Brasserie Larché

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.

La Marrouge

The villa we stayed in for our holiday was in a sleepy, spread out village called Flayosc. It was a bit of a beer desert, with only macro-lager stubbies from the usual suspects available to buy in what passed for the local corners shops. The nearest Carrefour was a fifteen drive away in Draguignan and didn’t sell anything of interest beer wise.

I don’t drink wine, but the rest of the party did, so one day we popped into the local wine co-operative to check out what they had. It was like a slightly posher Adnams Cellar & Kitchen, with lots of local products to go along with all the wine. Some bottles of beer in a corner immediately caught my eye and after a bit of translating, we worked out that they were made with local chestnut flour.

I thought it was just the Italian’s who brewed with chestnut flour, but there you go. Luckily for us the villa had internet and wi-fi, so I was able to find out a bit more about the beer and who brewed it. I was slightly disappointed to find that it was brewed by Brasserie Bourganel, who were about a three and a half hour drive away, so not exactly local; there went any chance of a brewery visit.

Still, it was nice to have access to some beer that wasn’t brewed by a faceless multinational and that at least has some local produce in it. Brasserie Bourganel La Marrouge I did consider buying some of the chestnut flour to use in a homebrew when I got home, but it was very expensive.

So what about that actual beer then? It poured a colour that wasn’t quite dark enough to be a chestnut brown, and was a touch too dark to be considered any shade of copper. Think of a reddish brown colour and you’ll be nearly there. It had one of those bubbly heads that froth and foam up the glass, before dying back to nothing. Other than that, it sat limpid in the glass.

There was a definite, not normal, note to the aroma. Not in a bad way though, just in a way that meant I had absolutely no idea what it was. I can only assume that was the chestnut flour doing its thing until told otherwise. It was very smooth in the mouth, with pleasant malty flavours upfront and a tingle of bitterness at the death. There was also a nice chestnut flavour running through the middle, which was pretty nice.

As I mentioned earlier, I’d always thought that chestnut flour in beer was an Italian thing, but if you find yourself down near Flayosc then pop into Le Cellier des 3 collines and buy some, it’s very nice. If you like your wine, they also do excellent Rosé, try the Vitis 5.

Brasserie de Vézelay

I spotted these on our very first day in France. We stopped at Beaune for the night and popped into the local Carrefour to pick up some water and other sundries for the following day. I found loads of these bottles, both in the main beer aisle and in the local produce section. So I picked up a few to take down to the villa and then bought some more as we passed, three weeks later, on the way back home.

I was quite excited to see what appeared to be a local microbreweries beers in one of France’s major supermarkets, I thought this might bode well for the rest of the holiday. It was just a shame they didn’t have any of the IPA, which appeared to be the only other beer being brewed at the time. Brasserie de Vézelay Blanche Bio I thought the branding looked very slick with the thin diagonal labels and I had high hopes, especially as two of them appeared to be organic as well.

Evidently, the Blanche is a Bavarian Hefeweizen, I could have sworn it was a Belgian Wit. The bottle opened with a very loud phzzzt, but didn’t explode out of the neck. It did turn to foam as it poured into the glass though, resulting in ⅓ beer to ⅔ foam. The nose was slightly spicy, slightly wheaty and chock full of carbon dioxide.

In the mouth it instantly turned to foam, which meant that if you took a large mouthful, it was practically squirting out of you nose and ears. The ridiculous level of carbonation made it hard to determine exactly what the beer tasted of, all I got was some sweet orange rind and a vague tickle of a coriander type spice. The Carrefour must have ad a bad batch, as the bottle I bought on the way down did exactly the same thing as this one, which was bought three weeks later.

Next, I decided to drink the Blonde, mainly as I prefer to go from light to dark when drinking multiple beers. It poured a light copper colour, with a compact, slight off white head. The head didn’t last, and dropped to a patchy covering fairly quickly. I didn’t get a lot on the nose, just a faint whiff of orange. It was nice and smooth in the mouth, with a good level of body about it.

However, it was pretty one dimensional, as there wasn’t a lot of bitterness, so it was all just sweet orangey malt from start to finish. There was a brief tickle just before the after taste, which left the mouth nice and juicy, but it all left me just wishing it’d had just a bit more going on. I don’t know if this was an old bottle, hence the last of perceived bitterness, or if it’s just like that. Either way, while it was nice, it was ultimately unsatisfying.

The Ambrée poured a burnished copper brown colour, with a light tan coloured head. The head didn’t last and dropped almost immediately to a ring round the edge of the glass. There wasn’t much on the nose, although I did get a faint whiff of penny chew.

It was pleasantly full bodied, with the initial sweet maltiness being usurped by a tickle of bitterness, before some red berry fruit malt flavours wrestled back control. The after-taste was juicy, leaving the mouth watering with faint red berry flavours. It was perfectly pleasant, but nothing to get overly excited about.

Last up was the Brune, which poured a chestnut brown colour, with a reticent tan coloured head. The head dropped away almost instantly, and couldn’t even be arsed to leave a patch or a ring round the edge of the glass. The nose carried the faintest whiff of peat and caramel, but was otherwise pretty non-existent. In the mouth it felt a touch shy of being full bodied enough, as it just had a touch of wateriness round the edges. The main flavour was a peaty smokiness, that while not unpleasant as it wasn’t very strong, was pretty solitary and not really backed up by anything else; meaning it was pretty one dimensional. I had high hope on the initial sip, but they were dashed the more I drank, it wasn’t bad, just not particularly great.

Like most beers you buy in the supermarket, these weren’t bad, but they weren’t particularly great either. While it was nice to see something local and that was obviously from a microbrewery, none of them were without fault. This just highlights one of the issues with buying beer from a supermarket, you have no idea how the beer has been treated. It may well have left the brewery in tip top condition and been ruined by incorrect transportation and storage. It may have sat on the shelves, under strong lights and warmth for too long, there’s just no way of knowing. I’d try these beers again if I saw them, crossing my fingers while I did so.

Brasserie Grain d’Orge

I think I picked these up in a Carrefour in Fréjus, on the French South coast (it may have been in Trans-en-Provence though, I can’t quite remember). It took a while to work out who brewed them, as Brasserie Grain d’Orge isn’t some little microbrewery and shouldn’t be confused with the similarly named micro in Belgium. The brewery appears to have originally been named something else, but was bought out by Brasserie de Gayant, purveyor of La Goudale, and renamed. Evidently brewing ceased on the original site in 2005 and it’s now just used as a logistics base.

Neither of these beers are what you’d call craft, but they make a change from macro lager stubbies. I think they look pretty good in their swing top bottles, which I still have and use for keeping my sloe gin in. As a homebrewer, I’m always happy to see beer in 750ml swing top bottles, as they’re easily reused.

The Giant is, according to the website, a recreation of an original recipe from 1898, when the brewery was called Desruelle-THEETTEN. It poured a crystal clear amber colour, with a good fluffy white head. The head lasted for quite some time, before dropping to a patchy covering.

While the nose wasn’t overly powerful, once you got your face into the glass, there was quite a lot going on. I thought there was sweet grainy malt notes, with a hint of orange about them. My wife sniffed it, sniffed it again, wrinkled her face up and said whisky.

It was quite full bodied in the mouth, with enough fusel alcohol to feel all of its strength. There was a bit of effervescence up front, which swept the sweet malt flavours through the mouth, past a tiny hint of bitterness and into a lingering sweet after-taste. It wasn’t bad, just really, really sweet.

Evidently this triple, is a secret of the monks and bottle conditioned. It poured a really pale golden tinged yellow, almost looking lager like with its large fluffy white head perched on top. The head dropped fairly quickly to a good covering.

It was interesting on the nose, giving both the perception of being powerful, with strong sweet light malty notes and at the same time, of being light and fresh; which I can only assume is from a touch of hop aroma.

It was pretty full bodied in the mouth, but not overly so. It was sweet mainly and got sweeter the more the bottle emptied. There was a touch of mouth burn from the alcohol and slightly warming after-taste, which was a bit grainy and sugary. The mouth was left with a faint spicy orange taste to accompany the slight alcohol burn. Not bad, but nowhere near the best Triple I’ve ever had.

France

I went to the South of France on holiday two years ago, and brought back quite a bit of beer with the intention of blogging about it. While I took photos of them all and copious notes, I never quite got round to uploading them to the blog.

Mostly we drank stubbies, but I managed to find some slightly more interesting stuff in some of the supermarkets and wine co-operatives that we passed though. It’s not that what we found was exciting or innovative, it just made a change from the range of industrial offerings all the supermarkets appeared to share.

I thought about uploading all of these last year, just in case it was still relevant for anyone else going on holiday in that part of the world, but again I didn’t extract my finger. Rather than leaving all the notes on my Google Drive for posterity, I’ve decided to upload them all over the rest of the week. I imagine that things might have changed down that way in the last two years; the supermarkets maybe stocking different beer, some of the breweries may no longer exist, etc, etc…

If those blogs help someone, then great, if not, then at least I got my finger out, eventually.

Brasserie du Mont Salève

As I mentioned in my previous Paris post, we did a met the brewer session at La Cave à Bulles with Brasserie du Mont Salève on the Saturday afternoon. We arrived after a couple of enjoyable hours in Brewberry, but could only stay for an hour or so, as we had to get back to the hotel to get ready for a black tie dinner.

The first thing that struck me about Brasserie du Mont Salève, was the branding. I think it’s absolutely superb, nice and clean and most importantly, consistent. I was also quite surprised at the range on offer, there was something like eleven beers available to sample, spanning a diverse range of styles. Quite impressive for a brewery that is less than two years old.

All the beers were good, some better than others. The stand outs for me being the Blanche, brewed with Citra hops and the Amiral Benson Nelson Sauvin IPA. Phil really liked the Barley Wine, but I think that we both liked pretty much everything we tried. After trying the range and having a few words with the brewer we headed on our way.

I have a big birthday later this year and my present to myself is a trip to De Molen’s Borefts beer festival. So I was very pleased to learn via a Facebook status update from De Molen, that Brasserie du Mont Salève would be attending this years festival. I’m really looking forward to meeting the brewer again and trying some more of their beer. Definitely a brewery to look out for while on your travels.

La Cave à Bulles

La Cave à Bulles is a small specialist beer shop on Rue Quincampoix in Paris, not far from the Pompidou centre. It specialises in French beer and you could say it’s a temple to the stuff, although they do have a smattering of beer from the rest of the world (when we visited they had some Belgian stuff, plus a few from Mikkeller and Stillwater amongst others).

Our first visit was on a Friday evening, as we were transitioning between Hall’s Beer Tavern and Au Trappiste, so we just popped in for a quick look to scope the place out. We ended up talking to Simon the proprietor and on his advice ditched a few pubs that we were going to visit and ended up buying some tickets to a beer festival on a boat, as you do…

We went back again on the Saturday, mainly so I could buy a box of beer to bring back home, but also because they were holding a meet the brewer with Brasserie du Mont Salève, but more on them later. Simon seems to run a flat pricing structure on his French beer selection, 33cl bottles were all €3 regardless of strength, similarly all 50cl and 75cl bottles were at flat prices. Since I had a spare €30, it meant I could pick up ten 33cl bottles, I had selected five, I asked Simon to select me another five that I shouldn’t miss. Here’s my thoughts on each of the beers I bought:

La Brasserie de FleuracLe Triple Brune IPA, 8%, 330ml
The cap nearly exploded off the bottle as I opened it and due to the ridiculous level of carbonation, it took three glasses to get the whole bottle in. I even poured it from glass to glass a couple of times to try and knock a bit of carbonation out of it. It poured a darkish brown, like a best bitter and had an almost vinous edge to the nose, otherwise there wasn’t much going on. I can’t really say much about the taste, due to the carbonation issues, but it had a nice bitterness, some solid brown malt character. I imagine it would be lovely if properly carbonated.

Brasserie ThiriezEtoile du Nord, 5.5%, 330ml
Poured a luscious golden colour, with a white fluffy head. The head didn’t last very long and dropped to ring round the edge fairly quickly. The nose had a faint orangey marmalade note to it, it was also quite fresh, but that was it. It had a good mouth feel, with smashing up front bitterness. The bitterness eased off a bit as it swept everything before it in a wave of wonderful subtle citrus and marmalade notes. The after taste was a lovely bitter tingle and seemed to last an absolute age. I’d quite happily drink this till the cows came home, a must buy beer if you see it.

Brasserie ThiriezLa Nocturne, 6.5%, 330ml
Poured a really dark brown, so it looked black in the glass. The tan coloured head wasn’t easy to form and was one of those lively things that appeared and then promptly disappeared. I struggled to get much on the nose, probably due to the shape of the glass, but there did seem to be some treacle notes and a general dark beer type thing. In the mouth it was nice and full bodied with some cracking smooth chocolate and coffee notes. The after taste was smooth, rich, strong and lingering, with the coffee notes providing a lovely roasted bitterness that melded with the chocolate. This bottle was superb, much better than the taste we had at the beer festival on the boat.

Brasserie des VignesLa Delinquante, 7%, 330ml
Once the bottle was opened, foam started to rise up the neck and nearly spilled out out the top. During the pour, I could see lots of little bits of sediment streaming into the glass, so was a bit concerned about off flavours. I needn’t have worried about off flavours though, because the beer was infected and totally undrinkable. The moment I stuck my nose into the glass I could tell something was really not right and it only took the smallest of sips to confirm it. Shame…

Brasserie du Mont SalèveBlanche, 5%, 330ml
Poured a hazy yellow, almost like light dehydrated wee. A loose white head was easily formed and dropped back to pretty much nothing quite quickly. The nose was chock full, of subtle ripe mango, with the merest hint of cat wee, yes, this beer has Citra hops in it. It had a good body and was lively in the mouth, with quite a bit of the liquid turning to bubbles. The bitterness was quite high for this style of beer and coated the mouth nicely with ripe tropical flavours. The after taste was really drying, but it also had a nasty green apple flavour that I used to get in my homebrew. Possibly a bad bottle as it tasted lovely at the met the brewer event, when it was poured from a 500ml bottle.

Brasserie du Mont SalèveBlonde, 5%, 330ml
Poured a lovely golden straw colour, with a fluffy white head. The head dropped quite quickly to a ring around the edge of the glass. The nose had subtle pineapple notes with a hint of mandarin round the edges. I had to consult with my wife to make sure it was actually pineapple I was smelling. In the mouth it felt a touch on the thin side, which wasn’t helped by the subtlety of the flavours. The bitterness rolled down the tongue, and while it wasn’t massive, it was enough to pretty much swamp the subtle flavours. It was OK, but nothing spectacular.

Brasserie du Mont SalèveAmiral Benson Nelson Sauvin IPA, 5%, 330ml
The cap came off with quite a loud phzzzt and it wasn’t long before the foam started to form pretty quickly up the neck of the bottle. It did foam quite a bit when it hit the glass to and brought a load of the yeast in with it, which was disappointing. It sat a hazy deep amber in the glass, with a thick white finger of head on top. The head was just practically static, sitting there almost unmoving and taking an age to drop. It smelt lovely with subtle juicy tropical notes. It was a bit rough in the mouth and had a bit too much yeast character, which was really annoying, as otherwise, it was a lovely beer. It had good body, a nice fruity bitterness that only Nelson Sauvin can bring and a lovely lingering bitter tropical fruit after taste. This was the one I liked the best at the met the brewer tasting.

Brasserie des GarriguesLa Frappadingue, 7.5%, 330ml
Poured an ever so slightly hazy amber colour, with a thick white head. The head dropped to a good half finger covering fairly quickly and lasted down the glass. It smelt really quite nice, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what tropical fruit was dominant. Initially it was quite fizzy in the mouth, but this subdued the longer it sat in the glass. Once the bubbles had settled down, there was a nice malty backbone that was a solid foundation for a hop assault. It wasn’t massively bitter, but it was bitter enough to spike through the malt and sweep everything else before it as it laid down a beautiful bitter fruity after taste. This was a really, really nice beer and on this tasting, I wish I’d bought more.

Brasserie St RieulBiere de Noel sur lie, 8%, 330ml
Poured a deep mahogany brown with a smallish creamy light tan coloured head. The head didn’t last very long and dropped to a very patchy covering fairly quickly. It smelt slightly of stewed fruit, plums or something like that, with just a hint of green apple at the edges. There was also the notion of spices on the nose, but nothing discernible, I could tell it was a spiced beer, but I couldn’t tell you what spices. It felt quite lively in the mouth, with a certain amount of bubbling. It was full bodied, with massive malty flavours all the way through, again mainly of the rich stewed fruit variety. Although the spices were on the subtle side, you knew there were there and they seemed to build the further down the glass I got. I think I would have tired of the spices if this had been a 50cl bottle, so just the right size for this kind of beer.

Brasserie du Pays FlamandLa Bracine Triple, 9%, 330ml
The cap popped off with quite a phzzzt and it was very lively during the pour, with a huge rocky white head. The head dropped to a good covering after a while and eventually dropped to a patchy covering. It looked like a triple, all light amber / straw coloured, with that yeasty slightly sweet nose that they have. Initially it was extremely lively in he mouth and it really just turned to bubbles, even after leaving it for half an hour it was still really lively. It wasn’t as full in the mouth as you’d maybe think a 9% beer should be, but it had quite a bit of fusel alcohol floating around the mouth, so it certainly felt strong. I’m not a fan of this kind of beer to be honest, to me it tasted like most other triples, which is probably heresy to some people, but there you go…

One of the benefits of visiting Paris on the Eurostar, is you can take bottles back with you, without having to wrap them up to survive a nuclear war. If I’m ever in Paris again, I’ll be heading straight to La Cave à Bulles with a stack of money and a trolley, as I’ll be buying more than one box of beer this time…

You can read a bit more about La Cave à Bulles on Des de Moor’s excellent Beer Culture website.

Paris

I was going to write a blow by blow account of my trip to Paris last December, but instead I’m just going to skim through everywhere we went. I’d written down most of what we go up to on the Friday, but to be honest, it was a load of crap. So here’s my thought on all the places we visited over the weekend of December 2nd to 4th:

The Eurostar
The main benefit of getting the Eurostar, is that you can take your own beer with you, as there’s not the same security restrictions as going by plane. I took a four pack of Punk IPA cans, packed carefully into a small cool bag along with an ice pack. If you don’t want to take your own beer, then you can always buy cold beer from Sourced Market in St Pancras. I bought some Camden Town bottles on the way back and should really have bought some of The Kernel bottles they had on the way out, as they’d gone by the Sunday afternoon.

If you don’t take your own beer and get thirsty on the train, it’s €5 for a can of Stella, you know taking your own makes sense…

The Frog & Rosbif, 116 Rue Saint-Denis
This was our first port of call, mainly as I’d heard varying reports about the quality of the beer and didn’t want to come here later on and be disappointed. At first glance, it looked pretty much like a British pub, but there was certain things that meant you could tell it was a pastiche. All the bumf on the tables and walls was in English, which was a bit weird and gave me the impression that this was a pub for foreigners, rather than locals.

I had a pint of the Maison Blanche, served with slice of lemon. I thought it was pretty forgettable and less interesting than Hoegaarden, which says a lot. Phil had a pint of Parislytic, which we both agreed was a nitro keg horror show. Neither of us noticed that they actually had a single hand pull in the midst of all the keg fonts, a pint of that might have been a better option. They had free wi-fi and we managed to sit next to a wall socket, so I could charge my phone.

HTB Hall’s Beer Tavern, 68 Rue Saint-Denis
The bar is on the right as you walk in, with a row of tables along the left hand wall, after a bit, it opens out into a back room full of tables. It reminded me a lot of those thin American bars you get in big cities. We plonked ourselves down opposite the bar, next to a plug socket, so I could continue charging my phone and pursued the beer menu. It was extensive, but contained nothing to quicken the heart, being comprised of major multinational brands and a load of Belgian stuff. Keg fonts for La Chouffe, Delirium Tremens and Chimay nested cheek and jowl with fonts for Carling Black Label, you get the idea.

I had a pint of La Chouffe, Phil had a pint of Chimay Triple, both were served in branded pint glasses, shame the brands were for different beer, think of a well known Irish stout brand. I’m assuming they keep the correct branded glasses for those drinking out of bottles. The main reason we didn’t drink from bottles was the cost, it was significantly cheaper to have a pint, than have two bottles. They also had free wi-fi, which was nice, but I didn’t really feel comfortable and welcome in the place and I can’t really put my finger on why.

La Cave à Bulles, 45 Rue Quincampoix
Just a quick note on this place, as I want to go into it a bit more in a separate blog post. One thing you’ll realise as you trawl all the Paris bars, is the lack of French beer, this shop practically redresses the balance all on its own. Run by a friendly and jovial chap called Simon, we ran all the places we were going to visit past him and he made a few suggestions. The main one being ditch the planned crawl and buy some tickets to a beer festival on a boat, so we did.

Au Trappiste, 4 Rue St Denis
With a name like Au Trappiste, you sort of know what kind of beer you’re going to get, before you cross the threshold. With 20 taps and an extensive bottle menu, this place majors in selling Belgian beer, in fact, I can’t remember if it sold anything else. Clad almost head to toe in wood, with matching wooden tables and chairs, it felt a bit like being in a wooden lodge, all be it, a cheap one with loads of cheap looking lighted colour panels on the walls.

We decided to eat here, but with a menu not exactly welcoming vegetarians, I plumped for a large plate of chips and a tub of mayonnaise, which went perfectly with my pint of Lindemans Gueuze, so that was me sorted. We ate upstairs, which felt a bit like eating in a wooden McBurger franchise, it was just a bit weirdly sterile for my tastes.

We ended coming back here later, so I had another pint of gueuze, this time instead of a nice dimpled mug, I got a branded pint glass, again the brand was for a well known Irish beverage. All the branded glassware looked like it was saved for those drinking from bottles, but just like Hall’s Beer Tavern, if you were having more than one, this worked out more expensive than a pint of draught.

The staff also seemed pretty incompetent when it came to change a keg, my gueuze ran out mid pour and it took nearly ten minutes of faffing and multiple members of staff to change it.

Les Soirées Maltées – Les Bières de Noël 2011, Bateau Six Huit, 33 Quai de Montebello
I’m only going to mention this briefly, as I want to cover it it in a separate blog post. However, it’s not often you get to go to a beer festival in a foreign country, let alone one on a boat in the shadow of Notre Dame.

Le Sous Bock Tavern, 49 Rue Saint-Honoré
We headed here after the beer festival for a nightcap before heading back to the hotel. This was one of the bars that Simon in La Cave à Bulles had said to avoid, so we approached with some trepidation. It wasn’t quite pitch black inside, but it wasn’t far off, with only some weird purple black light kind of things illuminating the interior. We walked along the bar to check out what beer they had, but to be honest, we just turned round and walked out. There was nothing on that we couldn’t have got from Hall’s Beer Tavern or Au Trappist and since both of them were slightly more welcoming, being properly illuminated and quiet, we left and headed back to Au Trappist. This place seems to get good reviews on all the rating sites, so your mileage may vary, but on this night we weren’t impressed.

La Gueuze, 19 Rue Soufflot
Saturday dawned all blustery and drizzly, so we headed to here to get some lunch and some gueuze. When we go there the door was locked, but after a quite shake, the proprietor came and opened up, it wasn’t like we were early or anything it being after their official opening time. The style of the place was a bit of a mish mash, with lots of wood like Au Trappist, but a similar layout to Hall’s Beer Tavern, with some seating at the front and down the side of the bar, before opening out into a large light and airy back room.

After perusing the menu, which was unsurprisingly pretty crap for vegetarians, we decided not to eat there, as it wasn’t very cheap and didn’t sound particularly great. I ordered a bottle of Mort Subite, which was pleasant enough and Phil had a bottle of Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus. The cork on Phil’s bottle didn’t come out cleanly and instead of using a cloth to get the bits out of the neck, he just stuck his finger in and wiped them off. We didn’t stay for a second drink…

Godjo, 8 Rue de l’École Polytechnique
I’m mentioning this very, very compact Ethiopian restaurant, not because we drank any beer, we didn’t, but because the food was sensational. We were originally going to come here for dinner on the Friday night, but got side tracked by the beer festival, I’m really glad we hunted it out and came for lunch on the Saturday. Ethiopian food is all about sharing, but since Phil eats dead animals, I wasn’t about to share a plate, so had one all to myself and I’m so glad I did, the lentils were to die for. If you’re going to go, I’d try and book a table (if you can), as there’s hardly enough room to swing a cat inside.

On the way there we passed an English theme pub called The Bombardier, which was selling what looked like keg Bombardier and Directors, we paused by on the other side of the road…

Brewberry, 18 Rue Pot de Fer
Our second last port of call was to this compact shop cum bar, which if I’m being honest, would have been our only port of call if we come to it first. Selling beer from all over the world, but majoring in European breweries, its main advantage over La Cave à Bulles, is that you can drink beer on the premises. It’s such a great wee place, that it will get a blog post all of its own.

After Brewberry, we headed back to La Cave à Bulles for a meet the brewer with La Brasserie du Mont Salève, which I’ll cover in a later blog. After that, we had to attend a black tie dinner on the Saturday evening and caught the Eurostar just after lunch on the Sunday, so there wasn’t really any further opportunity to explore.

I feel like we only scratched the surface of beer in Paris, but at the same time, I feel like we also hit the two most important places and if I went again, I probably wouldn’t go anywhere other than La Cave à Bulles and Brewberry. For my money, Paris is far too fixated on the major multinational brands and anything that comes out of Belgium. It could really do with a few more outlets for French craft beer, as that’s what I really wanted to drink and apart from Brewberry, we really didn’t get the chance, as none of the bars were stocking it. Don’t get me wrong, I like a Lambic or Trappist ale as much as the next man, but sometimes I just want to try the local beer and apart from Brewberry, nowhere could deliver on that simple need.

So if you’re heading to Paris and want to drink some French beer, head to Brewberry. If you want to bring back some French beer, then head to La Cave à Bulles as well. Until someone opens something like CASK Pub & Kitchen or The Craft Beer Co. in Paris, these two places are your best opportunity to try really good artisan French beer.

Paris

I’m currently writing this on the Eurostar as it thunders through the French countryside. We’ve been in the French capital since Friday and have had a great time, if a little lucky. A couple of blogs will follow with more detail, but suffice to say, the French craft beer scene is alive and very much kicking, if you know where to look…

I’m just looking forward to not having to pay €8 for a pint of beer. It turns out that London isn’t that expensive after all!

Rome

Earlier this year I was (un)lucky enough to be sent to work in Rome for five weeks. While there, I had the opportunity to drink and eat, in some of the city’s best beer bars. I blogged about the first four nights of my time there, here, here, here and here. I was going to write a round up of all the places I’d been, but I never got round to it.

One of the perks of working for the UK’s largest software company, is the Christmas party. The weekend is generally quite formulaic. We fly to the destination on the Friday morning and then have to amuse ourselves, before a black tie dinner on the Saturday night. We then fly home again at some point on Sunday, disperse and then spend the next week discussing who got arrested/mugged/hooked up/etc/etc. Previously, we’ve been to Bergen, Barcalona, Prauge, Lisbon, Bolonga, Dubrovnik and Venice. This year, in a stunning twist of good fortune, it’s being held in Rome.

Unlike previous years, I’ve been to Rome recently, we’re going somewhere that I know. So instead of wandering around like headless chickens trying to find various places (Venice), I already know where all the best places are. Tomorrow will follow a plan along the lines of: quick wander round a few of my favourite sights, a stop at Domus Birrae (it wasn’t open when I was there at Easter), then Open Baladin, Bir & Fud and finally Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà. Saturday will probably be spent mostly under a duvet before the black tie dinner, although a few beers in Open Baladin and/or a trip to Gradi Plato Beershop and Johnny’s Off License can’t be ruled out. I’m still trying to decide when the best time to bail from the black tie party is and head off to Brasserie 4:20.

What ever happens, it’s going to be a big beery weekend. I can’t wait!