Saturday morning dawned, as many weekend days do in Paris, bright and sunny. Despite the cold, Nick and I thought we’d take a day trip to one of the many small towns around Paris. We like to do this from time to time, because it’s really amazing how short a train trip it takes to find yourself in what feels like a very small burg in the middle of nowhere. Of course, by the time we had eaten breakfast and bundled ourselves up for a nice long walk in the country, the sky had gone completely overcast. Not to be deterred, we hopped on the metro to the Gare St. Lazare and caught a train to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a town about half an hour’s train ride northwest of Paris. It is located at the spot where the Seine and the Oise rivers meet, ans as such, was once a hub of river transport in Northern France. Now most of its barges are being used as houseboats, but if you’re interested in that kind of thing, they have a whole museum dedicated to the barges. It also happens to be twinned with Chimay, Belgium. This post is about beer, I promise.
Our original plan had been to explore Conflans, then walk about four kilometers along the river to the next town, which we would also have a gander at, before heading back to Paris. Well. It turned out to be much colder and windier than we thought. We walked into town from the train station, sat down on a bench on the riverfront to plan our route, then walked uphill to the Tour Montjoie, the remains of an 11th century castle. We passed by the Saint Maclou church, built around the same time, but it was mostly covered in scaffolding and not much to look at. The views over the Seine from the top of the hill were, though. We made our way back down to the river via a series of almost hidden staircases, debating whether or not to go through with the 4K walk we had planned. Cold and hunger were starting to set in when we spied a cozy-looking bar offering Belgian beers on tap and plates of sausage from the Aveyron. The decision was not a difficult one.
We settled in with a couple of beers and a tasty sausage. We noticed that in addition to the well-chosen tap beers, there were crates of bottled beers from England, Belgium, and France lining the walls. A Frenchman and an Englishman walked in (I know it sounds like a bad joke) and we got to chatting. In talking with them it came up that there is a brewery in a neighboring town which is open to visitors on weekends. As luck would have it, the bar carried at least one of their beers, and that is how I got to taste La Véliocasse from the Brasserie du Vexin.
La Véliocasse is a honeyed amber beer which won the gold medal at the Concours General Agricole de Paris in 2008, and silver in 2010. It poured out a lovely amber color, its effervescence in the form of very many tiny bubbles which formed a good, thick head. Aroma-wise, there was a lot going on with this beer. I smelled toasted grains, Nick picked up on the fruity and grassy notes, while the Englishman thought it was floral and perfumey. Upon tasting, the sweet, malty, caramelized flavors dominated, but not overly so. La Véliocasse remains an eminently drinkable beer despite the rather high alcohol content – seven percent. Strangely enough, the beer trails off at the end, leaving you waiting for the flavor punch alluded to in the nose.
Seeing as I’m always on the hunt for locally-made food products, beers are no exception. I’m interested to take a trip to the brewery one of these days, and I’m definitely looking forward to returning to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine when the weather turns warm again. I can just imagine sitting on the patio of that bar (whose name I irresponsibly neglected to note), sipping delicious beers and watching the boats go down the river.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.