"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Diebolt: Brassage de la fierté de la France

Typically, I write epic tales of hopping from one brewery to another, of traveling cross-country, stopping at taprooms along the way, and of colossal beer festivals spanning entire convention room floors, mountainous valleys, or zoological parks.  Sometimes, however, Nicole and I just plain visit a new brewery—no pageantry, no over-arching storyline, just beer.  Still, as supporters of the Colorado craft beer scene, we want to give all local breweries their due publicity regardless of whether or not it’s within an interesting context.  Good beer is good beer even if nothing adventurous surrounded our visit.  Thus, this mini update on Diebolt Brewing (which, because of my propensity for long-windedness, isn’t all that mini).

Diebolt is a practice in juxtaposition.  On one hand, the building in which it resides is a bit rough around the edges: industrial brick walls, loading dock doors, and metal screens over the windows.  It doesn’t look like a brewery, it looks like a place where the mafia would take you to get wacked.  The interior, if you were to remove the fanciful artwork adorning the space, continues the theme, gives off warehouse vibes.  One might assume Diebolt’s a sketchy place where only cheap whisky and diesel beer is served.  But you’d be wrong.  I haven’t yet talked about what’s on the other hand.

The owners of Diebolt have a strong, proud, French ancestry, even claiming they have “distant relatives currently making champagne in the Alsace Lorraine region of France.”  Backed up by this Gallic heritage, Diebolt specializes in French-style ales and, while it’s stereotypical to assume anything French is automatically high-class, cultured, it’s generally more true than not and, specifically to beer, it’s definitely true. 

Granted, much of what constitutes “French ale”—such as saison—is actually from the French-speaking region of Belgium AKA Wallonia.  Borders are no more than imaginary lines on a map, though; whether from the south of Belgium or the north of France, the people on either side of the line are connected by language, a shared history, and I imagine a similar genetic make-up.  What’s the difference between the Walloons and the northern French?  Not much (if anything) ergo France ought to feel as strong a national pride for these beers as Belgium.  Of course, there are a few beer styles such as bière de garde that’re actually from France-proper; not all French ales fall into a gray area, our amis have a few beers they can 100% call their own.  They don’t have to coast solely on what their northern neighbors are brewing.

While not all the beers at Diebolt are French-inspired (they also have the usual suspects: IPA, porter, wheat…etc.), I wanted to drink the fierté de la France so I ordered A Votre Sante Winter Bière de Garde (8.1% ABV, 21 IBU).  I must admit, I’m not well-versed in the bière de garde style.  Quite frankly, it’s not popular among American brewers; it’s a rare treat for the U.S. beer geek.  I could go on and on about IPAs because they’re the darlings of the craft beer movement, the poster child.  Bière de garde, on the other hand, is some weird, saison-like oddity you hardly see.  It’s not well known and that’s exactly why I ordered it; I’m always looking to broaden my beery horizons. 

A Votre Sante is a very deep, murky-red/brown beer with a slightly off-white head.  The aroma suggests a mild sweetness and a raisin-like quality and the flavor, while not domineering, is accompanied by a little alcoholic burn.  One might describe the taste of A Votre Sante as a bit funky, musty, and prune-like.  I would deem it a more advanced, more complex saison.   

A Votre Sante
And so concludes this mini update on Diebolt.  I’ll end the post with a thought on the Denver beer scene:  as more and more breweries open, cementing the Mile High City’s status as the premier craft beer metro, it’s important for new breweries to differentiate themselves.  Diebolt has done just that.  Where else but Diebolt specializes in French beer?  France isn’t the first nation that comes to mind when one thinks of great beer countries but Diebolt found a niche and filled it.  Seriously, with the I-don’t-even-know-how-many breweries in Colorado, I can only think of, like, 2 or 3 where I’ve seen a bière de garde on the menu.  A word to the wise craft brewer—follow Diebolt’s lead, find an untouched demographic, and tap it.