Mills “Bière de Garde”

Name: Bière de Garde
Brewer: Mills Brewing (United Kingdom)
Style: Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer (Base Style: Bière de Garde)
ABV: 5.8%
Review Year: 2021

This interpretation of a Bière de Garde by Mills Brewing (United Kingdom) is a blend of three barrels from three contrasting brews produced in January, July, and October 2018. The bottle fermentation included a phase led by lactic acid bacteria. Bière de Garde was bottled in November 2019 and was effectively lagered in bottle at cold ambient temperatures over the winter, before completing maturation in the early summer of 2020.

Mills Brewing is a small brewery in Gloucestershire by Jonny and Gen Mills specializing in brewing and blending naturally fermented beers with minimum modern intervention. Spontaneous fermentation and wild yeasts do the work to produce the wonderfully complex and vibrant beers by Mills Brewing.

STYLE GUIDELINES

This beer is being evaluated as a Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer (26B) with the Bière de Garde (24C) as the base style in the context of the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The most current version of the guidelines can be found on the BJCP website.

TASTING NOTES

Clear deep gold; foamy white head with good retention. The aroma unveiled a very complex profile harmonizing moderate honey-like, slightly toasty malty aromas with hints of oak and lactic acid. Medium-light-bodied, moderate carbonation, with a subtle puckering quality. The flavor was pleasantly malty, combining moderately high honey (minus the sweetness) and toasty impressions with low biscuity undertones. Bitterness was supportive at a medium level, while residual sweetness was low. Acidity was approachable and seemed to have manifested as tangy and citrusy. A subtle oak flavor was also present. The afteraste lingered with the honey, toasty, malty flavors alongside some bitterness.

THE VERDICT

Despite the name, Bière de Garde by Mills Brewing is not a traditional one since it was inoculated with lactic acid bacteria and, thus, had some sourness. However, the salient characteristics of the classic style are still present in this beer, namely the malt-forward aromas and flavors, the supportive bitterness, and the absence of prominent hop characteristics. It was also a beer that finished dry even if the malts dominated the flavor.

As a mixed-fermentation sour beer or a sour/ funky version of a Bière de Garde, this Mills brew offered approachable acidity that manifested as tangy, rather than something harsh. This subset of sour beers can be aged in wood as with the case for this blended beer. The subtle oak flavor was a nod to that process.

Overall, Bière de Garde by Mills Brewing is an excellent mixed-fermentation Bière de Garde showcasing diverse malt flavors that harmonized with tamed acidity, subtle oak impressions, and supportive bitterness.

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