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.

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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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