How To Brew Bière de Garde | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: May 8, 2021

Bière de Garde, which roughly translates to “beer for keeping” is a beer brewed in late fall/early winter and stored during the cold winter months. This kept the risk of the beer becoming infected low.

Usually this is a style that is consumed later during the spring months. This method was also practiced when brewing was not encouraged during the warmer months of the year. 

French Beer with a German Influence

Bière de Garde was originally brewed on the French side of the France/Belgium border and Saison was brewed on the Belgian side.

While the Belgians kept their beer light, fresh, crisp, and spicy, the French looked for a beer that was a bit richer and sweeter. 

The French did not gravitate to the Belgian yeast, but instead found influence from the Germans with using yeast more associated with albier and kölsch

The Old and Rustic

Thanks in large part to advanced brewing technology and modernization of society itself, much of the history of Bière de Garde is lost. Refrigeration also made it unnecessary to brew exclusively to the seasons.

As beer writer Nick Carr points out, “the old and rustic become synonymous with the unrefined and unsophisticated.”

Brasserie Duyck 

World War I and II were not helpful to this already hurting beer style. It was’t until The Brasserie Duyck revived the Bière de Garde style in the 1950s.

This brewery was established in 1922 and followed the popular trends of the day; which included lagers. They also included a small amount of Bière de Garde to the brewing rotations. 

Rustic Farmhouse 

The popularity of the Bière de Garde style was contributed to the rustic Farmhouse creation of using champagne bottles with wire corks. The packaging caught people’s eyes and people were now aware of the French brewing scene. 

Style Profile for Bière de Garde

Appearance

The color can range from golden, coppery red, as well as deep brown. These color spectrums will depend on if the beer is Blonde, Amber, or Brown.

The color of the head will range from brilliant white, off white, or light tan depending on the color of the beer itself.

Head is well-formed and usually persistent.

This style is usually unfiltered, so clarity will range from brillant to hazy.  

Aroma

Malt character is rich, sweet, and complex. Light toast and bread is present. Hop aroma is minimal if noticeable at all. May have some slight herbal, spicy, and/or peppery notes.

The blonde version will be malty, but missing the deep richness and complexity of the darker versions. Low to moderate esters may be present, but otherwise clean with stronger versions have some alcohol character.

Flavor

Malt flavor and intensity will increase depending on the beer’s color. Hops will be low medium in bitterness. All versions will be malty, but the darker versions will have an intense malt sweetness and the pale verison will have a noticable hop presence.

The beer’s finish is dry with hints of malt without being overly sweet.  

Mouthfeel

Medium to med-light bloody with creamy smoothness. Carbonation can range from medium to high. 

Tips for Brewing your own Bière de Garde

Grain

The grist of a ière de Garde will usually start with a high quality Belgian pilsner or pale malt. The base malt can be anywhere from 60 to 80 percent.

Specialty malts consists of Vienna, Munich, Caramel (for the darker versions) biscuit, aromatic, wheat, and a touch of chocolate or roast malt (again for the darker versions).

Hops

Since the hop profile for this style is pretty mellow, a restrained, low alpha acid, herbal, and earthy hop will be perfect for this style.

German noble varieties such as Saaz, Hallertauer, and Spalt. All of these choices give off a nice floral, spicy notes that work well with the soft lager-character of this beer style. 

Yeast

This style of beer is usually fermented with German lager yeasts of a hybrid ale yeast used for Kolsch and Altbier.

White Labs French Ale WLP072 and German Ale Kolsch WLP029 and Wyeast French Saison 3711, Bohemian Lager 2124, Kolsch 2565 are all good choices.

Fermentis Saflager W34/70 or Lallemand Danstar Belle Saison if you want to go the dry yeast route. 

Bière de Garde By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 9 – 19 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.060 – 1.080 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.016 FG
  • IBU Range: 18 – 28
  • ABV Range: 6.0 – 8.5%

Martin Keen’s Bière de Garde Recipe

Grain

  • 60%         8 lbs      Pale Malt Belgian
  • 15%         2 lbs      Vienna Malt
  • 15%         2 lbs      Munich I  
  •   3%         8 oz       Aromatic Malt
  •   7%         1 lb        Honey

Hops

  • 2 oz         Tettnang – Boil – 60 min
  • 1 oz         Hallertauer – Boil – 15 min
  • 1 oz         Tettnang – Boil – Flameout

Yeast

  • 1.0 pkg   French Saison Wyeast Labs #3711

Directions

  1. Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins
  2. Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: This is a condenser lid. You put this on top of your boil kettle and it captures all of the steam during the boil. I’ve used it once before, but I’ve got an idea for an experiment that I think we’ll have it working a lot better for me. I have no idea if this is a great idea or a complete dud. Yeah. Let’s find out together as I brew a French Belgium, a farmhouse ale, it’s Biere de Garde.

My name is Martin Keen. I’m taking the The Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. Todays, beer is Biere de Garde. This is a farmhouse ale, and I’m going to mash this one here at 152 Fahrenheit or 67 Celsius sets. Let’s get the grain in.

I’ve had a few comments about my whisk people saying, where do I get it? Um, honestly, I have no idea where I got this thing from. I bought it a long time ago. I looked at my Amazon shopping list. It wasn’t there. So I guess I’ve got it from a Homebrew store somewhere. Um, yeah, it’s a good whisk.

Now there are three different types of Biere de Garde, there’s blonde, Amber, and Brown. I’m going to be brewing this one on the lighter end of the spectrum, as you can probably tell from the grist. And Biere de Garde translates to “beer of keeping” the idea of being that this beer was made in the autumn or in the fall when the malt was harvested and everything was fresh and it was laggerd or kept all the way through until the spring. I’m not sure I’m going to be quite that patient. Okay. Got a mash for about an hour.

So the recipe for today’s beer, well, we’re looking at a fairly high gravity beer. This is going to have a reasonable gravity of 10 70, so about 8.1% ABV. And I mentioned, I’m going to be brewing really the blonde version of this beer. So looking at an SRM of around nine, that means using a lot of pale ingredients.

I’ll be starting off as my base malt with a Belgian pale malt that makes up 60% of the grist and then adding in 15%, each of Vienna malt and Munich I malt, and then the only milk with really any significant color to it is aromatic molt, which I will add in at 3%.

The final 7% is going to be added in at the boil. That’s where I’m going to add some sugar, just to bring up the ABV while helping to dry out the beer. And for that, I’m going to be using honey.

Now while the day’s mashing, just a reminder of how this condenser lid works. Basically, it’s going to sit on top of my kettle here during the boil. And then I have this tubing, this pipe connected to it. In the top here I’m going to send in cold water through a Mister that’s this device here. So the Mister is spraying in cold water.

As the steam rises from the boil it will go through this tubing, be met by the Mister and it will condense, hence condenser lid and it will come out the bottom here and drip into the bucket. Now, the first problem I had with using this was entirely of my own making. Beer is in the fermenter. I took a gravity reading, 10 54. I was looking for 10 62. And yeah, I think that is what happens when you’re winging it.

Yeah. I missed my gravity by a mile because I didn’t account for the much, much lower boil off rate. So first things first let’s address that in this take.

So this time, no winging it. I’m going to do this somewhat properly in beersmith. I’m still guessing a little bit, but let me show you what I’ve done. So I’ve got my equipment profile in here for my claw hammer supply system. And you can see here that it has a boil off rate of 1.2 gallons per hour.

And that seems pretty accurate when I’m not using a condenser lid, but when I am using a condenser lid, well, last time I saw a much, much smaller boil off rate in spike brewing, say it will be at least 50% less.

So what I’ve done is I’ve created a second equipment profile here for the claw hammer system. And I’ve set the boil off rate to 0.3 gallons per hour, which I’m guessing here. But I think that seems a little bit closer to what I saw last time.

Now, what that means is that’s going to affect how much water I use in the brew. So if I take a look at my recipes, this is the Biere de Garde, and this is assuming just the regular claw hammer equipment profile. And you can see here that I need about eight gallons of water.

But when I apply the second profile, the profile would be much smaller boil off rate. You can see now that I need significantly less water to start with about seven gallons. So that’s what I’m going with in today’s brew.

So the experiment, the way that this condenser lid works is you have two buckets of water. You have a bucket of water filled with like cold tap water. That’s pumped in through the mister. I think you have a second bucket, which collects the water as it flows through the system plus any of the liquid that’s condensed from the steam. And you need to keep topping up the fill bucket that’s providing the water and then dumping out the bucket that’s the container, the warmer water.

Um, it is quite a lot of water that goes through the system. So in a one hour ball you might get through about 15 gallons of water. Now I think there may be a better way to do this with using a lot of water. So what I’ve done is I’ve taken my fermentor here. This is the fermentor that’s going to receive the beer when it’s done.

Um, I filled it up with just tap water and then I put my cooling coil in it and I’m running glycol through this. So I’ve got really, really cold water now. And my plan is to use this as both the intake to the condenser lid, but also to receive the condensed water that comes out of the system.

When I tried this the first time I was seeing about a 30 degree Fahrenheit difference between the water going in and the water coming out. So what I’m banking on is that this glycol system can keep the water cool enough to overcome that difference in temperature. And therefore I’ll just be recirculating the same water through the system over and over. There’s only one way to find out if this is going to work.

So the hops for this beer I have bittering hops and then aroma hops, the bittering hop, I’m going to use his Tettnang. This is going to go in right at the start of the boil. And then at the end of the boil, I’m going to add both Tettnang again, and then hallahau Hersbrucker as my aroma hops, these will both add sort of floral and herbal notes to the beer.

Um, at the end of the boil as well is when I will be adding in my honey. Okay. So I’ve put a pump in my fermentor here that is going into the mister that’s spraying down cold water. And then the tubing here at the bottom is dripping back in to, into the fermentor.

I did say it’s quite important that this tubing not be underwater because that could create a vacuum. So this stops just short of the water level. So I’m going to start recirculation. From experience of last time I’m only using about 30% of power on the heating element normally use around 55 or 60, but you need less power to heat this up with the condenser lid on

That pump is noisy.

So how did it go?

Well, I would say it was somewhat successful. Um, what I noticed was there was about a 30 degree Fahrenheit difference between the water that I was sending in and then the water that would come out once the boil really got going.

What I also noticed is that the temperature of the water kept creeping up and up and up. Um, after about 15 minutes, about halfway through, it had gone from being around 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. And, uh, even the glycol chiller itself was struggling to keep its temperature cool.

So what I ended up doing was dumping some ice into the water and that reduced the temperature by about five degrees. And it never rose above about 78 Fahrenheit for the remainder of the boil. So between the glycol chiller and a little bit of ice, I was able to condense all the steam by reusing the same water.

As far as gravity goes. Well, I came in at 10 63. I was aiming for 10 70. So I’m not really sure what to make of that because my pre boil gravity was about three points where I thought it would be, but my final gravity ended up being seven points. So perhaps I haven’t got the boil off thing, right just yet. But that said, I have got just about three gallons of beer at the end of this.

The yeast that I’ll be adding into this beer, French Saison Yeast. This is wyeast 3711. And I’m going to ferment this one at 65 Fahrenheit. All right. That’s it. See you at the tasting!

Well fancy seeing you here. Hi. So Biere de Garde, um, this one is intended to be lagered, so you want to give us a bit of time to age. Okay. It’s only six weeks. So just putting that out there out upfront, but, um, what do you think of this rather attractive color? Not to influence you in any way.

That’s very nice. Um, but to go for six weeks thing, I honestly, I’ve never heard of this beer or tried it, so it could be six weeks or could be six years. Um, but color wise is really beautiful looking. I’m not saying Amber is not Amber. I guess it’s more of a Clementine color. Sorry, you’re looking these up before the tastings at this point. It’s the smell, the aroma of Belgium again, like really get that Belgium yeast. I can smell that. It smells kind of sweet.

Let’s go. Okay. So not related to the taste so much, but the mouthfeel is nice and fizzy. Very busy. Yeah. Quite malty, quite malty. Um, like I said, I smelled the sweetness. I taste the sweetness. Um, can’t really pick out, what’s making it sweet, like a sort of fruity sweetness or toffee sweetness.

Yeah. Kind of like, um, you know, how fakes taste, they’re not great, but well, texture wise the sweetness around a fig. I don’t know what they put it in. Maybe like molasses or something. That’s what that reminds me of. So that thing that doesn’t taste great. That’s what the beer tastes texture wise does not taste great. Yeah. But taste-wise is good. Yeah. I am getting a bit of the sweetness too. Um, but it’s really layered in with the maltiness isn’t it? I think, I don’t know what age would really do to a beer like this.

To me, it kind of tastes ready like this, and I wouldn’t really imagine it tasting an awful lot different with time. I don’t think so. I don’t think so. All right. So next week we’re going to have to do a little bit more than just sit here and drink beers. I’m going to put you to work. Yeah.

So we actually have a bit of a taste comparison going on with next week’s beer. Oh, that’s fun. Hmm. Okay. But until then recipe and the description, um, Atlantic brew supply also have a kit available and Lauren, Cheers!

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.