Brasserie Castelain - Grand Cru
- ABV: 7.80%
- Serving Temperature: 45-50° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip or Oversized Wine Glass
This is a difficult to find beer. A mere 30 cases are in the hands of distributors around the country—the vast majority was snatched up for our members. While that rarity may tempt you to horde the stuff, should you opt to “garder” your own samples of this beer; we suggest checking in on them over 3-month intervals for no more than a year, as they’ve effectively been pre-aged by the brewery for you. Our proposal is that you serve this one up with numerous meals during these late summer days—and share it with friends whenever possible—especially outdoors where its thirst quenching properties will be best revealed. But do mind that ABV—it’s stronger than it seems!
Bière de Garde remains France’s only native beer style, and it could have disappeared completely were it not for a handful of farmhouse producers keeping it alive. One such producer is the brewery located in the tiny rural village of Benifontaine, whose name is a reference the long known quality of its water. The artisan, family-owned Brasserie Castelain has been brewing beer here since 1926.
From a town whose population was last tallied at 272, one might expect little variety in the local beers offered. While the volume of beer produced is understandably quite low, the brewery actually offers upwards of 15 different beers at various points during the year. And lest you think that Bière de Garde is one, monolithic “style”: where this beer is known and loved, brewers often produce various versions within the broader style. Brasserie Castelain, for example, brews at least five different Bières de Garde! One of them bears the distinction of being France’s first certified organic beer.
Brewing in this part of France can be traced back to at least the days of Charlemagne (late 8th – early 9th century A.D.!). Despite that extensive history, production of Bière de Garde had, until fairly recently, waned nearly to the point extinction. Today, Brasserie Castelain is at the forefront of an artisanal brewing revival. Annick Castelain, proprietor and granddaughter of the founder of the brewery, along with head brewer Nicholas Castelain (great grandson of the founder), are keeping tradition alive, while growing awareness of this important style—important not only to the farmhands of France, but to the nation’s brewing history, and, the world’s overall artisanal brewing tapestry. À Votre Santé!
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