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The Beer Circle » Biere de Mars, New Belgium Brewing Co. » New Belgium Lips of Faith: Biere de Mars

New Belgium Lips of Faith: Biere de Mars

I don’t know very much about the Biere de Mars style; I know from my knowledge of French that it’s a March beer, but that’s not very helpful. When I saw New Belgium’s Biere de Mars on the shelves back home, it read “Ale brewed with Spices.” Still not helpful. It turns out that the Biere de Mars is a variation of the Biere de Garde, and somewhat similar to a saison. Typically brewed in late winter or early spring, they’re meant to be drank quickly– hence, Mars. I kind of dropped the ball on that one as it’s August, but it just got lost in the back of my cellar for a bit.

Lisa Grimm for Serious Eats writes…

Another characteristic both beers share is that they were typically cellared—Bière de Garde translates as ‘beer for keeping’—and consumed some months after they were initially produced, so there is also a relationship with Germany’s lagers. Indeed, in the middle of the 19th century, a technical dictionary of the period suggests that Bière de Garde, Bière de Mars, and Das Lagerbier were all useful synonyms for ‘Blink’ beer—a term one is unlikely to come across in modern usage. While the Belgian connections are widely acknowledged today, it would seem that some reference to German lager traditions may also come into play—especially given the frequency with which commercial examples of Bière de Mars from Strasbourg are mentioned in pre-20th century texts—and Germany was right across the river (much of the time).

But what makes the springtime version of Bière de Garde so unique? While originally brewed for consumption in March (before the heat of the summer made brewing a riskier proposition), it seems that the seasonal aspect of Bière de Mars was already something of a memory before the advent of refrigeration. The beer’s reputation was firmly established beyond France by the 19th century, and it had become popular—and occasionally sneer-worthy—with the traveling set. Even an otherwise matter-of-fact British publication on trade laws and taxation, originally published in the 1840s, enthused about the beer of the Nord-Pas de Calais region:

“Beer is brewed at all seasons in France, but that made in the month of March (“Biere de Mars”) is the most esteemed.”

It seems that although it’s not a commonly brewed style, it’s one rich in terms of history. Lisa notes in her article that there is evidence that Biere de Mars were also sought out for health purposes in addition to leisure.  I’m sore from the gym last night, so clearly I have to give it a shot.  Looking at New Belgium’s description makes me think this is going to be a lot more than an “Ale with Spices”…

With earthy tones of ripe mango and lemon verbena, this bottle-conditioned ale reflects the hearty character of the southern Belgian and northern French countrysides. Brewed with barley, oats and wheat malt, Biere de Mars’ celestial orange hue inspired the planetary play on words.

Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain, added for bottle-conditioning creates a refreshingly sour flash across the palate. Lemon peel coupled with the lemon verbena imparts fruitlike character and a citrusy finish.

Lips of Faith Biere de Mars
The Biere de Mars pours a medium honey color, with a very meringue-like ivory colored head. The foam dissipated somewhat quickly, going from about 2.5 inches to an inch within about 2 minutes. The resulting lacing was rather lovely.
The aroma on this beer isn't very prominent. I get a general smell of earthiness and cloves, with notes of sweetness. At times I can smell the lemon verbena, but not consistently.
The most surprising thing to me about the taste is how malty it is. This moves onto a really refreshing and light sour taste, with a slightly hoppy and malty finish. I would like it more if the malt characteristics weren't quite so strong on the finish, and it finished more sour. What is strange is the strong caramel flavor... it's like I don't really know what I'm tasting. Caramel? Tropical fruit? Wait... what? This kind of tastes like an 'everything and the kitchen sink' beer. I wish it weren't so complex, because to me some of the flavors are competing with each other as opposed to working together.
New Belgium's Biere de Garde has a medium mouthfeel, though much lower carbonation than I expected given how it poured. Despite this, it's fairly easy drinking, though I think the mouthfeel would be more congruent with the sour and tropical fruit flavors if it were slightly more effervescent.
If I recall correctly, this was $6.99 for the bomber. I feel like that was a fair price, but I wouldn't pay much more for it.
Overall, this was a pretty strange beer. That being said, I liked drinking it when I wasn't sitting there breaking down the caramel and mango brawl. It introduced me to a new genre of beer, which you should check out if you have the chance.

Beer Stats
Style: Biere de Mars
Serving: Bottle
Size: 220z
ABV: 6.20%
BA Score: 83
RB Score: 92

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Written by Paige Deckert

Paige is a fifth year graduate student at Penn State; she received her craft beer education while bartending during undergrad at the University of Illinois. Over several months, Rogue’s Dead Guy served as her gateway beer, because it was $2/pint on Thursdays, and thus offered the highest ABV/$. This eventually turned into enjoyment, and everything is history from there. Her first legal beer was Robert the Bruce on cask at the Blind Pig in Champaign, followed by the Duchess de Bourgogne. Paige has visited over 15 breweries, including Great Divide, Bells, Jolly Pumpkin, Three Floyds and Dogfish Head, with plans to add more in 2012 via trips to San Diego, Phoenix, and Austin. Paige became friends with Russ (and subsequently Garrett) when they became friends on untappd. She clearly remembers seeing a check-in of his and thinking, “Who is this clown checking into Miller Light at the Shandygaff?” Soon thereafter he introduced himself at a Zeno’s beerfest, and they bonded over their beer geekery (sans adjuct lagers). Find Paige Deckert on Google Plus

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