Worthwhile French Beers: Thomas Beckett Bière de Noël

24 12 2009

As Calvin’s Dad once said, “I think Santa would rather have a cold beer.”  (Enjoy that link, by the way.  Terribly distracting.)

Bière de Noël

According to the brewer, the Thomas Beckett Brewery, which is based in Bourgogne, this Christmas brew is part of a tradition born in the north of France.  The master brewers of the region got into the habit of concocting beers enriched with spices such as coriander, cardamom, and cloves.  They shared these special seasonal brews with their best clients and closest neighbors.

Luckily for the rest of us, they eventually decided to start sharing with a broader audience.  This beer pours out in a clear, chestnut/mahogany-colored stream, and settles in the glass with a fluffy, pillowy, tan head.  It smells of dark roasted malt, reminiscent of molasses or chocolate, with hints of chestnut and spice.  In the mouth, the tiny bubbles announce and incredibly smooth and balanced beer, with a roasted, slightly sweet flavor.  Vanilla and tobacco make non-obtrusive guest appearances, and an ideally subtle warm spiciness (notably clove and nutmeg) imbues the whole without ever becoming overpowering.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Ninkasi IPA

20 12 2009

Nnkasi IPA

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Worthwhile French Beer post.  Not for lack of tasty French beers, but mainly for lack of patience for taking tasting notes when I’d rather be playing Cribbage or MarioKart.  Being a big fan of the IPA (India Pale Ale) style, I definitely wanted to record this one, though.

Ninkasi is a brewery/brewpub based in Lyon, with another location in  St. Etienne.  It is named for the Sumerian goddess of beer.  And they have not let her down on this one. 

Pouring it out into glasses, we noticed the beer was slightly cloudy, though it is likely that this has more to do with our storing the bottle on its side than anything the brewers intended.  However, the cloudiness does indicate the presence of yeast in the bottle, which in another life Nick would have harvested and cultured for his own brewing purposes.  Nonetheless, the color was a beautiful light caramel, with a bubbly, off-white head.  The floral hop nose gives way to a sweet, medium-roasted malt flavor and smooth mouthfeel, which segues effortlessly into a nice, sharp hop finish whose bitterness lingers, but doesn’t overstay its welcome. 

We were pleasantly surprised at how good this beer actually was, which makes me eager to try some of the other offerings from Ninkasi.  Or maybe even check out the brewpub sometime.  Could be time soon for a weekend in Lyon…

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: La Mandubienne Blonde

31 10 2009

This is pretty much the last post I expected to write in Burgundy Month.  But yes, Nick and I did stumble across a locally made beer while in Dijon.

A glas of Burgundian... beer?

When we go on these weekend jaunts, I research the dining options, and Nick finds out about the beer scene.  He found a neat-looking place called Le Cappuccino that he wanted to check out, so we headed to a less-touristed part of town for a little local flavor.  Inside, we found that they even had a local beer on tap – La Mandubienne.  They even had brochures from the brewery, Brasserie des Trois Fontaines, which we unfortunately did not have time to visit.  In any case, we enjoyed the beer, and Nick wrote up a review for the website Beer Advocate.  He writes:

Color is opalescent wheaty-yellow to dark straw. Good high head that eventually settles into a nice lace over the beer. Aroma is rather full of esters (banana & pear mostly), but not over-the-top Jolly Rancher by any stretch.

Read the rest here.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Page 24

25 05 2009

Page 24, from Brasserie St. Germain, may very well be the best French beer I’ve tried so far.

Awwww, yeah.

Brewed in the Pas-de-Calais region in the North of France, using only regionally produced malt and hops, these beers are decidedly non-Belgian in character.  Upon pouring the Réserve Hildegarde Blonde, Nick and I noted its deeper than usual color… it’s really more of a strawberry blonde.  Nick was the first to take a sip, and afterwards he smiled, telling me, “You’re going to like this.  A lot.”  And he was right.  The distinct hoppy aromas give way to a perfectly malt-balanced quaff that still managed to retain its hop notes.  The only problem is that we only bought one bottle, and it was gone way too fast.

So naturally, we opened the Ambrée (another Réserve Hildegarde).  Slightly darker in color than its sister, it tasted slightly less sweet, although the malt remained in balance.  Rather than increasing the amount of malt in order to produce the color, the brewers just used a darker malt.  Without the malty distractions of typical amber beers, the hops assert their presence, though not forcefully.  While we didn’t like it quite as much as the Blonde, it’s still a very well-built beer.

“So we like this Page 24?” I asked.

“Considerably,” Nick replied.

We will be buying more of this beer, for sure.  Glancing over their website (linked above), I am intrigued by the rhubarb beer, and very interested in making a pilgrimage to the brewery for a tour and a chance to sample the entire line.  At 3 euros a pop, it sounds like a bargain to me!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Britt

29 04 2009

Thanks to Nick’s skill at sniffing out beer shops, and my diligence in reading labels, we found some beer from Bretagne!

Britt's Blonde and Blanche Beers (try saying that three times fast!)

We were eager to try it when we got home, so into the freezer it went for a short spell.  Malheureusement, they got left in a little too long and started to freeze.  It was very nearly a disaster.  But we kept our cool, and more importantly, kept the caps on the bottles to maintain the internal atmosphere.  Or something. 

At long last, we opened the bottle of Britt Blonde.  An unpasteurized ale, it had a slightly cloudy appearance and a very light floral/fruity aroma.  Upon sipping, it exhibited a distinct cidery tang – this beer definitely has character!

The Blanche was cloudy and yellow, as white beers tend to be.  It tasted remarkably similar to the Blonde, only slightly sweeter.  Nowhere near as highly perfumed as a typical blanche, we were less impressed by this one.

The brewery, Brasserie de Bretagne, produces six lines of beers.  The Britt line contains three standards: Blonde, Blanche, and Rousse.  There also appears to be a rotating seasonal brew or two.

And I thought they only made cider in Bretagne!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Strasbourg Edition

22 02 2009

One of the four "Carré d'Or" streets in Strasbourg

Like I mentioned last week, Nick and I spent a weekend in Strasbourg, the largest city in Alsace.  Alsace is France’s most important beer-producing region, and by “important” I mean that in terms of volume.  Kronenbourg and Fischer, two of the country’s largest breweries, are based in Alsace, the former being the biggest-selling brewer in France.  We tried unsuccessfully to get a tour of the Kronenbourg brewery, located just outside Strasbourg, but we were probably better off hunting down the local microbreweries anyway.

The bar at La Lanterne

Copper tanks at La Lanterne

Finding La Lanterne was a bit of a challenge.  The place is tucked away on a side street of a side street, and from the outside looks like a complete dive.  Inside, though, it’s inviting, and the beer is freshly brewed on the premises.  It was a real treat to sit in a brewpub and sip a tasty beer while enjoying the ambiance.

The Kohler-Rehm Brewery, on the other hand, is centrally located with a grandiose façade that belies the generic interior.

Read the rest of this entry »





Worthwhile French Beers: Moulins D’Ascq

15 12 2008

Looks like this French beer quest has some momentum!  It turns out that once you start looking for something, you really do see more of it.  Since I’m feeling optimistic, I’m covering two beers from the same brewery: the Blonde and the Ambrée from Moulins d’Ascq.  According to their website, the company was started in 1999 by Mathieu Lepoutre.  He decided to make organic beer because he believes it is the best way to preserve the natural flavor of the ingredients, as well as being better for the environment.  The beer-lover and tree-hugger in me are equally thrilled.

Moulins d'Ascq Ambrée

The Ambrée poured out cloudy, with a medium amber color.  It was quite effervescent, with a thin, quickly dissipating head.  Nick said it was fairly typical of unfiltered amber beer, with a nice balance of malt and hops.  Like the Félibrée, another organic beer, the Moulins d’Ascq Ambrée had a certain unrefined, farmhouse aspect to it, though I would be less likely to use the term “flawed” when describing it.

Moulins d'Ascq Blonde

The Blonde was cloudy as well (not surprising, considering all of Moulins d’Ascq’s beers are unpasteurized and unfiltered) with a thick head composed of large bubbles.  The golden-colored liquid has a grassy hop aroma which comes through on the palate as well.  Sweet, citrus-y yeast flavors balance out the hops for a very smooth quaff.

Moulins d’Ascq also produces Blanche, Triple, and Bière de Noël.  I will be on the lookout for those, especially the latter – ’tis the season!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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