For many of us, when we hear the words Farmhouse Ale our minds immediately think of the Saision, (with or without Brett), as this style has been romanticized not only in the U.S but also in Europe. Saisions are not the only farmhouse ales, the often overlooked Bier De Garde is the other. Bier De Garde is the saision’s maltier big brother, it is also the French contribution to the craftbeer universe.
Bier De Garde’s (BDG) are described by the BJCP guidelines as being “A fairly strong, malt-accentuated, lagered artisanal farmhouse beer.” Traditionally there are three types of BDG’s including the blond, brown, and amber with the darker having more pronounced malt characteristics. My BDG would fall in the brown category as I focused on making a malty ale that would be serve as a contrast to the saisions I usually brew. The BJCP guidelines describe the differences between the two styles perfectly stating “Bière de Garde is rounder, richer, sweeter, malt-focused, often has a “cellar” character, and lacks the spicing and tartness of a Saison.”
When doing some recipe research I came across several blog posts for BDG recipes, and noticed many of them cited the book Farmhouse Ales, by Phil Markowski when discussing the style. It had been a while since I read the book so I dusted it off and read the chapter on the BDG, it served as the primary source for my recipe formulation. The main take away for me was that traditionally there were two main types of BDG recipes, the simple and the complex or the big and small brewery versions. Due to production considerations the large brewery version has a simple grist consisting of mostly pilsner or pale malts while the smaller breweries developed BDG’s with more complex grain bills often consisting of 6-8 different malts.
Another tidbit from the book that caught my attention and influenced my recipe was the thought that the single malt BDG’s would work better for an extended aging (6 months or more) than the multi grain small brewery types. This as Markowski explains is because as the beer ages it begins to slowly react to oxygen, intensifying the malt characteritics bringing it into its sweet spot between 6-12 months.The multi-malt grist small brewery example, already malty, may become to malty over this same period of time. Since I operate an extremely small brewery and have several beers already in my long term aging pipeline, I opted for the small brewery multi-malt BDG.
One final point that I considered was the length of the boil. BDG traditionally undergo extensive boil times to bring develop the deep orange, amber, and brown colors that define the style. Boil times of 3 hours or more are not uncommon for this style. I on the other-hand had no intention of an eight hour brewday, so I decided to use the technique of kettle caramelization to achieve similar effects in much less time. I have performed kettle caramelizations in the past, specifically for my Wee Heavy 2.0. and had great results. This technique calls for drawing the first runnings from the tun and boiling them down in the kettle, until the majority of the water is boiled off, leaving a thick caramel behind in the kettle. This process causes the wort to undergo a series of Malliard reactions, adding to the overall malty character of the beer.
My recipe consists of Pilsner malt complimented by a series of specialty malts and two German hops, Tettnang and Halertauer. Since I do not have lagering capabilities I opted for White Labs 011 European Ale which is said to produce fuller bodied malt accented beers, fitting for the BDG style. I mashed at 147 degrees to produce a highly fermentable wort that should hopefully put this beer in the FG range of 1.015-1.017. Lastly, I pulled an estimated 1 gallon of the first runnings and reduced it to roughly a pint before adding the rest of the wort from the mash and continuing the boil. I am really looking forward to trying this one, as I love malty beers and think that this has all the makings of a solid homebrewed version of the classic farmhouse style.
Bier De Garde
Batch Size: 11 Gallons
Original Gravity: 1.075
Est. Final Gravity: 1.017
Color: 8.9 SRM
Boil Time: 90 Min
71.6% Belgian Pilsner
16.3% Munich 10L
6.5% Wheat Malt
3.3% Caravienne Malt
1.3% Caraamber Malt
.6% Amber Malt
3.5 Oz Tettnang (4% AA) at 60 min
1 Tbsp Irish Moss at 15 min
.75 Oz Halertauer Mittelfrueh (4% AA) at 5 min
4.2 L Starter of White Labs 011 European Ale
60 minutes at 147F (Saccharification Rest)
10 minutes at 165 F (Mash Out)
Ferment at ambient air temperature of 65 F
Upon completion of mash pull the first gallon of wort and perform a kettle caramelization, cooking down to roughly one pint of liquid.