Summit Unchained #14: Bière de Garde

Wow! It’s been a while since I posted anything here!

You know how sometimes you get yourself involved in a project that takes over your life? You think about nothing but that thing. Your reading all revolves around that thing. You start saying “no” to offers so that you can focus more intently on that thing. That’s where I’ve been for the last couple of months. But it’s over now. I can re-enter the regular world.

It seems fitting that my first post after emerging from the bunker is the same as my last post before going under – tasting notes for the latest Unchained Series beer from Summit Brewing Company.

Jeff Williamson is one of Summit’s newest brewers. You may know him as the founder and former brew-chief at Flat Earth Brewing Company. Jeff left Flat Earth in May of 2012 and was quickly scooped up by Summit. This is his first go-round with the Unchained Series.

For this the fourteenth installment, Williamson has chosen to make a bière de garde, the French version of the farmhouse style ales that originate in the region surrounding the French/Belgian border. I have already written an extensive piece about bière de garde in The Growler, so I’ll cut to the chase and get right down to the business at hand.

Here’s my notes:

Unchained14Unchained #14: Bière de Garde
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Bière de Garde
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Malt forward, but not sweet smelling. It features notes of caramel and dry toast, with low, coffee-like, roasted undertones. Maybe a faint whiff of smoke? Low dark fruit tones. Faint alcohol adds sharpness.

Appearance: Dark mahogany with ruby highlights. Brilliantly clear. The dense, off-white to ivory foam displays good retention.

Flavor: Malt is definitely the winner here. Dry, grainy, toasted and roasted malt flavors dominate from start to finish. Some light caramel sweetness gives a moister base that helps balance the dryness. A hint of raisiny dark fruit comes in the middle, but gives way to dry, roasted bitterness in the finish. Hop bitterness is medium-low, letting malt do the rest. The finish is just off-dry with roasted malt and hop bitterness lingering after swallowing. A faint note of dark, bitter cocoa powder comes in long after swallowing.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium to medium-high carbonation. Dry with a slight bit of astringency from roasted malts.

Overall Impression: Bière de garde comes in three flavors – blond, amber, and brown. This is definitely a brown one, and a roasty one at that. Not roasty like a stout or porter, but dry, and grainy roasty with toasted backbone. It’s similar in some ways to a Scotch ale, but without the caramel sweetness and thick body. It’s a lovely beer and perfectly suited to the season.