beer reviews France

More basque beer, this time from the French side

patxaran.jpgWhilst in Biarritz, I went beer hunting. I was actually after some Akerbeltz, as I’d spotted an advert for their brewery in the tourist office. However, they couldn’t be bothered to respond to my email to tell me where to find the stuff, so I had an amusing afternoon going into every wine shop and off-licence that was open and baffling the locals with my quest for more biere artisanale. More fun that way, and I found a couple of other basque products instead.

Firstly, the intriguingly titled “Etxeko Bob’s beer” — unfiltered, unpasteurised etc.. The brewery is just outside Bayonne, and has a half-built website here. The beer itself was inoffensive but not that exciting. Quite a lot like the other beers I had in the south of France that I generalised about yesterday. That said, I had shaken it up quite a lot before drinking it, so I probably wasn’t drinking it in peak condition.

I was expecting Oldarki Patxaran beer to be revolting – it is beer mixed with Patxaran, a basque spirit made from sloe berries. However, it was actually very tasty. It wasn’t particularly sweet, just fruity and very refreshing. It was copper-red coloured, with a light body. It reminded me a little bit of Meantime’s Raspberry beer, but also of a strawberry beer I had in Belgium once (but not as sickly). Very hard to pin down the flavour – as their website says,

“it is a very specific beverage and can’t be compared to any other beer; the Patxaran-based recipe is exclusive”

I’m not a huge fruit beer fan, but I really liked this.



Generalisations about artisan brews in the south of France

A couple of months back on the way out to Spain, I blogged to express my surprise that there was a micro-brewing scene in the south of France, and several helpful commentators provided useful links to find out more.

Using these links, I managed to track down products from at least five breweries from the Midi – nothing on tap, unfortunately, but bottles can be found with a bit of searching in the off-licences, supermarkets and “regional produce” shops in the bigger cities such as Montpellier and Toulouse. Ask for “biere artisanale”.

beer_bottle.jpgSo why nothing on the blog about the exciting brewing scene? Unfortunately, all of the beers I’ve tried have (literally) been nothing to write home about, ranging from dull homebrew to actively unpleasant.

They always look promising – attractive packaging, reminiscent of small Belgian breweries. They’re usually unfiltered, unpasteurised, and “refermented in the bottle”. Unfortunately, they all have a similar flavour profile (or lack) – little or no malt taste, and what hops you can taste usually have a fairly astringent grassy flavour.

In fact, the tastes were so similar that it made me wonder whether they were attempting to brew like that, whether it is a specific “style” made for the Midi market. Or perhaps it’s due to having poor quality primary ingredients. Or maybe it’s just that it’s early days, and they’ll get better. I hope so.

I don’t want to list the culprits here because I don’t like slagging off small brewers, and I promise that if I have a good one I will log it here!

In the meantime, if you’re a French microbrewer and reading this (unlikely, as my experience tells me you’re unlikely to even respond to direct emails asking where to find your beer), get yourself to the Frog and Rosbif in Toulouse to see how it should be done.



Microbreweries in the south of france?

Boak is on tour in France and Spain. This is the first update from “our foreign correspondent”…

Does anyone know anything about breweries in the south of France?

I’d assumed there wouldn´t be a lot, but in the tourist office in Beziers I noticed an advert for Brasserie d’Oc, between Beziers and Montpellier. Anyone had anything from them? They even offer a brewery tour, so if they´re any good, I´m tempted to take a detour and go and see.

I´m told there are others too, although a quick internet search has not turned up any names or places.

Have I totally misjudged the brewing scene in Languedoc, home of the most militant wine manufacturers in France?