Monday, March 19, 2012

Gavroche Bier de Garde - Review

Commercial beer reviews aren't the norm for this blog. And why should they be? Any Tom, Dick or Harry can post something on Beer Advocate. But I find that the information on there is only useful when you're specifically looking for it. If I'm stuck between purchasing two different beers and can't make up my mind... sure I'll look them up on my phone to see the score, but I rarely read something that points me in the direction to try something specifically.

One of the very cool things about my job (department manager for a large Texas based retailer) is that I sometimes get my hands on products before they come to market in Texas. This beer that I'm about to review is one of those.

The main reason I'm going to review this is because I was floored at how great this beer was. To be honest, Biere de Garde is a style that I have very limited experience with. I've had the Flying Dog Garde Dog (not that great) and the Jenlain Ambree (not a bad beer) and that's it for the style. Speaking of the style everything I've read says the style is very loose and not all that specific, so I had no idea what to expect going into it.

This is the Brasserie St. Sylvestre's Gavroche. The bottle calls it a "French Red Ale", but really an amber biere de garde.

Appearance - Into an oversized red wine glass it pours a deep rudy amber with a two finger head that sticks around for a few minutes then dissipates into a thin lacy head that sticks around to the end of the glass.

Aroma - The first thing I get is sherry vinegar. Not in an assaulting or offensive way, it's actually quite restrained, but unmistakable. The sherry blends into notes of dried cherries and a flash of black pepper. It ends with a faint crackery maltiness and vanilla aroma.

Taste - Delicate malt sweetness with bits of caramel and vanilla that quickly fades into dryness. A flash of tartness with sherry vinegar, cherries and pepper mid palate. It ends with a small, but firm hop bitterness. The most amazing thing is that this beer is 8.5% ABV and tastes nothing like it. The beer is so wonderfully smooth that you could easily (like I did) end up a bit tipsy by the end of the 750ml bottle.

Mouthfeel - Smooth and delicate with a spritsy carbonation. The mouthfeel is not heavy at all, but still full and lively.

Overall - Everything about this beer speaks of restraint. The flavors are complex and all over the place, but so tight and controlled that everything has it's place and doesn't fatigue the palate at all. Deceptively smooth and refreshing but interesting enough to keep you thinking about all of the flavors until the end of the bottle.

Biere de Garde is not a style I've tried to brew before, but after drinking this I just may have to.

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