Total Score: 7.1/10
Here it is! Australia’s first Bière de Garde [at least as far as I’m aware]: Frenchies Bistro & Brewery Astrolabe. Named after one of the ships in the Lapérouse expedition (there’s a 2nd Bière de Garde by Frenchies named Lapérouse btw) which landed in Botany Bay only 6 days after the First Fleet arrived, and of whom the leader of the expedition Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse and his men were never seen again by European eyes – having shipwrecked on an island called Vanikoro (Solomon Islands). Fascinating how looking up the name of a beer can lead one down a Wiki-hole reading about the history of ghost ships – some interesting reads there. Oh, yeah, that’s right – I’m reviewing a beer *ahem*.
Poured from a 440ml can into a Duvel tulip.
A: Cloudy copper-brown body with a rather boisterous 2 centimetre tan head that slowly compacts leaving thin blanket on top and nought any lace on the glass sides. Apart from a bit of lace in the glass it looks ship-shape [oh dear, out come the nautical terms]. 7/10.
S: Musty yeast and dark grape funk upfront, along with dark fruit, touch of pepper spice, and a brioche bread malt centre. So far the aroma reminds me of a sort of French Doppelbock – that German style also known as “liquid bread” – along with that musty French-style Saison yeast, which is never a bad thing in my books. 8/10.
T: Very interesting indeed! Starts off with a Flanders Red Ale dark grape funk, bit like a Rodenbach Grand Cru, then add in those above noted flavours: musty yeast, dark fruit (plum/raisin), pepper and brioche bread. There’s very little sweetness on the palate, which finishes a tad crisp with a light herbal hop character at the end. So much different profile than expected from a northern French amber (ambrée) – almost every BdG (Bière de Garde natch) I’ve had up until now has been rocking sweetness more than anything, this is stylistically askew in that sense, but I like a bit of a surprise every now and then. 7/10.
M: Medium bodied, slightly watery, with a dense but light carbonation – this mouthfeel is a bit all over the shop here. 6/10.
D: Overall it’s a bit of a Saison-meets-a-Flanders-Red-meets-a-Bière-de-Garde kind of odd experiment. It only falls flat because the sum of parts is lessor than a whole of any fine examples of those styles, otherwise it is a reasonably tasty beer that goes down well indeed. Still searching for my go-to Aussie BdG. 7/10.
Food match: A subtle red meat, i.e. lamb (with rosemary) would work well here.