Thanks to Stéphane Bogaert of Page 24, I learned that Julie Michard and her father have a brewpub and production facility in central France. The pub is right on the central circle of Limoges, an ideal location for watching the world walk by.
The brune was my favorite of those on tap, but the whiskey is what I shelled out euros to take home. I have a reputation to protect for bringing the can’t-get-it-here bottles to my friend’s annual whiskey tasting. A French single malt? Ding ding!
About five hours west of Lille in the farmland of Normandy is a tiny brewery called- um- Le Brewery. Former Brit school teacher Steve Skews moved here years ago to start a sheep farm. Now he has a brewery, horses, two pubs- and three sheep.
At the center of the dinner table my first night were three open bottles being liberally poured: a stout from this brewery, a local wine, and Talisker.
I love it here.
Steve brews exceptional traditional English real ales. I heard about his brewery from Swiss beer writer, teacher, and judge Laurent Mousson- and he was spot on. The brewery has a story you’d want to buy the movie rights to: he saved enough to bring his beer to Mondial de la Bière in Strasbourg a couple of years ago. He and his assistant lived in the tiny truck they drove there for the week- drinking their beer as meal replacements because they forgot to factor in spending money. After becoming quite “gamey” by the end of the week he found out his beer had earned one of only 10 gold medals out of hundreds of breweries! Suddenly he was the center of attention and demand- but his brewery is so small he was already at capacity.
Le Brewery is at a turning point. It is ready to grow, but now that Steve has put his last child through school he’s ready to slow down. One option is to sell it, the pubs, the farm- want to buy a dream life in France, anyone?
I titled today with the French name (soft “g” please!) because English speakers tend to say “page twenty-four”. According to brewer and owner Stephane (along with brother Vincent) the name is a nod to their cycle of 24 hour brews- where they make several batches of the same beer around the clock to fill the fermenters, and the stop for a day or two.
Stephane is pictured here with my dear friend Yvan de Baets from Brasserie de la Senne who drove over from Brussels to join me on the tour.
The brewing set up is state-of-the-art, direct from Bamberg. All but the wheat beer is filtered, lagered for weeks, and then warm-conditioned after bottling. Hmmmm…
Afterwards, on to the famous La Capsule for a few beers in Lille. There were three French beers au fût, along with some stunning one-offs from around the world. Wow!
Le mot pour aujourd’hui est “équilibre”, as in “équilibre entre malte et houblon”. A few of brewer Daniel Thiriez’ beers are available in the US, so I asked if I could try some that are only sold in France. From these, the most refined balance between malt and hops (see word or the day) was the “Black Daniel’s” black IPA, made with Marjorie Jacobi of Brasserie Paradis. (A later visit). Unlike many American IPAs, the hops are strong, yet restrained- allowing for a soft lingering finish that keeps you wanting more.
Merci à Daniel et Marielle Paquet!
One of the things I adore about the language of Alain Ducasse is that to pronounce words properly, one must almost always smile or pucker. It’s so much fun for your face to speak French! Turns out though- there isn’t a direct translation for the word pucker. Expressions galore, bien sûr! But no direct word. Strange, eh-
for a culture known for its love of the kiss?
That’s the one English word I’ve found to trump the French. All other subtleties of sense the French win hands down. So it’s the word I leave the US on.
The photo is my planning map of breweries to visit. The gift-beer is packed, the CBC White Widow sipped, cat team assembled, new laces in Fleuvogs, Ratebeer Strasbourg consulted. Ready! Oh- but the brewery-on-a-sheep farm guy in Brittany just moved the date. Yikes. Well, that’s beer travel. Salut!