Much about the historical style of ale known as grisette remains a mystery. While accounts vary (or omit) when it comes to ingredients and technique, most agree that these beers began as an after-work refresher for 19th-century Belgian miners in the province of Hainaut, on the French border.
Grisette belongs to a broader category of beer known as “farmhouse ales” that originated in Hainaut. These beers were generally light in body, fairly carbonated, and used spices and wild yeast. While one form of farmhouse ale, the saison, has exploded in popularity in breweries around the world, grisettes have enjoyed a quieter revival. The vague records allow for much variation and experimentation, but the consistent traits of a grisette tend to be the use of malted wheat, an alcohol level that hovers around 4 percent, and a moderate use of hops. The resulting beers are light, but flavorful and refreshing.
Even the name of the style, which means “little gray,” is debated. There are several competing theories, citing everything from the gray stones the miners worked in all day, to the dust they were covered in by the end of their shifts, to the gray uniforms worn by the women who served grisette.
Whatever its origins, the grisette is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance. The most famous Belgian brewery making grisette is Brasserie St. Feuillien. Currently, they export only one of their four grisettes, their Grisette Blanche Wit. If you want to taste the full lineup, you’ll have to visit the brewery.
Where to Try It
Brasserie St. FeuillienRue d’Houdeng 20 , Le Roeulx , 7070, Belgium
Brewery tours are at 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, and you can also book ahead of time if you have a larger group. You can also sign up for a beer and cheese tasting at the brewery.
Hill Farmstead Brewery403 Hill Road, Greensboro, Vermont, 05842, United States
Their grisette is called Clara. While the brewery doesn’t offer official tours, they’re open Wednesday through Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The brewery is visible from the shop, so you can ask questions while you enjoy what’s on tap.