“Yesssss! You found a non-IPA brewery?!” I squealed at my little brother when he brought me to Right Proper Brewing Company during a visit to DC earlier this year.
It’s so rare to find a brewery that has fewer than three IPAs available, let alone just one dry hopped pale ale. I went for one of the most rare styles to find on a tap list: Bière De Garde.
I was completely blown away by the balance and complexity in Baron Corvo, Right Proper’s foeder-aged bière de garde and I could literally taste the inspiration from French and Belgian examples of the style, not sweet and heavy American-ized versions.
Thor Cheston, co-founder of Right Proper Brewing Company says, “At our production brewery we are focused on our core beers: Raised by Wolves, Li’l Wit and Senate Beer. While at the brewpub we are always brewing something fun.” I was visiting the Shaw Brewpub & Kitchen that sunny day in DC.
“The pub brewery is basically producing what we are into these days. it could be anything from obscure Ethiopian styles of beer to simple British-style pub ales and everything in between,” he says.
I mentioned tasting the influences European-brewed bière de gardes in this example, and Cheston confirmed this suspicion. He drew inspiration from two beers in particular Brasserie Dupont, Avec Les Bons Veux and Brasserie Theillier, La Bavaisienne. He says, “These two beers are stunningly complex. I will always remember tasting them for the first time. It was truly breathtaking.”
Right Proper has been producing beers with wild yeast since the brewery opened in 2013, but they also make clean beers. This allows for a fun dichotomy with beers like their “Li’L Wit” which is a clean version of a witbier, accompanied by “White Bicycles” their mixed culture foeder-aged wit.
The foeders are used for beers on the funky side of things, “The foeders keep the brettanomyces [wild yeast] happy and healthy. A long exposure to the brett alive in the nooks and crannies of the wooden staves gives the beer a dry, earthy character that cannot be achieved in a modern stainless steel tank.” These are the same foeders that give Baron Corvo its complex fruity and earthy flavor profile with a delicate dry finish.
Cheston recognizes that “bière de garde” may appear exoctic at best and intimidating at worst, but he still chooses to use the style name on menus, tap lists, and in beer descriptions. It’s an opportunity for education for visitors to the brewery and taproom. “In our experience, bière de garde is not a common style of beer. We often engage our guests in a discussion about the style,” he says.
Right Proper is so invested in the biere de garde style that they also make a fancied up version of the already fancy Baron Corvo, “If a guest really likes Baron Corvo, I would suggest they try Baron Corvo: Cuvee 2. This is a three year old, barrel-aged version of the beer. It is aged in whiskey, apple brandy and gin barrels.”
What does this bière de garde taste like?
“Our house standard for the bière de garde style is a very dry yeast-forward, light to deep amber ale with some perceived stone fruit and spice cabinet flavors,” says Cheston. Baron Corvo is 7% abv and drinks very smooth, picking up rounding qualities like toasty vanilla from the time spent in wood.
“We want the stone fruit and spice to shine through the beer. The beer really shines when it is bottle conditioned and at least 6 months old.”
If you’re trying Baron Corvo as an IPA drinker…
Cheston says, “We lovingly tell our guests who are unfamiliar with Baron Corvo in particular that the beer does not taste like “beer” per se. To expect a very dry pallet with flavors of fruit but none of the sweetness.”
I would agree with him, for IPA drinkers I would advise, forget beer and think of this as a cocktail or a wine. It reminded me a little of a fruity Cabernet with some notes of rye bread mixed in. People that enjoy cocktails like Old Fashioneds or Manhattans would enjoy this foeder aged Bière de Garde.