The Frog and Rosbif, Toulouse and Paris

frogandrosbif.jpgFrog­pubs are a chain of brew­pubs in France; they have four out­lets in Paris, one in Bor­deaux and one in Toulouse. (Accord­ing to their beer­mats in Toulouse, they have a new one in Pau, too, but this doesn’t seem to have made it onto their web­site.)

Each pub brews six beers to the same recipe, although they have slight­ly dif­fer­ent names depend­ing on the pubs. I had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing the Toulouse branch and the St Denis branch in Paris on con­sec­u­tive days, and both were great, although slight­ly dif­fer­ent.

First­ly, the beers. One of the many clever things about the busi­ness mod­el is that they make both lagers and ales; there is some­thing for every­one. The “blonde” is a beau­ti­ful­ly crisp and clean lager, unpas­teurised and unfil­tered, which tastes like a rev­e­la­tion in the con­text of all that bloody Heineken. Remind­ed me of the Helles you get pubs in south­ern Bavaria.

Next up is the “blanche”, with orange peel. I only had a taster of this in Toulouse, and it the over­whelm­ing flavour for me was lemon.  Would be nice in the sum­mer, I think, but wasn’t for me at that par­tic­u­lar time. To com­plete the lagers, there is a “gin­ger twist”; as you might imag­ine, this has gin­ger in it. I like gin­ger beer in small quan­ti­ties, and a half of this was pleas­ant enough, but I was keen to move onto the ales.

On the ale front, Frog­pubs offer a paleish ale (called “Aeropost’Ale in Toulouse, and “Inseine” in Paris), a red-brown ale, and a stout. These were all very inter­est­ing, not lease because the taste var­ied from pub to pub. The Aeropost’Ale was my favourite in Toulouse; it had nailed the Eng­lish sum­mer ale style absolute­ly per­fect­ly (if I can gen­er­alise about styles like that…) Hop­py, fruity and home­sick­ness-induc­ing.  In con­trast, I pre­ferred the red-brown ale (“Brew de l’Industrie” in Toulouse, “Paris­lyt­ic” in Paris) in the Paris branch, where it tast­ed not unlike Fullers ESB. The stout was good in both loca­tions.

Both pubs had a sim­i­lar mix of inter­na­tion­al stu­dents, locals and expats – I spot­ted at least one Ger­man par­ty in both. The Frog in Toulouse doesn’t have a kitchen, but has the great busi­ness idea of hook­ing up with two local restau­rants – one of which is a cur­ry house – to keep the pun­ters fed. The Frog in Paris offers fan­cy-look­ing pub grub which seemed to be very pop­u­lar with French and expats alike.

Notes

Loca­tions of Frog­pubs, descrip­tions of beer and oth­er fun stuff can be found on their web­site. You can read about the his­to­ry of the com­pa­ny and even buy some­one a drink online.

Homecoming beer: Thornbridge St Petersburg Stout

I’m back in the UK. We’d been sav­ing a bot­tle of St Peters­burg Stout for a while (“best after Novem­ber 2007”) and it seemed like a good occa­sion to drink it. The brew­ery, Thorn­bridge pro­duce a range of inter­est­ing beers, includ­ing Jaipur, which has been fea­tured in many mag­a­zines this year. imperian-russian-stout.jpg

This “Impe­r­i­al Russ­ian Stout” is 7.7% and absolute­ly glo­ri­ous. Extreme­ly com­plex lay­ers of flavours that linger a long time, with a flow­ery hop­py aro­ma. This may sound weird but the mix of vanil­la, cof­fee, and milky notes remind­ed me of Bailey’s. But with a fan­tas­tic roast­ed choco­late-bit­ter kick at the end.

A fit­ting home­com­ing beer to remind me of the excit­ing brew­ing scene in this coun­try.

Boak

Brocket’s Beer

brocketsbeer.jpgThe Independent’s list of the 50 best beers in the UK includ­ed one brewed for Lord Brock­et.

Lord Brock­et is an old Eton­ian who is (just about) famous for (a) hav­ing been in prison and (b) appear­ing on the appalling real­i­ty show “I’m a Celebri­ty, Get Me Out of Here!”

He now has a side-line sell­ing Brocket’s Bacon, Brocket’s Bangers and so on.

I won­der which mar­ket­ing genius thought that hav­ing a minor celebri­ty mug­ging on the label would make peo­ple want to drink Brocket’s Beer? I mean, the beer itself might be per­fect­ly nice, but, well, just look at him! He’s grin­ning like a mani­ac and wear­ing a tweed jack­et. We should prob­a­bly be grate­ful he hasn’t got his thumbs up, I sup­pose.

Still, it could be worse. At least no-one is expect­ing us to buy Jef­frey Archer IPA or Jonathan Aitken Stout. Not yet, any­way.

Belgian Beer in Biarritz – La Tireuse

I seem to be hav­ing a lot of luck with my stopovers.

As Sun­day tends to be pret­ty dead in France, I had been won­der­ing whether choos­ing Biar­ritz as a stopover was wise. How­ev­er, it turns out to have con­sid­er­ably more life on a grey Novem­ber Sun­day than many oth­er French towns.

It also has “La Tireuse”, a bar with 20 hand­pumps loaded with Bel­gian beer. They’ve gone for a selec­tion that avoids the usu­al, fea­tur­ing a range of styles from the big­ger “inde­pen­dent”* brew­eries – which you don’t often see out­side Bel­gium, par­tic­u­lar­ly not on tap.

So from Brouwirij Leroy they had Leroy stout (not my kind of thing – too sweet) and Yper­man (described as an “ambree” – love­ly stuff). From Bocq there was La Gauloise Ambree, St Feuil­lien Bru­in, and from Van Eecke there was Watou’s Wit, Kapit­tel Triple and an old favourite, Poper­ings Hom­mel­bier.

Also intrigu­ing­ly, they have a beer called “La Tireuse spe­cial” – I can’t find ref­er­ence of this beer on the inter­net. They told me it was brewed in Bel­gium, but I don’t have enough French to find out if it was brewed espe­cial­ly for them. It’s a “light” blonde, 5.6%, with quite a strong hop flavour. It was very tasty.

The bar staff are extreme­ly friend­ly and hap­py to pro­vide tasters, descrip­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions. There is also food, with a nod to Bel­gium and Ger­many in the menu (Flammkuechen, Spaet­zle, and great big hunks of meat and pota­toes).

Fab­u­lous.

Notes

*I’m not sure what inde­pen­dent means in the world of Bel­gian beer – inde­pen­dent of what? – but all of these brew­eries are clas­si­fied as inde­pen­dent on var­i­ous web forums, as well as in their own pub­lic­i­ty mate­r­i­al.

La Tireuse is on Rue Maza­gran, at the top of Place Ste Euge­nie, in the cen­tre of Biar­ritz. Pho­to to come.

Boak

Belgian beer in Burgos – La Espiga

Bur­gos is the kind of place that guide­books describe as “like­able”. It has some nice old build­ings includ­ing a stun­ning cathe­dral, and lots of bars and pubs. You prob­a­bly wouldn’t go out of your way to vis­it, but it’s handy for trav­el in between Madrid and the Basque coun­try.

As I had only cho­sen it for a stopover based on the rail con­nec­tions, it was a very pleas­ant sur­prise to dis­cov­er La Espi­ga, a gen­uine beer lover’s par­adise. I’ve been to a num­ber of places in the last cou­ple of months in Spain that claim to be “beer par­adis­es” or “beer tem­ples”, only to dis­cov­er they’re yet anoth­er weapon in Heineken’s Span­ish arma­da, and that the excit­ing inter­na­tion­al beers on offer extend to Adelscott and Des­per­a­dos.

Trois PistolesNo, this was the real deal. Around 10 beers on tap, includ­ing La Trappe Dubbel, Spat­en Bock, Kwak and Liefman’s Kriek, and between 50–70 more in bot­tles. The selec­tion was most­ly the usu­al Bel­gian big boys – the Trap­pists, the Abbeys, the Delir­i­ums, the Hoe­gaar­dens, but there were some more unusu­al offer­ings, such as the Uni­broue range from Que­bec.

There was a guide to the var­i­ous beers, and the staff were knowl­edge­able and pre­pared to make rec­om­men­da­tions. Beer menus are some­thing I’m very keen on, as they help and guide the bud­ding beer enthu­si­ast – it’s amaz­ing how many good pubs with big selec­tions don’t both­er with this step.

Best of all was that it was absolute­ly heav­ing with locals of all ages, enjoy­ing a range of beer. Per­haps there is hope for the beer scene in Spain after­all. Maybe the Span­ish beer rev­o­lu­tion will begin in Bur­gos – I also noticed a Ger­man bar, and the inter­net cafe I vis­it­ed had Bar­bar Miel and Kapit­tel Watou in the fridge.

In the mean­time, here’s to you, La Espi­ga. I put this up in the hope that anoth­er beer lover who winds up in the area will google “beer + Bur­gos” or per­haps even “cerveza + Bur­gos” and will dis­cov­er you too.

Notes

  1. Cerve­ce­ria La Espi­ga is on Calle de San Juan, right in the mid­dle of town. Ciber­cafe is on Calle del Pueblo (?) which meets Calle de San Juan at a big arch.
  2. Bur­gos is about 2.5 hours from the French bor­der and 3.5 hours from Madrid on the train.
  3. French key­boards are the most annoy­ing in the world. All the let­ters are arse about face. It has tak­en me an hour to type this.

Boak (home­ward bound…)