Essential Info

  • Color: Light gold to amber/brown
  • ABV: 6%-8.5%
  • Commercial Examples: Ommegang Scythe & Sickle, Two Brothers Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale, La Choulette

It’s always helpful when a confusing beer name actually means something related to the style of the beer (Rauchbier/”smoke beer,” Dunkelweizen/”dark wheat beer”). Bière de garde may sound like something chugged by a French army, but it actually just means “beer for keeping.” Like Saison and Märzenbier (aka Oktoberfest), Bière de Garde originated as a seasonal beer, brewed a bit stronger during colder weather to keep over the warm summer months. The ultra-traditional styles, which you can’t get in the U.S., are actually stored in brewery cellars, where they pick up flavors from the ambient environment—even, sometimes, a good cellar flavor. But the basic flavor profile you’ll encounter varies depending on the color (blond, amber, or brown). Typically they’re always malt-forward, with some sweetness, toast, and caramel notes balanced by the slightly higher alcohol content and maybe a hint of spice from yeast or hops. American styles, as ever, may be a bit hoppier.