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Hello again Otto here rambling around France :-)
France has a bit of a rennaiscence going at the moment concerning beer. You may not think it, with all the wine that is drunk over there. There are, however, quite a few new micro breweries springing up and why not, as beer goes much better with cheese than wine does.
The French beer revival is now in full flow to the point that around over 100 breweries have opened since 2000, with a wide variety of beer styles and brewing techniques. Now it is possible to drink British-style real ale, German-style weissen bier, Belgian-style witbier and spiced beer, along with the traditional Alsace and bière de garde styles. A handful of tiny rural breweries have found the trend towards organic produce in France a real benefit, with a ready market for organically-accredited beers. The micro breweries are introducing the French to new, more interesting styles, such as the 'biere au malt whiskey' a reddish ale quite smoky and peaty. Also some brewers make a strong dark stout in the traditional style around 6%.
Although almost half of all the breweries of France are in the highly populated and quite industrial regions of Nord/Pas-de-Calais and Alsace/Lorraine, the current trend is for new breweries to open in the rural provinces. Brittany is becoming a brewing centre of its own with over 16 breweries operating at last count, but the rest are scattered thinly around this huge country.
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One brewery we visited on our trip at Easter in 2004 was a small micro brewery called 'Le Brewery' a producer of traditional beers using traditional recipes and techniques. It is located on an old cider farm that dates back to an 11th Century forge. The brewery entered production in May 2001 and is run by an English couple Steve and Jane Skews. On our visit they were in the process of brewing a strong rich and warming stout called 'Odo'. This is a traditional English milk stout at 6.5% and is available in 75ml corked bottles and in cask form. This is one of our favourite beers. (We have been there twice now).
Also during the visit STeve and Jane were preparing for a major French TV station to pay them a visit. Le Brewery brews a biere brune @ 5% called 'Conquerant' and a 'Blonde' bier @ 4.8%. Also, they brew seasonal biers and at the time of our visit a bier called 'Allies' celebrating the D-Day landings was available.
A trip to the brewery is a grand day out, you get to see all around the brewery and to taste each of the brews. There is an outside bar with hand pumps on and you can play boules in the courtyard. Just past the bar area and over a bubbling brook and up a hill they have a field were they grow their own hops (3 varieties) There is a small shop were you can purchase bottles of bier and some small souvenirs.
Visit www.le-brewery.com <www.le-brewery.com>
At Easter 2003 we visited 'Le Frog & Rosbif on the Rue St.Denis in Paris. This is one of a chain of English brew pubs. They brew in the basement and the brewery can be seen through large windows. The pub is very welcoming and friendly and dose excellent good value food. They have 4 hand pumps on the bar and 3 founts all for their own biers.We sampled the 'Dark de Triomphe' a 5% stout @ 6Euro a pint it is quite expensive but then you are in the centre of Paris. We also had Froegaarden is a light and zingy wheat beer, just like you'd get in a Brussels café in the height of summer. And Parisiytic @ 5.2% A truly fantastic beer. Strong, malty and hoppy, this beer is a great example of a strong bitter.
To finish with we had Frog Natural Blonde @ 4.2% is all of that and more... the house lager is brewed with German Hallertau hops and then matured for more than a month in our cellars. Le Frog has 3 more pubs in Paris and 3 in other parts of France visit the web site www.frogpubs.com
Other breweries of note in France are 'Fischer' based in Alsace. You will find these brews in most of the supermarkets and in quite a few bars. They do a Fischer Strong Larger 4.5% not really strong but quite refreshing served cold on a hot afternoon playing boules. Another brew is Fischer Amber - a sweetish malty bier. We have also come across Fischer Bitter a bitter larger bier quite malty.
'La Choulette' is a brewery of some renound with biers such as Ambree a malty beir with vanilla notes. Blonde - fruity larger style bier. Framboise - a lambic bier which has a firm maltyness with an abundance of fresh raspberries. You can also find these beers in England in specialist off-licences.
Another brewery in Brittany is 'Lancelot' based in St.Servant. This is a small micro that produces some interesting, spicy and herby biers. Such as Cervoise Lancelot, Biere Bretonne and Blanche Hermine, the later is a fruity spicy ale with coriander notes.
One brewery that everyone with be familiar with is 'Kronenbourg' down on the French / German border this is Frances main international brewer the main brew is '1664' which is a standard euro fizz larger available across most of Europe. They also brew some special beers such as Allemande a pilsner which is also quite bland.
Another brewery of not is 'Jenlain' if you are lucky enough you can find these in the UK. Biers include a Biere de Garde a fruity spicy soft bronze beir around @ 6.5% A Biere de Noel a spicy complex Christmas bier quite malty, and a 'Blonde' a strong golden ale woody spicy with apples and peaches in the nose and on the pallet.
Other brewery's of note are 'Cimes' - Belgian Style ALES. 'Coreff' - One of the new Breton breweries. 'Meteor' of Strasbourg. 'Thellier' A farmhouse brewery in Bavay. Also of note is the cider industry of Normandy and Brittany normally sweeter than English cider and lower in strength. If in the area it is well worth a visit to a cider farm.
Cheers and good supping Otto