Bieres de Garde traditionally hail from northern France, not far from the English Channel, and are literally ‘beers for keeping’, strong, dark and sweet; brewed in the summer and autumn and ‘laid down’ for consumption during winter months.
So, when I learned that Thornbridge, one of my favourite brewers, had launched ‘Jehanne’, a 7.4% ABV Biere de Garde, I whipped out my charge card and was onto their website in minutes.
Jehanne is named for Joan of Arc, who lived in northern France in the early fifteenth century. She was a heroine to the French (who claimed to have heard ‘voices’), and was credited with several military victories over the English, who duly burned her at the stake in 1431, in the city of Rouen, when she fell into their hands.
She was canonised (declared to be a saint) in 1920.
Hey, we Brits can’t get it right all the time,
There’s a statue of Joan of Arc (who, incidentally, signed her name ‘Jehanne’) in the grounds of Thornbridge Hall, so when they decided to launch a Biere de Garde, ‘Jehanne’ it was to be.
Thornbridge suggest ‘a suggestion of orange blossom on the nose, medium malt flavour with a toasty, toffee like or caramel sweetness.’ I’m not sure about the orange blossom, but toasty toffee and caramel is what I’d be looking for in any Biere de Garde.
Bring it on!
Or should I say ‘Allons Y’?
It pours a rich, amber, toffee colour, with a noisy, slightly off-white head that is slow to fade.
The nose? Well there might be some blossom in there, but it’s primarily toffee and caramel.
And the flavour? Well, the bottle’s back label promises ‘banana, sweet grains and mirabelles’ – Give me a break guys, mirabelles? They’re a type of plum (I had to look it up), I’d never heard of mirabelles, still less tasted one!
I can report that it’s rich, warming and comforting, with peppery spice.
Yes, there are hints of (over-ripe) bananas, spice, and orange peel, but the main flavours are toffee and treacle (molasses).
It’s perhaps not quite as full-bodied as I might have liked, but I’ve noticed that French Biere’s de Garde have become less full bodied in recent years.
This is as good a Biere de Garde as I’ve tasted, and you have to bear in mind that I consider Jenlain to be one of my favourite ever beers. As such this merits a full five Brewclub stars.
If you cast your mind back, I sampled this on the night that the U.S. East Coast locked down and braced itself for winter storm ‘Juno’.
On a night like that, this is exactly the sort of beer I’d settle down and drink by the fireside. Particularly (at 7.4% ABV), if I wasn’t expecting to be able to leave the house next morning.
That said, I bought a case of twelve bottles, so I’m ready for the rest of the winter. Bring it on!