Showing posts with label France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label France. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Young and The Old

Back in the winter of 2008 it would have been almost inconceivable that I would be capable of keeping a cellar of beers with the intent of aging them. I was an impulsive drinker, buying stuff and enjoying it within a week or so. Aware of this predilection for drinking beer, I bought a bottle of Orval while visiting my parents in France that Christmas, and squirrelled it away in a dark cool place to await my eventual return.

Fast forward to the winter of 2011 and I again found myself in the French countryside visiting my parents. As you likely know, I stocked up on most of the beer for that trip by ordering a load from Beer Ritz for my parents to pick up at my eldest brother's place. However, on the first shopping trip of the holiday my mind was set on the beer aisle at the L'eclerc in La Souterraine. Sadly there was no Unibroue this time, but Orval was there, and only €1.60 a bottle (that's $2.03 or £1.32).

The aim of my experiment was to drink a young version of Orval followed by an aged, from the same glass, suitably cleaned between drinkings of course. I wish I could share with you the pictures of I took, but circumstances have mitigated against me on that front, hence the old picture of Orval above. Suffice to say Mrs Velkyal and I are currently sans camera. Anyway, to the beers.

Young Orval was largely as I remembered it, pouring a deep slightly cloudy orange with a voluptuous white head. The nose was at first lemony followed by cupboards that haven't been dusted for some time, with a trace of old man pub. In the mélange of aromas I also picked up traces of spicy hops and a fruitiness that reminded me of apricots and peaches. In the drinking bit, which is in reality the best bit, the sweetness of the malt held up firmly against the bitter twang of the hops and the slight sour tinge that was flitting in and out. When I first drank Orval, I wasn't sure what to make of the bright, sparkling effervescence of the beer, now I really enjoyed it. A quick swirl of the bottle and in went the rest of the dregs, yum.

Old Orval surprised me by being a slightly darker shade of orange, bordering on a light brown, and the head while voluminous, was rather less buxom that the young version. What a hit of sourness smacks you in the face when you smell this stuff, as well as some kirsch and the lemons of youth have become moldy. People often say it smells of barnyard and leather, I got more hay and cow shed (and yes, I have spent enough time in cow sheds to know how they smell). Rescuing my olfactory senses from the onslaught of tarts longing to abuse it, I took a mouthful. This stuff has zing, yes it is tart and sharp but it didn't remind me of vinegar in the slightest, in the background the same malt sweetness of youth lingered, but the sourness of age had come to the fore, making it very dry and puckering to drink. I bloody loved it.

Come then with me to 2012 and yes I have a cellar of beers being aged for some illusive special occasion. I think some Orval had better join them, mind you at about $6 a bottle (three times the price in France) it won't be an awful lot.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Parisian Blonde

Tucked away on the Rue des Cannettes in Paris is a brewpub that goes by the name . It is a place that I have been aware of pretty much ever since my parents moved to the Limousin area of France and going to visit entailed a couple of hours in Paris waiting for a train. The main reason Mrs V and I had never visited was because we were either waiting for said train early in the morning, or we only had a very short amount of time and needed to eat and drink somewhere close to Gare d'Austerlitz.

As I mentioned last week though, just before Hogmanay we spent a couple of days in the city, with The Tale of the Ale author Reuben and his wife. Finally we had time, and it is never a bad thing to have exemplary company to go to a pub with.

From the outside it kind of looks like many an ethnopub in the great cities of the world, dark wood, lights that are perhaps a tad garish, you know the kind of places, often they go by the name "The Dubliner", "The Rose and Crown" and so on.

The first thing I noticed as we were being led to our table (never sure how I feel about that in a pub, but that's a different story) was the taps*. No fancy set ups, no labels telling drinkers what was coming out of each one, brass, chrome and wood, industrial, suggesting a confidence in their product. This was clearly a beer place, and beer places are my kind of places - I am starting to believe that the pub is a transnational institution.

They had four beers available the night we visited, a Blanche, Blonde, Ambrée and Brune. Did I mention yet that the place was packed? Absolutely to the rafters packed and so in fear that there may be too long of a downtime between pints, Reuben and I ordered two pints each while the ladies had a bottle of wine. A quick side note, did you know that Virginia law stipulates that a person can only have 1 alcoholic beverage at a time? It was nice not having to think about such stupidity.

I ordered the Blonde, described as a "Lager Ale", and the Brune, described as a "Stout". I was fairly sure that the Blonde would be something along the lines of a K?lsch and I wasn't disappointed. Clean, crisp and with a fruitiness that balanced the hop bite very nicely, it was just what the doctor ordered after strolling the streets of Paris in the rain. The Brune was nice too, not really a Stout as we would understand them, but then the style is less important than how good it tastes, and taste good it did. Admittedly I stuck with the Blonde from there on out, served as they were in hefty mugs that made a satisfying clunk as Reuben and I cheersed each fresh pint.

Good company, good beer and a pub with a good atmosphere, what more could anyone want from a night out drinking?

* For some pictures of the night and the taps, see .

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When Beers Inspire

Back in November I had a choice to make. My parents were going to be in England visiting my eldest brother, and they were taking their car, so I asked if they wouldn't mind taking a case of beer back to France for me. Naturally they were happy to do so, and so I ordered a selection from Beer Ritz.

There was one beer which I absolutely knew I wanted in the selection, the magnificent Timothy Taylor Landlord. I had last devoured a bottle of this nectar in 2008 whilst at the same brother's house for Christmas, which was the last time the entire clan was together at the same time. Knowing that I loved it, I ordered 4 bottles so I could indulge to my heart's content.

At 4.2% abv, Landlord is a beer you can sit with and drink a fair few of without keeling over when you stand up and discover your legs no longer function. I love the fact that the label describes it as a "Strong Pale Ale" and while I may quibble over the use of the word "Strong" there is no arguing that this is as packed with flavour as any, more feted or trendy, beer. I will not bore you with tasting notes, but rather simply say this, if there is a better Best Bitter in the world I am yet to drink it.

Unfortunately I have never seen it in the US, but I will have a stab at brewing a clone version. I have read that the grist is simplicity itself, 100% Golden Promise, the hopping is a blend of Fuggles, Styrian Goldings and East Kent Goldings, and I have a packet of Wyeast West Yorkshire yeast in the fridge. I was planning my first brew of the year to be an 1868 Younger's XP (a Scottish IPA brewed with Saaz), but that might get bumped to the second brew of the year.

Each of the 4 bottles I had in France went down with inordinate ease, hopefully my own version will do likewise.

* again the picture is not from this trip, but there is a very good reason for this, honest.

Monday, January 2, 2012

When Things Get Better

It was nearly 7pm when our little Dash 8 swooped into . It was Hogmanay, though for Reuben of Tale of the Ale fame it was already 2012. Mrs Velkyal and I had finally finished crossing the Atlantic, having spent 2 weeks in France, the last 2 days of which were spent in Paris with Reuben and his wife.  I am not much of one for flying, or at least the taking off and landing bits, I don't mind the middle bit as long as there is an absence of turbulence. I also find that being 6'4" makes flying an exercise in feeling the pain of the sardine.

From a beer point of view, France was something of a . Much of the beer was distinctly meh, some entirely undrinkable, some reassuringly as good as usual and some a lot better than expected.

If you have been following Fuggled for a few years, you may well recall that the last time I went to Paris was in January 2009, and that I was somewhat scathing about a British themed brewpub near Gare d'Austerlitz, The Frog and British Library. The beer was thin, the mouthfeel overwhelmingly watery and in the case of the stout, simply unfinishable, but the food was good. We found ourselves there again on Thursday night as, out of necessity, we were in the area and needed feeding. The food is still good, and happily the beer is much improved. The In Seine no longer left me wishing that was exactly where it was, indeed I had a second pint as I revelled in the flavours and aromas of Styrian Goldings - a hop that I like very much. The Dark de Triomphe actually got finished this time. I am not saying they are wonderful beers, but they are drinkable and repeatedly so.

Thus on Friday, having walked from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, via the Champs Elysee and my first ever hot beer (won't be doing that again, I am sure I can still feel the fur in my veins from the sugar), we jumped on the Metro to head for the original Frog brewpub, The Frog and Rosbif. Part of me wonders if having a British themed pub on Rue de Saint Denis is irony, coincidence or the 20th Century equivalent of hoisting your bow drawing fingers at the vanquished French?

Whatever the truth may be, one thing is certain, Le Frog and Rosbif would be a regular haunt for me if I lived in Paris, simply because they have the In Seine on cask (or at least they did on our visit, maybe they rotate). Not only do they have it on cask, the waitress wasn't utterly baffled by me asking if it was sparkled (it was) and happy to give me an unsparkled pint so I could compare. I won't get into the ins and outs of the sparkler debate but I prefer sparkled beer and this test did nothing to challenge that.

Discovering that the beer at the Frog brewpubs had improved was probably one of my beer highlights of the trip. I am one of those people who thinks that it is better for the beer industry as a whole for existing breweries to get better rather than go under; it keeps people in jobs for a start. Some might moan that the beer styles being brewing by The Frog guys are uninteresting. However, as I have said many, many times, if a brewer can't make a sub 4.5% abv beer that I want to drink several off, then I wonder to myself how good a brewer is he or she in reality?

* The picture is from the 2009 trip, the In Seine I had last week was darker, so I guess they may have messed with the recipe as well.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I've not really been thinking too much about beer of late.

Sure I have been brewing various bits and pieces, and am planning to brew again this weekend, a new recipe for an English Strong Ale, hopped with First Gold and East Kent Goldings and then fermented with Whitbread yeast, hoping for a 6% brew which will be known as Winter Gold. Most of it will be going to Mrs Velkyal's uncle for his Christmas baskets for his clients, as will more of my Chocolate Foreign Extra Stout called Machair Mor.

I haven't bought a single bottle of beer for the cellar in over a month as I decided that it was time to trawl through the various gathered bottles already there. I have set myself the task of not buying any more bottled beer until the cellar is at least 50% less than it was when I did an inventory. I hope I am not the only person who keeps an inventory of what I have knocking about! Naturally the "beer for special occasions" sub-cellar will remain largely untouched, waiting for that undefined "special occasion", or some random Friday when I am feeling grumpy and fancy something a bit, well, fancy.

Some of my beers in the "not so special" section of the cellar have been knocking about for quite some time, so hopefully they aren't entirely awful. I have enough Dark Starr Stout from Starr Hill to do plenty of baking and cooking with it, just in case.

Another reason for not buying as much bottled beer at the moment is that Mrs V and I are planning to go to France for Christmas, and I would rather put that money to one side for France. I love going to my parents' place, about an hour from Limoges, in a tiny hamlet with bugger all there. A couple of weeks of quiet, mum's cooking and hopefully plenty of local beer to indulge in sounds like a pretty good antidote to life at the moment. It will be the first time we have headed back across the Atlantic since we moved here, and there is a 3 year old bottle of Orval waiting for me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

En Garde!

Last Friday I wrote a post asking for suggestions as to what to brew. The plan had been to do said brewing on Sunday, but when I crawled out of bed that day I simply couldn't be bothered to do anything. However, tomorrow Mrs V is off doing some running for charity thing and I will have the flat to myself for a few hours, so brewing will commence nice and early tomorrow morning, by which I mean about 7 o'clock.

There were a few interesting suggestions made in the comments for last week's post and taking some inspiration from them, I have decided to brew a peat smoked Bière de Garde. The recipe is as follows:
  • 4.5lbs Vienna Malt
  • 12oz light brown sugar
  • 2oz Caramel 120
  • 2oz Caramel 80
  • 2oz Peated Malt
  • 1oz Chocolate Wheat
  • 0.4oz 3.9% Saaz for 90 minutes
  • 0.5oz 3.9% Saaz for 15 minutes
  • Wyeast 3725 Biere de Garde
I decided to go with Vienna malt as the base rather than Maris Otter or a Pale Ale malt pretty much on a whim, and because I wanted the biscuity flavours that comes with it. The sugar is there to add a dry finish, and the Saaz hops because I have plenty of them and they are the greatest hop in the history of humanity without question.

Based on past experience and the wonderful Beer Calculus, I am expecting the following numbers with this beer:
  • OG: 1.063 (15.4 Plato)
  • FG: 1.013 (3.3 Plato)
  • ABV: 6.7%
  • SRM: 12 - copper to red
  • IBU: 19.7
Primary fermentation will be 14 days at about 72°F followed by a couple of months in the cellar. Just in time to take to France for Christmas and hopefully try some alongside some of my favourite beers in the world, such as 3 Monts and anything else I can find from La Brasserie de St-Sylvestre. Quick side comment, the French make some wonderful beers, but they don't get out much, which is a good thing in my world.

I haven't thought of a name yet for the beer, not for a want of trying, though with the Vienna malt, Czech hops and French beer style I am tempted to name it after Marie Antoinette, sister of Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor (the one from Amadeus), though naturally I am hoping the beer keeps its head.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Brewer of the Week

I guess most people don't really think of beer and France at the same time. However, some of my favourite beers are from France, La Goudale and 3 Monts for example. In the area where my parents live there are just shy of a dozen small breweries making artisanal beer, mostly set up and run by British expats. For this week's Brewer of the Week though we head north, to Normandy, a part of the world perhaps more famed for its cider, and a brewery making British style cask ale.

Name: Steve Skews
Brewery: Le Brewery

How did you get into brewing as a career?

My apple trees blew down in a gale (I was a cider maker).

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

A passion for sharing happiness.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Homebrewed since age 14. Converted none but influenced by all, for better and worse.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

No…. Now ive got a big boy’s toy!...its still home brewing really - but with class!!

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

It changes from day to day and morn til night .. today I have been drinking my wheat beer, its 32°C here and the wheat beer, ‘Mysterious lady’ at 3.8% abv and 6°C is very refreshing. But now the sun is setting and I have a pint of ‘Conquerant’ our malty 5.5% best bitter.. My friend is making a ‘Greek Curry’ for dinner!!! throughout which we will drink Norman Gold, abig hoppy 4.9% golden beer, after which we will probably sup a little ‘Decca-Dance’ the 10° I.P.A that I have made to celebrate 10 years of brewing here in Normandy!!

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

Worked in several great breweries with some inspirational brewers, they're all mad but brilliant, enjoyed every brew !!!!

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Don’t have a favorite – haven’t made that one yet!! Norman Gold is I guess the one a drink most, love the hops!

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

Authenticity is of course important, and with the great variety and quality of English malts, (ours is Marris otter from Warminster Maltings,), it's possible to bring an amazing variety of flavours into classic beers! British style of brewing is totally wonderfully unique.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

Cotswold Spring Brewery, Nick Milo, the brewer, is a master, completely mad, but a monsterous master, look out for his beers they're going to seriously impress the British, his talent was rather wasted on the French!!

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Wow! Difficult!! Ruddles County, as it was in the 1960’s. Adnams Tally Ho, same period . Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter, (but only as it was served in the Queen something or other in Uffington) and more recently, J H B or Summer Lightening. I think the bank manager would prefer I’d invented Fosters, Bud or Kro! Bbut then I wouldn’t have anything here to drink..!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Good Gard!

I have mentioned previous that I wasn’t really expecting to find a lot of French beer worth drinking during the Christmas period, and was expecting to have to buy whatever Belgian beers were available. However, I knew I would be making an exception for a beer from Les Brasseurs de Gayant called La Goudale, which comes in corked 0.75 litre bottles as you can see above.

Mrs Velkyal and I spent Christmas 2007 at my parents’ place as well, and this was one of the beers I tried, and enjoyed. Given that my knowledge of beer and brewing have increased exponentially in the last 12 months, I was keen to get hold of some and re-appraise it in light the acquired knowledge.
Having learned that the only beer glass my parents possess is the Hoegaarden one in the pictures, I poured myself half a bottle. Although the picture doesn’t really show it very well, the beer pours a rich golden colour with a huge foamy white head, which the picture does show rather well. The beer is also quite bubbly, sustaining the head so that it never fully disappears. The nose is rather hoppy, with plenty of grassy, floral notes, as well as touches of over ripe bananas and cloves, without realizing it I was drinking a wheat beer – confirmed by checking the ingredients in my French-English dictionary. Having an ABV of 7.2% this was one of the stronger wheat beers I have had, however it was very smooth and the alcohol only kicking in with a warming glow once it was some way down my throat.

One of the conversations which come up regularly on the Czech beer blogging scene, in particular over on Beer Culture, is the use of labels in order to inform and educate the drinker. I quite like La Goudale’s labels, in particular the back label, which explains the origins of the name – in this case dating from the 14th century and well made bieres being known in Flanders as Goudale, Goudalle or later on Good Ale.
This is a beer that I very much like, and whenever we make it to France is on my shopping list.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More French Discoveries

Over the Christmas holiday we did a lot of travelling. Not only flying from Prague to Paris, and then getting the train to La Souterraine (I love the fact that my parents live near a town called "underground"), but a few days after arriving we drove from their place to Ashford in Kent to spend the actual Christmas period with my eldest brother.

Obviously getting from France to the UK means crossing the Channel, which means sitting around in the Eurotunnel waiting zone for your letter to be called. A quick aside, when I had just left university and was engaged to a Polish girl, I always looked forward to arriving in Calais and getting the ferry. After 18 hours on a bus, the thought of 2 hours fresh air and stretchy leg time was great - the Chunnel, whilst quicker just isn't as pleasurable as the old ferries.

As we had arrived with plenty of time, we popped into the huge shopping mall just next to the terminal - to pass some time basically, and for me to buy a case of something worth drinking so that I could guarantee I could enjoy my beers from BeerRitz with minimum interference. I later discovered that the only brother of mine who drinks beer regularly was on antibiotics and thus off the booze. Trying to decide what to get was a nightmare - one brother drinks mainly wine and only occassionally a beer; when asked whether he preferred ale or lager, the response was "depends". Another of the brethren (there are 4 of us, and no sisters!) was not fussed "as long as it isn't too strong", and the third will drink most things as long as they are vodka. So I bought a case of Budvar - can't go wrong with the only mass produced Czech lager worth drinking.

By the time we got to the terminal I was getting tetchy, I wanted a beer. Straight to the bar I went, and plumped for a beer called Wel Scotch from the Brasseries Kronenburg. As you can see from the picture it is a nice copper colour with a somewhat thin head. The nose had tinges of whisky, not surprising really as it is made with peat smoked whisky malt, as used in the water of life. Slightly sweet, with a very nice bitter twang and the smokiness of the malt just coming through at the end - this was nice, really nice. France seems to do a fair few beers using distiller's malt, which usually leave me cold but this I could happily drink regularly. I have one criticism, look at the picture - I don't like my beer in plastic pots, but there we go.

With Christmas over and done with, a bit of a chronological jump I know, we headed back to France, spent an age looking for our hotel in Lille and then the next morning toured various World War I related sites before turning south. Our stop for the night was to be in Peronne, a small town that sits right on the river Somme, and is surrounded by some of the most humbling places I have ever been, including Thiepval.

Our hotel for the night was a Campanile, when we walked into the restaurant for dinner my heart leapt because on the board was written "bières régionales". The local beer available was Colvert from La Brasserie de Clerck, a 7%ABV blonde beer whose name translates as Mallard. Boy was this nice, golden amber a big foamy head and a distinct citrus nose. Citrus was very much the dominant theme here, thus the beer was very refreshing and surprisingly light given the alcohol content. I thought the body was a touch on the thin side. I must say though, I loved the glass that came with it - I was tempted to nick it, but somehow knew I would never get it back to Prague in one piece.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Petite Bière

First of all a confession, I wasn’t expecting to discover too much decent beer in the area in which my parents live. However, my pre-holiday research unearthed about 9 microbreweries in the Haut Limousin, so all hope had not been abandoned. I also knew that given the collection of Brits living the area, the mini-market in the nearest village sold Shepherd Neame’s excellent Spitfire, as well as Young’s Bombardier. My major hope for local craft brew lay in the fact that my parents had planned to take Mrs Velkyal and I to the final day of the Limoges Christmas market.

At the market was a stall for La Brasserie du Haut Limousin, a craft brewery operated by Monsieur and Madame Martialot from a town called Folles. For €15 I picked up the natty little wooden carrier with 5 types of beer as shown in the picture above, with the brand name La Lemovice. I drank the beers over several days, beginning with the 6.5%ABV Blonde. The bumpf I picked up with the beers told me that this beer is thrice hopped, in common with the Wychwood Wychcraft, and the nose was certainly very hoppy, in particular abounding in floral and spicy notes. There was also a very distinct whiff of yeast coming from this cloudy golden beer that had a quickly disappearing white head. Taste wise it was very smooth with banana and lemon flavours, I know that may sound odd. The blonde is a very nice easy drinking beer and I can certainly see why it was awarded a Fourquet d’Argent in 2008.

A few days later I dipped back into the wooden carrier and pulled out the Biere de Noel, a cloudy dark brown beer which, given the look and smell of it, I wasn’t expecting great things from. The nose was again dominated by yeast, although hints of ginger came through as well. The beer itself was rather sweet with a slightly spicy feel to it and yet the 8%ABV was strangely absent, it really didn’t feel like an alcoholic drink. Even Mrs Velkyal said that it “tastes like a soda”. This was an ok beer really, I assume there was a portion of wheat in the grist – but given that there was practically no information on the label I can’t say for sure, having said that I liked the label design in general.

Of the other three beers in the set, the Ambree was the pick of the bunch – sitting between the Biere de Noel and the Blonde yet boasting a zoiglesque nose. The cuvee special was to be blunt most definitely not my thing, and so it found its way down the drain rather quickly. Likewise the dark La Gueule Noire du Limousin was not really my cup of tea as it was distinctly sour – not sure if that was by design or otherwise.

Probably the most interesting thing from the Brasserie du Haut Limousin was the advertising leaflet I picked up, which not only contained information about the brewery and its beers but also about the history of brewing in the Limousin region of France. It was also interesting that all the beers are top fermented, and then bottle conditioned – hence the cloudiness of them all. I was also taken with the fact that the brewery only uses regional ingredients in its production, making it truly a local craft brew.

These guys are a very small operation, only 300 litres a week and they have no website, so sorry for the lack of links to them.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...