The French brewing scene has advanced rapidly in recent years, with the country now possessing as many if not more breweries than Germany. Ale brewing is now found across the whole country, following every tradition and none. However, ale was traditionally the beer of north eastern France, produced mainly in the region between Strasbourg and La Manche (The English Channel) and featuring a particular style cluster found in a tricolour of forms.
Bière de Garde
Bière de Garde translates roughly as ‘stored beer’ and is a term first coined in the mid-20th century to distinguish traditionally made French ales from the emerging industrial lagers. This is not a style defined by colour, character or content, but rather by method. Beers tend to be of medium strength (6.0-8.0% ABV), to be all-malt and to share the common thread that after fermentation is complete, they are conditioned at cellar temperature – a sort of tepid lagering – for a minimum of 21 days under French law and often for longer. This creates a smooth texture and fulsome maltiness that lasts through to the end. Any sharp edges from ageing or cellar-like mustiness comes from poor keeping rather than intent.
The Brune (brown) form of Bière de Garde tends to be malt-driven, the Ambrée (amber, occasionally Rousse) form tends to sweet and fruity, while the Blonde (blond) versions are more likely to be hop-enhanced. A special, typically strong-end variety called Bière de Mars, traditionally made in March to see off residual grain stock, is intended for immediate consumption.