First Place Showing: Imperial Rye Biere de Garde

I’m excited to announce that I placed first (category) in NYC’s biggest BJCP-sanctioned homebrew competition, Homebrew Alley 6. To be honest, I did not expect this beer to do very well since I personally did not like the beer and thought there were some flaws. The beer was brewed last year in this post and was named Biere de Garde Faite Avec du Seigle, which means Biere de Garde made with rye in french.

I submitted this beer along with my Imperial Russian Stout and my 100% Brettanomyces ale. Both the Brett beer and Imperial Rye Biere de Garde (BdG) were submitted to the Belgian specialty ale category (16E) of the BJCP which states: “This is a catch-all category for any Belgian-style beer not fitting any other Belgian style category. The category can be used for clones of specific beers (e.g., Orval, La Chouffe); to produce a beer fitting a broader style that doesn’t have its own category; or to create an artisanal or experimental beer of the brewer’s own choosing.”

The Imperial Stout received a score of 31.5 (out of 50), which is OK but not great. The biggest flaw, and I agree with judges, is the overpowering oak in the beer. Three weeks of oak cubes in secondary was too much and it may take years for this flavor to mellow. The Brettanomyces beer scored very well – 40 points. This beer was very clean and showed off the fruity esters (strawberry, pineapple, pear) when Brett is used as a primary fermenter. The Imperial Rye BdG scored lower in the same category (37.5 points) but still won first place. The Brett beer never placed. I was at the awards ceremony at Brooklyn Brewery, when I heard my name called for first place but did not hear the beer that was named. I was so convinced it was the Brett beer, I posted it on facebook immediately. According to BJCP events, not all 1st, 2nd, and 3rd placings in a category are based on score. There are certain intangibles to the beer and the judges vote.

I opened one of two bottles (one is for a friend of mine) to review on my blog. The main reason I did not like the beer was attenuation. The Wyeast Biere de Garde yeast super-attenuated a 1.074 beer down to 1.003 and produced lots of weird esters:

Appearance: Pours crystal clear reddish-orange in color. Ample carbonation provides a two finger head that slowly recedes. The clarity was the result of lagering for 4 months before bottling. The best thing about this beer is the way it looks.

Aroma: Some booze, stone fruit, and honey glazed apples. Some earthy yeast and very little in the way of malt character. The nose is quite alcoholic for my taste, with notes of cracked pepper and methanol.

Taste: Prickly sweet, over-ripe peaches, dates and stone fruit. The rye is very apparent and gives the beer a spicy and floral taste. The alcohol is noticable, warming, and also contributes to the spice. Full thick mouthfeel (flaked rye) and counter-balanced by ample carbonation.

Overall: This beer was not what I was after, but the judges didn’t mind! One judge did pick up on the alcoholic bite: “The biggest flaw is overly hot alcohol warmth, which detracts from the other flavors.” Spot on in my opinion.


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11 responses to “First Place Showing: Imperial Rye Biere de Garde

  1. Dan

    I’m not sure why Wyeast labels the 3725 yeast a bière de garde yeast. It’s is purportedly the Fantôme strain. Fantôme does not brew bière de gardes. Instead, they tend to routinely brew highly attenuated saison-like styles. Wouldn’t a lager stain be more appropriate for bière de garde? That said, based on the description, sounds like you brewed a beer I’d happily drink, bière de garde or not. Congratulations on your win.

    • You know, every homebrew that I come across has this same response. I was duped into thinking this was a Biere de Garde strain but it is definitely not and I agree with the sentiment that it is a super-attenuative Fantome strain. If I use this strain again it will be for a lower gravity ale for sure!

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  3. Congratulations on your first place. Wow, une Bière de Garde avec du seigle. Je pense que cette bière pourrait me plaire. (Guess I would love this beer). Pretty neat idea with the rye, I guess it improves the beer in its own way. I wonder, could the alcohol sensation be due to the low terminal gravity of 1.003? What would you change for a second batch?

  4. Congrats Jason! Show them how it’s done!
    Personally I didn’t even know about Homebrew Alley until yesterday hehehe.

  5. dankbrewer

    I wish I could get me some of that yeast. I’m always looking for another Saison strain as I’m a little bored with 3711 and 3724. Hopefully I can get my hands on some 3725 if they release it again because I can’t find it anywhere. Would love to do a side by side split batch with that.

    Congrats on the win!



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  7. Sorry to revive this thread almost two years later, but do you still have any of the WY3725 frozen? I’m in the process of some saison research and I want to include that strain.

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