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.





Worthwhile French Beers: Hellemus

26 11 2008

I may have mentioned that we brought back some beer from Lille.  It turns out Nick got a photo of the lineup, so now I can share it with you.

So many beers, so little time.

We haven’t come close to getting through them yet, seeing as most of these are bières de garde, a potent (around 8%, usually) style similar to Belgian brews.  It’s sipping beer.  So far, we found the La Choulette Blonde to be unremarkable, and while their Ambrée was pretty good, we neglected to make any tasting notes, which greatly decreases the chance of it getting its own post (that is, until I can get my hands on some more).  But when I tasted this one:

Hellemus Blonde des Flandres

I immediately smiled and exclaimed, “This tastes like grapefruit!  I bet it would make a great brunch beer!”  Nick found it to be a bit on the sweet side, which I argued is one of the things that would make it so good for morning consumption (when events warrant).  I didn’t find the sweetness to be distracting, balanced as it was with the distinct tang of grapefruit.

The literature on the back of the bottle explains that Hellemus Blonde des Flandres is a natural, traditionally produced bière de garde.  It is unfiltered and unpasteurized, and they claim that the carefully chosen malts and hops assure a unique, authentic flavor.  I’ll say.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Les 3 Brasseurs

11 11 2008

Having been tipped off that I might find some good beers there, and having found a good last-minute weekend deal, Nick and I found ourselves in Lille last weekend.  A friend who used to live there recommended we check out Les 3 Brasseurs, a microbrewery/brewpub conveniently located right next to the train station.  Approaching it from across the square, we were greeted with this charming sight:

Doesn't Nick take great pictures?

This is, it turns out, the original location of Les 3 Brasseurs, which has expanded over the last twenty years to include locations in several French cities as well as in Canada.  But on to the beer…

Blonde and Ambrée

The first two we tried were the Blonde and the Ambrée.  The first sip provoked smiles on both our faces.  This is microbrew!  This is what I’ve been missing!  The Blonde had a clean, crisp flavor with a distinct hoppy aroma and a pleasing bitterness on the finish.  The Ambrée was smoother and maltier, but also had a well-balanced hoppiness to it.  As we savored our non-macrobrews, we perused a local paper and found a restaurant we wanted to try.  Confirming that Les 3 Brasseurs would be open for dinner on Sunday, we vowed to return to try the rest of their wares.

Which we did.  We failed to get any pictures on our second visit, but did taste two more beers.  The Blanche was fairly typical for the style, but the Brune was surprisingly tasty.  Dark and full-bodied, but again balanced nicely with hops, it drank more like an English porter than the sweeter, Belgian-style brune we were expecting.  The food was decent, beer-friendly fare such as Carbonnade (beef stewed with beer and onions), Chocroute garnie, and Flammekeuche (an Alsatian specialty – like a thin pizza spread with crème fraîche, onions, and lardons).

Good beer, hearty food, and cozy brewery environs: just the ticket after a cold day in Lille!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Félibrée

30 10 2008

For my second post in the (hopefully) ongoing French beer series, I will be spotlighting an organic beer called Félibrée.

Félibrée

Brewed in the Dordogne region using organic hop flowers, this beer is produced in small batches that apparently have a tendency to vary.  The one I tasted had a light bitterness set off by a hint of acidity on the finish.  It is unfiltered and unpasteurized, which adds to the handmade feel of the beer.

Nick commented that it tasted a bit like a homebrew he once made.  I concurred.  Félibrée definitely has that homemade quality.  It is by no means a perfect beer, but somehow that adds to its charm.  If I wanted a sterilized, predictable macrobrew, I’d have a Kronenbourg.  Like anything, when you start mass-producing beer, you lose a certain amount of character in favor of putting out a consistent product.  The slight flaws in the Félibrée (a little too sour, a little funky smelling) render it endearing and charismatic in a way that a technically perfect beer can never be.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Étoile du Nord

21 10 2008

France is not known for its beer.  This is not without reason – most French beers pale in comparison to those of its neighbors to the North, East, and West.  Belgian beers are quite easy to come by in French bars and grocery stores, while German and English beers are less common.  So when Nick announced that he had found a beer storethe other day, I was mainly excited to get my hands on some Spaten or Newcastle. 

While many of the beers in stock were Belgian, they tended to be the less common ones, so we stocked up on small batch Gueuze and Lambic before perusing the other offerings.  No Spaten or Newcastle, but they did have a wide selection of German Hefeweizen and a handful of French craft beers.  We decided to pick up a few of these, to see if French microbrew was anything like its counterparts abroad.

The first one I was drawn to bore the name Etoile du Nord (North Star) and I picked it up because of the words “Bière blonde houblonnée” meaning “hoppy blond beer.”

Etoile du Nord

If there’s one type of beer I miss, it’s the highly hopped microbrews of the Pacific Northwest.  I was hoping to get a little of my fix with this beer.  And I wasn’t hugely disappointed.  When poured, this beer had a very large head, but once you got down to the golden liquid, it had a distinct hoppy aroma and the mildly spicy flavor of fresh hops.  If this is what French microbrewers have to offer, I’m intrigued.  I can’t wait to get out there and start trying some more.

The topic of French beer came up in a discussion over on she eats, which is what got me thinking about doing a series on French beers.  I hope to post periodically about small-batch French beers that I think are worth drinking.  K, since you asked so nicely, here you go.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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