One of the best brewing books I have read is Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales. Phil is head brewmaster at Southampton Brewery in Long Island and he specializes in farmhouse ales of Belgian and French origin. He’s also a friendly guy and is willing to help out homebrewers in formulating recipes. I’m lucky enough to have family living in nearby Quogue and always drop by to sample what’s on draft. In the book, Phil divulges in a history of french country ales while explaining the origins, styles, ingredients, and production methods used to make these beers.
The brews that are described in this book are Saison and Bière de Garde. I brewed a Saison last year which came out great so I wanted to explore the Bière de Garde style. This beer has an interesting history. Before the advent of refrigeration, high fermentation temperatures of sometimes unknown yeast strains would lead to unwanted off-flavors and beers that did not store well. To counter this, brewers selected the winter months as their “brewing season” and would cellar the brews in barrels until the spring time. The beers were often of higher alcohol strength so the beer would not spoil over time. Once the weather became warmer, these beers were often given to farmhands as payment for their hard work in the upcoming harvest season.
Some great commercials examples exist and I thoroughly encourage you to try them. From France one of most famous brews is Jenlain Blonde but they also have an amber ale from this style. My personal favorite is 3 Monts Grande Réserve Spécial Ale from Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre. Some notable examples are also brewed here in the States such as Phil Markowksi’s French Country Ale and his regular Bière de Garde. Jolly Pumplin’s Bière de Mars is also worth trying although this beer has some funkiness since it was brewed with Brett.
Breweries back then (100-200 years) were often small family owned operations that produced unique beers with different ingredients to develop a “house style”. As a nod to this unique craftmanship, I will be making a Bière de Garde with a large percentage of rye malt since I really love the flavor this malt can bring to a beer. Although Spring brings warmer temperatures, I do have access to a chest freezer and plan on lagering for an extended period once fermentation is complete.
Recipe (5 gallons):
- 7 pounds of Pilsner malt (Weyerman)
- 1 pound of Munich malt 10L
- 3 pound of malted Rye (Briess)
- 1 pound of Biscuit malt (Briess)
- 1 pound of flaked barley
- 0.5 pound of Carabrown 55L (Briess)
- 0.5 pound of rice hulls
- 1.0 oz of UK First Gold (20 IBUs) at 60 minutes.
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet at 30 minutes.
- 1/2 tsp of yeast nutrient at 30 minutes.
- 2 pounds of cane sugar added at 5 minutes.