I confess: the Biere de Garde was not a style that I knew particularly well, nor really ever had much intention to brew. However, when it was suggested as the style for a collaborative brew, I of course also had no objections. I was familiar with its history and general characteristics from reading Farmhouse Ales, and was able to track down a few commercial examples for reference. The beer we ended up brewing was far off the mark compared to these — being at the high end for the style — and it was this beer that actually won me over to Biere de Garde.
The friend with whom I was brewing has a penchant for brewing huge, bombastic (and delicious) beers. I am inclined towards simple grain bills that (barring a few exceptions) top out around 1.060 or so. We decided to meet half way with a big beer that would really benefit from extended aging (or garde-ing, if you will), but with a relatively simple grain-bill.
For an 8-gallon batch:
17# Belgian Pils
5.75# Light Munich
0.5# Flaked Wheat
2 oz. Czech Saaz (60)
2 oz. German Hallertau (60)
0.75 oz. German Hallertau (20)
Wyeast 3711 – French Saison
2# Honey (at high krausen)
I mashed low (around 149F) to produce a very fermentable wort. This, plus a well-attenuating yeast and honey addition, produced a wonderful dry beer. We brewed this recipe in February 2013 and kegged in April 2013. I lagered it for about a month before being tapped, but would recommend lagering at least 10-12 weeks, if you can muster the patience. It will only improve.
Appearance: Pours a beautiful chestnut brown with ruby hints; a rich off-white head that lasts and lasts; high level of carbonation.
Aroma: A very characteristic, spicy 3711 nose; a bit of sweet malt character comes through as the glass warms up as well.
Flavor: Despite being such a dry beer, this beer maintains a rich mouthfeel — not thin at all; I get a rich caramel character mixed with the Munich; the yeast provides a great spicy finish that tingles on the tongue — this is the only point at which you notice the alcohol; the beer is not “hot” at all; the bitterness (around 30 IBUs) is perfectly in balance: firm, but pleasant; I also get a hint of orange and very subtle clove notes (presumably from the yeast); maybe a bit of noble hop character if you look for it; however, I suspect this is largely overshadowed by the yeast character.
Notes: This beer is dangerous — incredibly smooth and refreshing for such a high alcohol content, which has been the downfall of many of its drinkers. I am not generally a big fan of Munich malt; however, in this case it provides a beautiful complement to the rest of the grain bill. This is the only beer I have brewed for which each successive draft was better than the last. Consider me a fan of the style — This will warrant a re-brew.