de Garde Brewing is located in the tiny town of Tillamook, Ore.1 It has only been brewing commercially for around two years now, but excellence knows no age. Brewing partners Trevor Rogers and Linsey Hamacher opened up de Garde in the form of a 7bbl system brewery.
According to its website:
de Garde is a small rural brewery specializing in many diverse styles of ales, but with a focus on spontaneous fermentations inspired by the European farmhouse traditions. Our craft draws on historic traditions and local experimentations.
There are very few breweries in the US that focus on spontaneous fermentation as it’s extremely temperamental and often yields inconsistent results. Some breweries that brew in this style are Allagash out of Maine and Jester King out of Texas. The process begins by chilling the wort in large open-air vessels without the addition of any yeast strains and allowing naturally occurring yeast in the air to ferment the beer. Rogers believes that the salty sea air from the coast of Oregon produces saccharomyces strains perfect for the souring of their beers.
de Garde brews on a 7bbl system, which doesn’t allow them to yield very large batches, but allows them to focus on the quality of each beer they produce. It generally produces less than 1,000 bottles per release, but even with small batches its beers have garnered a reputation across the craft beer world, most notably its fruited Bu beers, which are regarded as some of the best fruited sours in America.
The base of the beer is de Garde’s Berliner weisee, which is then aged in oak with several different styles of fruit. It also has two varieties of the beer in its series, a regular and an imperial version, which is generally a little over one percent higher in ABV.
The beer being reviewed here is Imperial Blackberry Bu which sits at 5.5 percent ABV, while the regular version is 4.3 percent ABV. The beer pours like beet juice and looks like slightly watered down Benadryl. It was aged with over two pounds of blackberries per gallon and in first use red wine barrels. There is a lot of white head with large bubbles that form on the top of the deep purple liquid, it definitely appears to be a little over carbonated. The color of the beer is one of the most beautiful and striking I have ever seen, the color is reminiscent of Kool-Aid, it is so vibrant and such a deep purple.
The smell is really interesting on this one; up front I get a lot of sweet berry followed by lactic sour, then comes the curveball. As crazy as these sounds, I am smelling a really strong vegetable aroma, just like Campbell’s vegetable stew. As weird as it sounds it doesn’t detract from the aroma, just adds another interesting layer.
The second this beer touched my lips I was in love. Sweet blackberry, lactic acid and sour mash blend together with a little bit of the vegetable aroma transferring to some slight taste, possibly in the form of beets. The balance on the flavors though is borderline perfection, the sweet jammy berry flavor, sour base marry together and form a most splendid union. The only thing bad to say about this beer is due to the large amount of carbonation it makes the mouth feel of the beer a little less desirable, but didn’t detract from the beautiful bouquet of flavors happening in the beer.