Friday 6 December 2013

Garded welcome

En Garde: not a beer I'm keen to
cross swords with
In what's become something of a tradition over the years, today marks the first day of the calendar's official tour of the South Coast. That is to say, I'm in Seaford for the weekend. 

So I brought the calendar with me. Or, at least, the two beers I'm due to drink tonight and tomorrow. I was half thinking of swapping them round to have tomorrow's first - a gentle 4.5% stout - but given Sam helpfully labelled each bottle with the date it needed drinking, I can't.

That's no bad thing really, since it's nice to have some sort of discipline about these things and this year more than ever I'm determined not to miss a day or stray from the path. Conversely, I'd also really like a day off and would definitely not have chosen tonight's beer myself.

But speaking of tradition, as I was earlier, Biere de Garde is a traditional kind of amber French beer. Made in the Nord Pas de Calais region and with it's own Appellation d'Origine Controle, it's a bit like a Belgian saison, in that its generally brewed in winter or spring by brewers operating in farmhouses. While I hammered the stuff when I lived in Toulouse as it was pretty much the best beer I could get there that wasn't Belgian, it was never my favourite style of beer and that opinion's stayed with me to this day.

I do remember drinking rather too much of it on a New Years Eve at a friend's chalet in the Pyrenees. Made for blessed respite from the acres of stubby Kronenbourgs on offer. Or the industrial-strength Gl├╝wein being cooked up by German aeronautics engineer Thomas.

It's usually got a shade too much malt about it for my liking and I can't say I ever detected much in the way of hop flavour, but that might be memory being dimmed over time. And who's to say this one - brewed somewhere in the South West - might not be a more modern twist on the old French classic?

Beer: Biere de Garde. Yes I know it's got a grave accent over the 'e', thank you, but I can't get this laptop to sort that
Strength: A brusque, northern French 6%
Smell: Like I've just trodden in a cinnamon stick bucket of over-ripe bananas
Tasting notes: With my tastebuds still tasting of stainless steel knives after last night's efforts, I'm going to need something to cut through that. Fortunately, this stuff's so ridiculously volatile - it took a good five minutes to pour and still has a massive head on it - the fizz alone should cleanse the palate. Sadly, looks are deceiving. Barely any of the bubbles make it to your tongue. A great big spatula of malt does, though. Some semi-skilled gorilla in blue overalls trowels an absolute shedload of the stuff all over the bottom and roof of your mouth like a dental assistant taking an impression for your new set of braces. First reaction is to gag, but just as you don't feel you can stand it any longer, a quick, downward jolt sparks a stab of sharpness that just about rescues the beer from being poured down the sink.I get the feeling the grimace I feel forming on my face once I swallow makes me look like a sour-faced cycnical French peasant who's just run out of Gauloises
Session factor: For me, low. It's really not my bag although it's a highly accomplished example of its kind.
Gut reaction: Quite pacifying, actually. I think it would go well with a nice ripe Stilton too.

Actual beer: Arbor Sauvin Non-Blanc. Brewed for Bristol Beer Week. Good brewery, but not a fan of the style.

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