I have only had a few examples of the style as they are not very common around Florida. I was hoping to brew 5 gallons and let it age in bottles so I would have an extra competition entry when needed. That plan didn’t come to fruition as my wife it turns out really liked the style.
As I began looking for a recipe for the style to get some ideas from it became apparent that there are aren’t to many people brewing these. As a french ale it seems to be the forgotten beer in the Belgian ales category. A buddy recommended a recipe in Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes and it had to be the most complicated grain bill that I have ever seen. So I decided to take that recipe and complicate it a bit more while attempting to dial in my system. Go big or go home, right?
Biere de Garde (silver medal)
Batch Size 5.5g 60 minute boil
O.G. 1.069 F.G. 1.010
IBU 25 SRM 17
36% Belgian Pilsner
28.4% Vienna Malt
7.4% Munich 10L
6.2% Crystal 77
6.2% CaraMunich III
4.5% White Wheat
2.4% Honey Malt
1.9% Biscuit Malt
.9% BlackPrinz (at sparge for color)
60m .55oz Northern Brewer 10.1%aa
20m .50oz Halertauer Mittelfruh 2.4%aa
20m .25oz Tettnanger 2.6%aa (I think I had ran out of Hallertauer)
I was figuring out my new equipment profile when I was brewing this and I missed my target gravity. I don’t normally worry much about a few points but I went ahead and added some turbinado to bump me up and possibly help dry the beer a little bit.
6oz Turbinado Sugar
148° for 90 minutes
168° for 10 minutes
This beer wants to be entirely malt driven but not too sweet. Mashing low accomplishes this.
WLP011 European Ale
Overall this beer did well at competition and earned a silver medal with a score of 36.5. Both the 1st and second round sheets mentioned the feeling young, which it was. Alas it did not live to a ripe old age.
From the bjcp judge: “Feels a bit young, but delicious malty. Well constructed brown version of the style. Dry Finish, draws you back to the beer. Well crafted and to style”
The last three bottles are out for competition now so maybe it will do well again.
The bottles that went out to the Hogtown Homebrew Competition in Gainesville, FL did not net me another medal. However, the beer was pushed to second round mini bos along with 9 other beers, A mini boys with 10 beers is not an ideal situation to say the least.
The beer earned a 41.5 in round 1 with one judge saying “I can’t offer much to improve this beer.” In round 2 then judges loved the malt complexity but thought the beer needed to age longer and suggested a long warm secondary. For my thoughts on that comment i will direct you to a quote from the bjcp guidelines:
“Age and oxidation in imports often increases fruitiness, caramel flavors, and adds corked and musty notes; these are all signs of mishandling, not characteristic elements of the style.”
If you enjoy the style or just want to give it a go this recipe is a pretty great place to start.