As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we stopped overnight at Beaune on our way to our villa near the south coast of France. The Carrefour there seems to have been an aberration, as none of the other supermarché we visited appeared to have any local beer, yet here was beer from not one, but two local microbreweries.
This, unfortunately, gave a false impression of what we’d find for the rest of the three weeks in France. It was pretty much as expected, just familiar major brand beer from the multinationals. We didn’t get the chance to stop anywhere in the North of the country, where it may be different, but in the South two years ago, it was pretty much a good beer desert.
I have no idea why Brasserie Larché have Thomas Becket branding all over their beer and their website isn’t exactly a mine of information on the matter either. The history of a 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t really interest me in any way, but it does seem a bit bizarre for a French microbrewery to use it for their branding.
In a similar manner to the Brasserie de Vézelay beers, the Carrefour had loads of these beers, both in 330ml and 750ml bottles. As I picked these up on the way back home, I couldn’t afford to buy them all in 750ml bottles. I would have preferred to, as I think beer tastes better out of a bigger bottle; something to do with beer conditioning better in larger volumes.
As is my want, I started with the blanche, It poured a slightly hazey, light straw colour, with a fluffy white head. The head dropped to a good covering fairly quickly. There wasn’t much on the nose, in that it wasn’t very aromatic. Taking in a lungful brought some lemony aromas and might be hint of spice.
It felt a touch over carbonated in the mouth, as there was quite a lot of mouth prickle from the carbonation, which was also feeding the head. It was quite pleasant tasting though, light in the mouth with some nice lemony, orange type citric flavours. There wasn’t really anything in the way of spice though, at least not that I could detect, not that it mattered. It was just a nice and pleasant beer that slipped down easily and quickly.
The blonde poured a slightly hazy amber colour, with a good, slightly off white head. The head dropped to a covering fairly quickly. The nose wasn’t very powerful, I didn’t get an awful lot to be honest, other than a slight sweet yeastiness. My wife on the other hand got honey and all sorts and upon inspection of the label, we were delighted to discover that it’s secondary fermented in the bottle with honey; thus proving she has a far superior olfactory system than me.
In the mouth is was pretty full bodied and quite sweet. An initial mouth prickle from the carbonation gave way to barrage of sweet malt and honey flavours. These carried on long into the aftertaste, with a distinct sweet honey flavour asserting itself at the death. There was some bitterness that was evident in the middle, that was desperately trying to keep everything in check and while it just about managed it, it succumbed to the sweetness.
I thought it was OK, my wife really liked it and after a couple of gulps, offered to finish it off.
When the cork came out of the bottle of l’embrasée (the burning) there was quite a loud phzzzzt, so I was quite surprised when the contents didn’t come flying out of the bottle too. It poured a chestnut brown, with a very loose tan coloured head. The head was very, very easily formed, but didn’t last and dropped to a ring around the edge of the glass pretty quickly.
I didn’t really get anything on the nose at all, maybe the hint of some stewed plums or something like that, but that was about it. It was ridiculously lively in the mouth, turning to bubbles on the tongue almost immediately. While there was a certain bitterness to it, it didn’t feel particularly bitter, but I think the carbonation was scrubbing most of it from the mouth. Other than that, it mainly tasted of rich stewed fruit, in a good way though, like from a rumtopf.
The ambrée poured a slightly haze light marmalade colour, with a slightly off white cream coloured head. The head dropped to a good half finger fairly quickly, but lasted from there quite well. There was a definite note to the aroma, I’m not sure I can describe it. It didn’t feel like it was from the malt or the hops and I think the back label says it had honey in it, so it might have been from that.
It was quite effervescent in the mouth, almost turning to foam as it scoured the tongue with a carbonic edge. Sweet malt flavours, with a slightly grainy edge, lead to a sweet drying finish. It didn’t feel bitter, it might have been the carbonic scouring at the start, stripping the bitterness, but it felt like there was some there, just not up front. A bit disappointing really.
Finally, the brune poured a deep chestnut brown, with a good tan coloured head. The head dropped fairly quickly to a patchy covering and then a few splodges round the edge of the glass. There wasn’t a lot on the nose, some brown malt notes, but nothing powerful.
In the mouth it was all about the malt flavours, at least once you got past the slight over carbonation. An initial prickle of bitterness gave way to a rising sweet, dark fruity maltiness that lingered long into the, slightly drying aftertaste. I didn’t think it was too bad.
I found it interesting that, while Brasserie de Vézelay had modern, clean branding and Brasserie Larché had, what I’d term, more traditional, messier branding, they both pretty much brewed the same styles of beer. A blanche, blonde, ambrée and a brune; it’s a bit like traditional British breweries all doing a mild, bitter, best bitter and stout. I wonder if the French have similar stylistic straightjackets that they feel they have to produce the same styles of beer.