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Brewer's Perspective: Brewing Gold-Medal Bière de Garde

As a niche style, bière de garde doesn’t always medal at the Great American Beer Festival—but Munkle’s 5 Branches took home gold in 2018, then Echo’s Junebug did it again in 2019. Here, the head brewers from both breweries sketch out the blueprints.

Joe Stange Dec 27, 2021 - 7 min read

Brewer's Perspective: Brewing Gold-Medal Bière de Garde Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves

French-style bière de garde doesn’t have its own category at the Great American Beer Festival. Instead, it’s a subcategory of Belgian- and French-style ales, alongside Belgian-style blondes and pale ales. The guidelines describe a profile that permits toasted malt character, some fruity esters and earthiness, Noble hops, and possibly some oomph—strength can range from 4.4 to 8 percent ABV.

However, as a subcategory, bière de garde doesn’t always go home with a medal; last year’s winners in that category were a grisette, a Belgian-style pale ale, and a blonde ale. But in 2018, 5 Branches bière de garde from Munkle Brewing in Charleston, South Carolina, won the gold medal. In 2019, Echo Brewing out of Erie, Colorado, won gold for Junebug, its French-influenced farmhouse ale.

Both recent winners are relatively strong at 7.5 to 7.7 percent ABV—not unlike some classic examples from France, such as Jenlain Ambrée. In fact, either of the beers might have been labeled “ambrée,” had they been brewed over there.

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