Our second Reserve release is a barrel aged biére de garde. Like our first Reserve release, Imaginary Ale, this beer could be considered a tribute to French farmhouse ales of old where extended cellaring allowed resident wild yeasts to transform the beer over time, adding layers of earthy, rustic complexity.
The beer began as last year's Fox in the Cellar release, and spent over 10 months in a French oak puncheon with saison yeast added, before being bottled with a Brettanomyces yeast strain. These additional yeasts dried the beer out completely (ie. what little malt sugars remained were consumed), while the oak added its influence to both flavour and texture.
Brettanomyces is a genus of yeast often referred to as "wild yeast" (although this terms is a bit problematic... I mean, are cultured yeasts really "tame"?). It is found everywhere in nature, particularly on fruit, wood, or really anything that can be decayed. Winemakers are taught to hate and fear "Brett", because the flavours it creates are not within the canon of acceptable wine characteristics. Brett is also extremely virulent (as far as yeasts go), so can be very hard to get rid of once it's entered a wine barrel.
In the right beer, however, Brett's myriad earthy, fruity, musty, smokey, spicy flavours and aromas can be downright delectable! I, for one, welcome our new Brett overlords.
By adding the Brett at bottling we expect its influence to gradually increase over time. At time of writing (5 months since bottling), the Brett character of BdG is obvious but not dominant (see tasting notes below), but we expect it to increase over the next couple of years. Because of that, this beer is certainly one that will keep for 2-5 years or more.
This beer is highly carbonated, so we highly recommend refrigerating upright for at least 24 hours before opening. This will allow the sediment to settle firmly to the bottom of the bottle and prevent it from causing any issues with foam, haze, or flavour.
When you do open it, bubbles may start forming in the neck of the bottle; begin pouring promptly at this point.
Our favourite glass for this style is a wine glass, and we recommend pouring vigorously to create a nice thick head (drinking through foam increases perception of a beer's aroma).
On the aroma this one is decidedly complex - you could even say it's hard to pick. Definite plum, pepperberry or juniper fruitiness on the first pass, then layers of oak come in, hinting at fortified wine, or even brandy.
The flavour starts with up front malt sweetness, with the med-high carbonation scrubbing that impression off, leaving a more herbaceous, savoury element. Palate follows the aroma in terms of plum, grape, and peppery juniper, then the finish is bone dry, leaving impressions of oak, pinot must, and peppery/earthy undertones.