Thursday 23 December 2010

We're only here for the BIÈRE [part1]

....oh, and the wine too, of course! Oh...and cider!! And...

But this entry is about one of our local micro-breweries [brasseries artisinales].
Micro-breweries are growing fast in France - the first one we came across was the Brasserie Sancerroise, located at the bottom of the hill in Sancerre in the original 1920s brewhouse.

The Brewery Building [the range in 2002 is displayed on the little table]

When we made that first visit in 2002, they were using the pre-war equipment. The original brewery on the site was still running with this equipment until the 1960s.

Whilst Northern France still has a strong brewing tradition, people generally think of France as mainly a wine nation. But the tradition of brewing that remains in the North was far more widespread up to and shortly after the Great War. The region immediately around Sancerre had sixty-three breweries prior to this, which fell to less than thirty between the wars, ten after and by the mid-1960s....NONE!

The brewer, M. Dumas, has been trying to collect the bottles that the original sixty-three breweries used. All the bottles were different in either colour, printed ceramic Grolsch-style tops or embossed glass.... sometimes a combination of these. When we spoke with him, he'd managed to get sixty of the sixty-three, including variations from the same brewery; the whole collection being displayed round the clerestory window that runs around the entire brewery.

Just a few of the bottles.... visit the brewery to see the rest.

The hunt for that elusive trio has resulted, apparently, in an increase in the quality of the collection and variations of unrecorded type. He felt that the three missing breweries may have sold only in barrel [fût] in a brewhouse or used plain, unmarked and, therefore, unattractive and unidentifiable bottles. Whilst 'la France' has kept the records of the breweries, there is precious little record of these smaller breweries methods and advertising.

From the right in small [33cl] and large [75cl] the beers are Rose Blanche, La Drolesse and La Sans-Gen

Brasserie Sancerroise brews three main beers; nowadays using more state of the art, easy to clean stainless-steel plant [except for the original coppers!!]
These three brews...
Rose Blanche - a bière blanche [5° ABV] - Excellent, refreshing brew between a German 'weizen' beer and a Belgian 'Witt'. Great on a hot day, good with fish or fowl.
La Drolesse - a bière blonde [5.6° ABV] - A blond beer that is meant to resemble a Bavarian lager in style and taste. Good hoppy taste and again a refreshing glassful.
La Sans-Gen - la bière ambrée [6.2° ABV] - A ruby brew following the Austrian brewing style.. but also similar to a Trappist ale. Rich and warming, good for a cold evening.
...form the backbone, but also brewed are...
La Sancerroise: - a bière blonde [6.9° ABV] brewed using the "Lentille Verte du Berry" [Which we discovered at the Saffron Fair at Preuilly-sur-Claise.] I like this brew... complex, rich and different. Pollygarter doesn't... in fact she hates it!
We also had another... La Sanceroise de Mars - a light Spring time beer of 6.2%ABV.
And there is a final La Sancerroise which we haven't tried. La Sanceroise de Gruyt.
Check on their current website for their opening hours. The brewery is a worthwhile stop when visiting the Sancerre region for the wine. [The old 2002 website is here.]

Next time I'll write about the Brasserie Carpe Diem at Tilly in the Brenne.

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