BeerCast #51 – MrB’s Brasserie Cast

Posted by on Aug 18, 2010 in BeerCasts, Belgian Beer | No Comments

BeerCast panellist MrB was lucky enough to visit southern Belgium and Alsace in July, and returned to the UK with almost fifty beers (not to mention a case of wine). He also managed to squeeze a few podcast-worthy beers in, before inching his groaning car onto the ferry back to Blighty. All of his chosen beers hail from Brasseries – the first being a duo from the Brasserie la Saint-Pierre in the Alsace town of the same name:- La Blonde de l’Oncle Hansi (5.6%), and La Saint Pierre Brune (5.6%). Following those we go to Belgium for La Médiévale Ambrée (6.0%) from the eponymous Brasserie in the Wallonian town of Bouillon. Our third beer this episode is the Queen of trappist ales – Orval (6.2%) – from the brasserie inside the Cisctercian monastery near the French border. Our final beer is the hop-smacking Houblon Chouffe (9.0%) from Brasserie d’Achouffe. We end the show with a bonus – the traditional northern French aperitif Picon (18.0%), the orange-based syrup traditionally added to local lager – which means an unexpected debut BeerCast appearance for Kronenbourg 1664 (5.0%).

1. La Blonde de l’Oncle Hansi (5.6%abv)
2. La Saint Pierre Brune (5.6%abv)
Brasserie la Saint-Pierre, Saint Pierre, 67140, Alsace, France.
330ml glass bottles

Jean-Jacques Waltz was born in German-occupied Alsace in February 1873, where he eventually became an artist and then satirical cartoonist under the pseudonym ’Hansi’. Charged with treason in 1914 he escaped to France and joined the army as a translator – by this point he had become a national hero. When war again broke in 1939 he fled again, this time to Vichy France where he was attacked and badly wounded by the occupying Germans, eventually dying from his injuries in Switzerland in 1951. Thirty miles from Hansi’s birthplace of Colmar is Saint-Pierre, home to the Brasserie la Saint-Pierre who produce a range of local beers named in honour of this famous Alsace artist. MrB and Grooben sampled their blonde, while Richard and Shovels got to try their brune.

What They Say
“Une bière franche et typée au nez épicé, ronde et persistante en bouche, à la mousse veloutée, abondante et fine. Une amertume agréable et une belle couleur d’or soutenu.” (Blonde) [Official Website]

What We Say
Grooben – Some cloudy business, more fruity than I thought 6½
MrB – Very tasty, close to a wheat beer, refreshing 6
Richard – Hints of bitter choc and liquorice, not too sweet 8
Shovels – Not bad but I wouldn’t drink it again 4½

3. La Médiévale Ambrée
Brasserie de Bouillon, Grand Rue 22 Bouillon, Belgium 6830.
330ml glass bottle

In October 1994 a foodie couple called Nathalie Louis and Jacques Pougin decided to open a local foods market in their hometown of Bouillon, in the far south of Belgium. ‘Marketplace Nathalie’ initially focused on fruit and veg, but then added a healthy number of Belgian trappist ales – targeted to the nearby French. These sold so well that Jacques decided to learn how to brew, with an eye on stocking his own beers. This is pretty much what happened – in February 1998 they installed brewing equipment into the market, establishing the Brasserie de Bouillon. By 2004 demand had soared to maximum capacity of 620hl, and the company had to secure extra backing from Luxembourg to move to larger premises.

What They Say
“La Médiévale Ambrée is the second brand marketed by Brasserie de Bouillon. With its rustic character and brassy, it bears its name perfectly. The character on the label is actually a caricature of Jacques’ father, long gone too soon. This is a very nice way to perpetuate his memory. La Médiévale Ambrée is 6% alc vol, and is a pure malt beer, unfiltered and fermented in the bottle.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – On holiday in France in the sun you’d drink it 5
Grooben – Close to a lager, but with a slightly sour undertone 5
MrB – Mine’s very fizzy, smack bang in the middle 5
Richard – Tastes 3%, not 6% – how can it have so little flavour? 5

4. Orval Trappist Ale
Brasserie d’Orval, Villiers-devant-Orval, Belgium 6823.
330ml glass bottle

The Gaume region of southern Belgium borders France and Luxembourg, and is about as far south as you can get in Wallonia. Nestling amidst the Belgian Ardennes is the small town of Villiers-devant-Orval – home to a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1132, and Belgium’s most distinctive trappist ale. Orval (6.2%) has been produced inside the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval since 1931, alongside the lesser Petite Orval (3.5%) for the monks. The distinctive skittle-shaped bottles are found in beer shops all over the world, with the fish symbol depicting the legend of the abbey’s founding – a helpful trout plucking the lost wedding ring of Mathilda of Tuscany from a frothing spring (the grateful Lady exclaiming “truly this place is a Val d’Or!” before supplying sufficient funds for a monastery). Orval ale is dry hopped with Hallertau, Styrian Golding and Strisselspalt., and then at bottling wild Brettanomyces yeasts are added to give a tarter flavour than other trappist ales.

What They Say
“Young Orval is characterised by a bouquet of fresh hops, with a fruity note and pronounced bitterness, light on the palate and a less firm collar than a beer of six months. The latter will feature a bouquet consisting of a blend of fragrances of yeast and old-fashioned hop. The bitterness is more diffuse and the taste has moved to a slight touch of acidity accompanying yeast and caramel flavours.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – Outstanding, I love everything about this beer 9
Richard – Very different from other Trappists with the tart sourness – the most sessionable 6.2% beer you will ever find 8½
Grooben – Sour lambic thing but not too overpowering 8
Shovels – I just can’t get with Belgian beers 5½

5. La Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel
Brasserie d’Achouffe, Achouffe, Houffalize, Wallonia, Belgium.
750ml glass bottle

This podcast sees our second La Chouffe beer in a row, following the appearance of their mighty magnum Big Chouffe (8.0%) in BeerCast #50. For this podcast, we have their IPA tripel Houblon Chouffe (9.0%) – which is only found in 750ml bottles and 20litre kegs. Houblon is French for Hops, and as you’d expect the Brasserie d’Achouffe have packed plenty inside their creation, giving a very different taste to their flagship blonde ale. The first is Tomahawk, then Saaz hops are added late for aroma, before the whole thing is dry-hopped with Amarillo.

What They Say
“The Houblon Chouffe was brewed for the first time in 2006. It is an ‘Indian Pale ale’ type of beer, with a harmonious balance between a marked bitterness (three types of hops are used to make it) and a pleasant fruitiness.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – I love highly hopped things but this doesn’t compete, as it’s almost a different style 8½
Richard – So floral, like drinking shampoo – doesn’t taste 9% 7½
Grooben – With the extra addition of hops this is really good 7½
Shovels – A nice beer until one point when it goes “I’m Belgian” 6

6. Sirop de Picon
Distributed by Diageo Ltd.
Drunk as an addition to Kronenbourg 1664 (5.0%)

Picon was invented in 1839 by Frenchman Gaétan Picon – who had served with the French army in Algeria. Prior to joining up he had completed an apprenticeship at a distillery in Aix-en-Provence, and the north African flavours he had experienced prompted Gaétan to invent his sirop – which he first called ’African Bitters’. In 1872 he returned to his homeland and established the first Picon distillery in Marseilles (which is still operational today). At that time it had a healthy 39%abv kick, but these days it reaches only 18%. Designed to be added to local beer as an aperitif, the dark, orangey syrup is most popular in northern France, which accounts for 70% of sales.

What They Say
“Picon is made from a base of fresh oranges which are dried and mixed with a solution of alcohol which is distilled. Picon also contains gentian and quinquina in equal measures. Sugar, syrup and caramel are added last.” [Wikipedia]

What We Say
Richard – There’s a dark blood orange taste to it
Shovels – Alternates between orange and burnt orange
Grooben – Later on the burnt orange really lingers
MrB – One of the best things about going to Alsace was discovering Picon

– (clockwise from top left) Grooben, MrB, Shovels, Richard

BeerCast panel verdict
Brasserie d’Orval Orval Trappist Ale (31/40)
Brasserie d’Achouffe Houblon Chouffe (29½/40)
Brasserie la Saint-Pierre Brune (12½/20)
Brasserie la Saint-Pierre Blonde de l’Oncle Hansi (12½/20)
Brasserie Bouillon La Médiévale Ambrée (20/40)

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #51 – MrB’s Brasserie Cast
  • Subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes or our Site Feed
  • Our next BeerCast podcast will be episode #52 – involving a selection of dark beers Grooben managed to source from the excellent Utobeer stall at London’s Borough Market…

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