I happened upon a newcomer to the beer shelves at the Joliet bottle shop. The beer was from a reputable brewery, namely Southern Tier from New York. It was called Tier de Garde and anyone could instantly see how the brewery shoved its name into a style of beer.
Things were amiss right away. Although the words on the label were clear to read, The image on the front was old-timey and turn of the century looking. The image had 5 headless guys riding a bicycle in tandem. In poor color contrast were the words “Belgian Style India Pale Ale.” I started to wonder. I found the ABV in the bottom right, also in poor color contrast.
I had selected these beers because I believed that they were of the Biere de Garde style as hinted in the name. I wanted to try this style as they are few and far between. But during the ride home, I wondered if they were Biere de Garde at all but rather the Belgian IPA as the label stated.
Later in the day, beer drinkin’ time floated around and I was eager to dive in. I took a closer look at the label and bottle. The beer was brewed with grapefruit peel. Why in the hell would they do that? They could have selected a hop strain which gives off grapefruit flavors.
Then I spotted an anomaly. Imprinted at the front of the bottle was the following: DOB 07/28/14 12:08:05. Did I buy beer that was over a year old? I know some styles with higher ABVs hold up in storage for a while, but I wondered just what the hell happened here. I’d drink the beer anyway. I’m mulling around the idea of writing the brewery a letter.
But time’s a-wastin’! There’s beer to be drunk, old or not.
The first sip was quite odd, like nothing I’ve ever remember having. A cross between a saison and a hefty pale ale. Hmm. This was a style? The flavor was quite unique with both parts playing off each other. The light and sweet of the saison against the malty and slightly hoppy pale ale. The beer was good.
I remember some years back being turned off by the style. Now, with a better knowledge of styles and ingredients, I can recognize what this beer is doing and why it had that taste. The beer had a medium-light mouthfeel and was slightly sweet until the swallow. Then the malt flavors took over and the hops followed. No grapefruit.
A couple of things came to mind. The Biere de Garde style may be France’s answer to the Belgian saison. They are both similarly brewed and meant to kept a while before drinking. Also, the style known as Belgian IPA may be another name for a similar style, but I think it’s the red-headed step child of the two.
From the Southern Tier website:
Tier de Garde is a Belgian Style India Pale Ale brewed with grapefruit peel. It is the third in our acclaimed Belgian Style Series. Tier de Garde is akin to a Belgian Tripel crossed with an American IPA.
Now I don’t know what to think. Is the style French or is it Belgian? Is it a Belgian IPA or is it a Biere de Garde? Why do they confuse? Why am I so obsessed with style? (Because I also brew beer in addition to drinking it.)
Rather than embed in my head that this Southern Tier brew is an example of the Biere de Garde style, I’ll take it for what it is. A misclassified, misnamed European yellow beer. I’ll finish all the beer that I bought and go to bed wondering about where I can get a true Biere de Garde style beer to compare.
This has been a delicious experience which left me with many questions. I do know that I like this beer. Consider a glass of Hennepin with a some randalled hops thrown in. That’s it in the shell of a nut.
The SixPackTech summary for Southern Tier Tier de Garde Belgian IPA:
Style: Biere de Garde / Belgian IPA (who knows?)
Taste: Slightly malty and sweet with a bit of hoppiness.
Smoothness: Nice and easy going down.
Drinkability: The ABV will tell you when to stop. Until then…
Bang for the buck: On a par with other quality 750s on the shelf.
Amount paid: $8.99 per 750ml bottle.
Get it again? Perhaps not.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sniff) A little sweet but bitter too. (sip) It’s the same way going down. (sip) It’s sweet, tart. It’s interesting. (She handled that puck nicely.)