Beer Review 0304: New Belgium Lips of Faith Biere de Garde

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In what was one of the final 2012 Lips of Faith beers from New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, Colorado), this Biere de Garde is a collaborative effort with Brewery Vivant (Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Brewery Vivant is inspired by the small farmhouse breweries of Southern Belgium and Northern France — and while the facility might be located in the middle of a neighborhood, the small batch brews that come out are definitely reminiscent of a small farmhouse brewery. Operating on a 20 barrel system, Brewery Vivant brews all beer in house and then pumps it over to their pub, which is attached to the facility.

Of course, New Belgium is one of the largest craft breweries in the United States, and will soon be expanding to a second facility, across the country in Asheville, North Carolina. Their Lips of Faith beers typically allow for experimentation and collaboration, and come in bomber bottle (22 oz.) size portions.

For this collaboration, a Biere de Garde (“beer for keeping,” meaning it was brewed in farmhouses in the winter and spring for enjoyment in the summer, when unpredictable problems with yeast were the norm) was created, spiced with orange peel. Brewery Vivant are experts at Biere de Garde, and their house yeast was used in this brew. Coming in at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume), the hops used are Target and Sorachi Ace, while the malt bill includes Pale, Munich, and C-120. The IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 18.

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The pour delivered an average size head, bright white and soapy atop a light golden beer. The body was exceptionally clear and had no particles or sediment, and the lacing was sparse, leaving behind only speckles of suds on my glass.

The nose followed exactly what was written on the side of the bottle, to a tee — in fact, I hesitate to even describe it because they did such an excellent job, but here it goes: lots of orange peel, front and center, along with a bevy of other citrus fruits, but predominately orange. The yeast is there, too; a nice peppery spice kick mixes with an earthen, slightly doughy yeast. There was a clove component, too, and this just smelled very earthy and alive in the glass.

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Tasting, the beer is exceptionally sweet up front, nearly too sweet. Tons of orange and a touch of lemon; at first, I thought I might have been eating Fruit Loops cereal, but then a peppery spice came on, and along with that spice came a turning of the sweet orange into a tart orange. The sweetness returns for the finish, pairing back up with the orange that never goes away, drying the palate out. Biere de Garde is light-bodied, with a thin but creamy and foamy mouthfeel.

I thought this collaboration to be fairly tasty, especially for the level of sweetness, which is almost overwhelming but doesn’t quite hit that level. What’s missing from this one is body; the texture is right — creamy and foamy — but there isn’t enough feel to support that 9% ABV. Decent, but it’s surely not worth the premium you’ll fork over for this bottle.

New Belgium Lips of Faith Biere de Garde, 83 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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