Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bank Street Brewhouse: Tonight's Bastille Day list of Bieres de Garde.

Here is tonight's Bieres de Garde list for the Bastille Day dinner at NABC's Bank Street Brewhouse. The menu is here.


All bottles listed below are 750 ml. Choose one to accompany Chef Josh Lehman’s five-course Bastille Day meal. Because there are varying numbers of each, supply is contingent on demand. I have not made pairing suggestions, primarily because these Bieres de Garde share characteristics, and should suit the cuisine as a whole. I encourage those sharing a table to select different Bieres de Garde, share the beer, and conduct your own pairings.

France’s famed Bieres de Garde originally were produced by farmhouse breweries located in the north of France, near the Belgian border. Climactically and historically, it is a transitional zone, where wine-making meets brewing, and Bieres de Garde came about as the thoughtful solution to the problem posed by summertime heat, which rendered brewing almost impossible in the age before temperature-controlled fermentation.

The farmers brewed ale during cooler weather, bottled it in used wine and champagne bottles, and cellared the bottles for drinking during summer until the heat subsided and brewing could resume. Bieres de Garde had to be sufficiently ample and alcoholic for cellaring, but not too heavy in body for warm-weather drinking. They also had to go well with food (it’s France!), hence the complex maltiness of the style’s better, enduring examples.
-- Roger A. Baylor, NABC

Castelain Blond (6% abv)
From the celebrated Castelain brewery, which led the way in restoring an international reputation for traditional Bieres de Garde. Firm and malty sweet, but balanced, with grassy and citrusy hop character.

Jenlain Ambree (7.5% abv)
First brewed by the Duyck brewery in 1922, Jenlain Ambree uses three malts and three hop varieties, all French-grown (the latter in Alsace). Biere de Garde’s malt complexity is showcased to great effect here.

Jenlain Blonde (7% abv)
Ambree needed a sibling, and Jenlain Blonde came along in 2005 to much acclaim. A shade milder and lighter than its older brother, with a subdued hoppiness.

La Choulette Ambree (8% abv)
Flagship amber Biere de Garde from a brewery founded in 1885, and revived during the 1970’s. Delicious maltiness, and versatile pairing possibilities.

La Choulette Blonde (7.5% abv)
Malty, but with a drier, spicier edge than the brewery’s flagship amber.

La Choulette “Les Sans Culottes” (7% abv)
Tawny golden to amber in color, and displaying an all-purpose elegance with food. From the Shelton Brothers website: “This, the brewery’s masterpiece, proudly pays homage to Les Sans Culottes – the “trouserless” craftsmen who could not afford uniforms but unflinchingly did the handiwork of the French Revolution. A number of brewers were included in their ranks.”

Schlafly Biere de Garde (7.5% abv)
Our sole American-made entry is a worthy version of the style. Bottle-conditioned, with a slight yeastiness in younger examples like these, yielding to polished maltiness with age.

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