France’s Nord-Pas-de-Calais region is a charming patchwork of gently undulating farmlands edged by a scenic coastline and the border with Belgium. Unlike its Flemish neighbors, however, this area’s signature ale is not widely known to the American palate. It’s a shame because the Bière de Garde, which is traditionally brewed in winter or early spring and stored until summer, is a pleasure to enjoy during warm weather. Although a small but growing number of stateside brewers are now incorporating this style into their repertoires, true French-made examples remain relatively uncommon outside of Europe. For those who seek authenticity, Brasserie Castelian’s Blond Bière de Garde is brewed using regional ingredients that evoke the bucolic beauty of northern France. Poured from the uncorked bottle, this amber-colored beer shines pale gold at the base of the glass when presented to light and is unabashedly unfiltered judging by the observable yeast sediment. Notes of toffee, roasted nuts, herbs and grass play upon the malty, sweet aroma that develops as the beer warms. The biscuit-like malt taste is well balanced by the subtle presence of hops and a refreshing floral quality that makes this beer imminently drinkable. Pair it with roast duck or Maroilles cheese and dried fruits and this beer will quickly become the talk of your next dinner gathering. There’s no need to be tight-lipped about “one of France’s best kept secrets.”

SRP: $12

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