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Bière de Garde

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Bière de Garde literally means "keeping beer," or "beer to be stored or lagered". This farmhouse beer was traditionally brewed in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France, known as the "French Flanders". A strong, toasty, refreshing beer, ranging from blond to brown, it is distinguished by its unique "cellar" character derived from local molds and yeasts.

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[edit] History of Bière de Garde

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Bière de Garde was traditionally brewed in northern French farmhouses in the winter or early spring, to allow for cooler fermentations temperatures, then bottled in Champagne bottles, corked, and left to age. Because they were brewed for long storage, they were traditionally brewed to a relatively high alcoholic strength and bottle-conditioned.

[edit] Types of Bière de Garde

Bière de Garde can be brewed in any color, and is often identified by the brewer as "Blond", "Amber", or "Brown". Some versions can also be a rich orange color, reminiscent of a Saison.

[edit] Brewing Bière de Garde

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One of the hardest elements of Bière de Garde for the homebrewer is the "cellar" character, which comes from yeasts and molds indigenous to the region. Neither Wyeast nor White Labs currently have a Bière de Garde yeast strain available to home brewers.

[edit] Competition Styles

Both the BJCP and the GABF style guidelines recognize Bière de Garde as a unique style.

[edit] BJCP Style Guidelines

[edit] Bière de Garde

16D. Bière de Garde Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: 20-30 SRM: 6-19 OG: 1.060-1.080 FG: 1.012-1.018 ABV: 6-8
Aroma: Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate toasty character. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy). Commercial versions will often have a musty, woodsy, cellar-like character that is difficult to achieve in homebrew. Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Three main variations exist (blond, amber and brown), so color can range from golden blonde to reddish-bronze to chestnut brown. Clarity is good to poor, although haze is not unexpected in this type of often unfiltered beer. Well-formed head, generally white to off-white (varies by beer color), supported by high carbonation.
Flavor: Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate toasty character. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy). Commercial versions will often have a musty, woodsy, cellar-like character that is difficult to achieve in homebrew. Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body, often with a smooth, silky character. Moderate to high carbonation. Moderate alcohol, but should be very smooth and never hot.
Overall Impression: Prominent malty sweetness, often with a complex, light to moderate toasty character. Low to moderate esters. Little to no hop aroma (may be a bit spicy). Commercial versions will often have a musty, woodsy, cellar-like character that is difficult to achieve in homebrew. Paler versions will still be malty but will lack richer, deeper aromatics and may have a bit more hops. No diacetyl.
History: Name literally means "beer which has been kept or lagered." A traditional artisanal farmhouse ale from Northern France brewed in early spring and kept in cold cellars for consumption in warmer weather. It is now brewed year-round. Related to the Belgian Saison style, the main difference is that the Bière de Garde is rounder, richer, sweeter, malt-focused, often has a "cellar" character, and lacks the spicing and tartness of a Saison.
Comments: Three main variations are included in the style: the brown (brune), the blond (blonde), and the amber (ambre). The darker versions will have more malt character, while the paler versions can have more hops (but still are malt-focused beers). A related style is Bière de Mars, which is brewed in March (Mars) for present use and will not age as well.
Ingredients: The "cellar" character in commercial examples is unlikely to be duplicated in homebrews as it comes from indigenous yeasts and molds. Commercial versions often have a "corked", dry, astringent character that is often incorrectly identified as "cellar-like." Homebrews therefore are usually cleaner. Base malts vary by beer color, but usually include pale, Vienna and Munich types. Darker versions will have richer malt complexity and sweetness from crystal-type malts. Lager or ale yeast fermented at cool ale temperatures, followed by long cold conditioning. Soft water. Floral or spicy continental hops.
Commercial Examples: Jenlain (brown), St. Amand (brown), Ch'Ti Brun (brown), Ch'Ti Blond (blond), La Choulette (all 3 versions), La Choulette Bière des Sans Culottes (blonde), Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts (blonde), Biere Nouvelle (brown), Castelain (blonde), Jade (amber), Brasseurs Bière de Garde (amber)

[edit] GABF Style Listings

[edit] French Style Bière de Garde

59B. French Style Bière de Garde
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Beers in this category are golden to deep copper or light brown in color. They are light to medium in body. This style of beer is characterized by a toasted malt aroma, slight malt sweetness in flavor, and medium hop bitterness. Noble-type hop aromas and flavors should be low to medium. Fruity esters can be light to medium in intensity. Flavor of alcohol is evident. Earthy, cellar like, musty aromas are okay. Diacetyl should not be perceived but chill haze is okay. Often bottle conditioned with some yeast character.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.060-1.080 (15-19.- ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.012-1.024 (3-6 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.5-6.3% (4.5-8%)
Bitterness (IBU): 25-30
Color SRM (EBC): 8-12 (16-24 EBC)