (it does exist, San Pellegrino make it)
- chamomile saison and orange soda
- saison and ginger beer
This is really a libation you can drink all day. Not that I am promoting day drinking but if you are off and happen to be gardening under the sun all day or are planning on reading in your hammock under a tree all afternoon… Just saying.
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- 12 oz saison (farmhouse) ale (more if you prefer a higher ratio of ale to soda)
- 12 oz blood orange soda (or other Italian style soda)
- 2 sprigs of fresh savory herb such as thyme or sage for garnish
- Chill both the saison (farmhouse) ale and the soda.
- Pour the saison first, then add the soda.
- The ratio of saison to soda is according to personal preference - half and half or ¾ saison to ¼ soda are a good place to start.
- Garnish with a sprig of savory herb.