6 beers, 3 breweries, one hell of an afternoon! by Alec Fullerton. Additional reporting by Jack Green

6 beers 3 breweriesEven after living in the South of France for the best part of a year, there’s one thing I simply refuse to get used to: drinking beer as a demi (half pint). Prior to last year’s French foray, I’d prided myself on never having ordered a half pint. Yet for fear of being branded a philistine, I’m forced to swallow down demi after demi of stomach-lining-sizzling, industrial French lager. Without a doubt, one of my most dearly felt expat pinings has been for a good old pint of room temperature bitter.

Whilst I personally think you’d be hard-pressed to do any better than a simple pint of London Pride, craft beer has recently exploded in popularity across the UK and America. At first glance you might think that this trend somehow managed to mess up its Eurostar booking and hasn’t made it across the Channel, but think again. Even though supermarket shelves might be rammed with endless crates of carbonated urine, dig a bit deeper and you’ll discover a wave of artisanal craft breweries emerging all across France.

So as an ale-deprived expat, I was understandably excited when I found out about a new craft beer shop opening in Nîmes. L’Instant Bières popped up back in February and can be found just behind the Carré d’Art, next to what is probably the best bar in Nîmes, L’Instant T.

One sunny afternoon my friend and I headed on over. We were recommended two beers from each of the three different local breweries they stock and made our way over to the Jardins de la Fontaine for an afternoon of serious drinking and even more serious reviewing. All in the name of journalism, of course.

 

Brasserie des Garrigues in Sommières was first in the dock, described to us as one of the best, if not the best, brewery in France. Currently celebrating their 10 year anniversary, this brewery follows traditional methods, combining the cross- Channel expertise of British Real Ale and the Bière de Garde of Northern France.

 

La Belle en Goguette, classic pale ale, 4.1%

The state of being "en goguette" is described as "that light state of drunkenness when your senses are excited and prepared for a night of celebrations." This beer is a perfect tribute to the virtues of simplicity. It’s an easy drinking, crisp and refreshing summer ale that does exactly what it says on the tin. Whilst this probably won’t be the most exciting brew you’ve supped, it truly benefits from lacking the oft overbearing and over engineered punch of some IPAs.

Jack’s sound summary: "The aperitif before a bistro lunch on summer’s day."

Rating: 8/10

 

La Frappadingue, strong IPA, 8.3%

The striking wrestler design on the bottle makes this beer a real eye-catcher. It boasts the title of being La Bière qui bourre ta gueule, which unfortunately loses some of its lustre when translated literally as: «the beer that gets you smashed». Whilst being noticeably stronger and having a deep hoppy flavour to it, it avoided being overpowering and remained very drinkable.

Jack's sound bitesummary: "If you’ll pardon the pun, this one packs quite a punch."

Rating: 6.5/10

 


La Barbaude, Nîmes is situated right in the heart of Nîmes, this family brewery was founded by two brothers who decided to turn their home brewing hobby into a career. This promising young brewery only started in 2009 but has since produced lots of interesting beers with minimalistic but beautifully drawn labelling. Some favourites are Maltador, a 7 malt milky stout, which proudly references the city’s proud history of bull fighting. As well as La Volque, a special beer made just for 2017’s Grands Jeux Romains, celebrating Queen Boudicca and her tribe’s (the Volcae) courageous but ultimately futile resistance against the Roman invasion of Britain.

 

Bzzz Bzz, Honey beer, 6.1%

The first sip of this light and bouncy golden ale produced an audible "ahh" from both of us. Flavoured with Chestnut honey from the Ardèche, this is a subtly sweet beer that makes for an extremely crisp and refreshing tipple on a hot summer afternoon.

Jack’s sound bite summary: "Evokes memories of a Saxon warrior greedily guzzling from his horn of mead in the aftermath of the battle of Stamford Bridge after seeing off the Norse hordes of Harold Hardrada."

Rating: 7.5/10

 

Nîm’ale, American Pale Ale 5.4%

This fruity and floral US style pale ale is the real jewel in La Barbaude’s crown. Pitched as a ‘Denim pale ale’ and bearing Nîmes’ iconic crocodile on its label, this beer is a tribute to both Nîmes’ Romantic heritage and its role in clothing every cowboy worth his salt. The bottle’s attractive appearance is equally matched by its contents: a complex hoppy aroma full of grapefruit flavours that make for an overwhelmingly drinkable and crisp pale ale.

Jack’s sound bite summary: "Don’t be put off by the little bits floating about in the bottom, it’s all good for you."

Rating: 8/10

 


PBC, Cévennes. Only in researching this article did I discover the true boldness of this brewery’s name. PBC actually stands for Putain de Bière Cévenole, though I’m not sure the editor would be too happy to print a translation for that one. North of Alès and just over the border into the Lozère region, this artisanal brewery operates out of an old Boucherie Charcuterie in a little village called Le Collet-de-Dèze. Keen on experimentation and innovating traditional methods, PBC forcefully declare themselves not a simple "Blonde, Ambré, Brune..." type of brewery.

 

L’Hou Solitaire, Single hop blond ale, 5.4%

Despite a fairly non-descript initial presence, the secret behind this beer is very intriguing. The logo depicts a wolf’s head set into the shape of a hop leaf, linking with the name’s implied double meaning — both "single hop" and "lone wolf". Each batch is produced using a single variety of hop that is changed every time in order to give the beer a unique and individual flavour. The brewery’s website says that inquisitive fans can actually use the batch number to work the exact hops that went into their brew.

Jack’s sound bite summary: "nice gimmick, average beer."

Rating: 6/10

 

Mine de Rien, Spruce beer, 4.5%

This beer is a bit unusual. A true tribute to the Cévennes, this dark amber brew is made (and I’ve seen photos) using actual pine needles. Originally a Scandinavian technique, this brewing method was adopted by the British Navy to combat scurvy. Pine trees are significant for the Lozère region as they were grown to prop up mine shafts. Although this is a very idiosyncratic and attractive twist, it makes for quite a medicinal flavour at first, with a fairly bitter aftertaste. Yet, halfway through the bottle I got acclimatised and began to warm to it. Despite my drinking buddy’s cynicism, this is a beer I’d definitely want to try again.

Jack’s sound bite summary: "There’s a reason you’ve never encountered a beer made from pine needles before..."

Rating: 5.5/10