Brasserie La Choulette - La Choulette de Noël

Brasserie La Choulette - La Choulette de Noël

Beer Club featured in Rare Beer Club

Style:

Bière de Garde

Country:

France

Alcohol by Volume:

5.10%

Brasserie La Choulette - La Choulette de Noël

  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.10%
  • Bottle Size: No
  • Serving Temperature: 45-50° F
  • Suggested Glassware: Pint Glass or Snifter
Hits the glass with a ruby-amber color scheme, capped by a substantial creamy head that drapes the glass with a fine, snowy lace. Appearance-wise, this is the perfect Christmas beer—evoking the warm glow of a fire, or a blanket of snow. There are flecks of yeast dancing about in the carbonation jets, like a little snow globe that’s just been shaken up. First and foremost, the nose gives up very malty notes—rich, sweet, bready goodness. A subtle clove-like spice is evident, working nicely with notes of plums and a suggestion of raisins and black licorice. With some warmth on it, this beer gives up notes of port wine. Still, with all its richness, the characteristic dusty cellar character of a true bière de garde is clearly present. On the palate, flavors of dark, toasty bread flood the scene, sweetened by dark cherries and toffee, dried out by a bitty, slightly spicy dryness. At full warmth, there are suggestions of chocolate, but only at a very subtle level. What’s more prominent is the gentle acidity and very controlled tartness in the finish. Fades with a recapitulation of all the main themes—just in shorter bursts. According to the New York Times, this is the Ultimate Bière de Garde—we’re not going to argue, it’s from one of the premiere old “de Garde” breweries and is one of the truest representations of brune bière de garde out there. A world class brew that will hold up for about 18 months in the bottle if you want to age it. Mellows quite nicely over time—we’ve had fresh and year-old bottles and both are quite nice (your sample is fresh from the 2010 brewing, so it will last if you want to pick up some more for aging).

Bière de Garde (meaning ‘beer for keeping’) is the indigenous beer style of France. Similar to Belgium’s Saison style, it too is a farmhouse ale. Developed in the northern corner of France, near the Belgian border, it was brewed in early spring and kept for drinking in the warmer summer months. Bière de Garde is most often likened to Saison, but indeed there are differences, with the former typically more malt-focused, less spicy, less tart, and often possessing more of a cellar-like mustiness than the wild, “horse blanket” character often found in the latter. There are a few artisanal brewers who still brew the style, though it was in danger of complete extinction some years ago. At the dawn of the 20th century, there were nearly 250 breweries making Bière de Garde, but the crushing popularity of lager beers effectively led to an almost wholesale demise of the farm country brewery style. One very small brewery that has survived (there are less than two dozen remaining today) is Brasserie La Choulette, located in Hordain, France. Their beers are critically acclaimed, but what’s a bunch of accolades these days—seriously, if Britney Spears can win a grammy, what’s that say about awards? Fortunately, these folks actually have talent (no auto-tune required), truly deserving the high praise paid their beers.

The brewery dates from 1885, having been in the hands of the current owners, Alain Dhaussy and his wife Martine, since 1977. Yes, lager beer lust effectively shut it down. Though Alain had studied pharmacy, his grandfather was a brewer and his son a beer wholesaler. It seemed natural to embrace the family tradition and become a brewer himself. An amateur historian, he ultimately brought the brewery back to its roots by returning to the tradition of brewing Bière de Garde, and has since been recognized internationally as producing some of the world’s finest examples of this traditional French farmhouse style. The La Choulette beer we’ve selected for you is a Bière de Garde of the darker, brown (brune) breed—a remarkable beer that was quite nearly lost to time. Enjoy!

For more information about the brewery, check out their website at www.lachoulette.com.

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