Translation: La Choulette Brewery (a ‘choulette’ is the wooden ball used in a European sport, Crosse, popular in the 1800s & described as a cross between golf and field hockey)
Regional Locale: Central Northern tip of France, near Lille (about 100 miles north of Paris)
Official Language: French
How To Say Beer There: Bière (pronounced: b’yaire)
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 whole-scale demise of the farm country brewery style. One very small brewery that has survived (there are fewer than two dozen that remain 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, truly deserving the high praise earned by 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 with a twist (check out the beer review below for more details). Enjoy!
For more information about the brewery, check out their website at www.lachoulette.com.