Category Archives: La Binchoise

#211 – La Binchoise Blonde

#211 - La Binchoise Blonde

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.2 %

La Binchoise Blonde is another beer which is dominated by the Gilles on the label. For more information on these strange characters then please feel free to divert your attention to the La Binchoise Brune (#121). Today though I want to concentrate on the modern day history of the brewery, and in particular Andre Graux.

The modern day brewery in Binche was only founded in 1986, which is fairly young by Belgian standards. It was set up by Andre Graux and his wife Francoise Jauson who were both unemployed at the time and shared a passion for beer. The business first began at home, but eventually they bought an old malthouse and the reputation of their early beers led to moderate success. At the time the brewery was particularly well known for making their beer in a cauldron which they procured from the Belgian National Guard which added to the intrigue.

The two beers which really launched the commercialisation of the brewery were the Fakir, and Reserve Marie de Hongrie. Strangely, having just literally written about label beers in my last review (#210), both these beers developed alter egos for the linguistically distinct areas of Wallonia and Flanders. The Reserve Marie de Hongrie would double up as La Binchoise Brune in Wallonia, while the La Binchoise Blonde took on the Fakir mandate. Fakir just happened to be the childhood nickname of our chief protagonist Andre Graux. I have added the label of the beer for posterity which is now retired and I am therefore unlikely to run across it again on my travels.

Fakir

The La Binchoise Blonde and La Binchoise Brune remain the flagship beers of the brewery and these two are often relabelled for local shops, carnivals and fetes; in particular the Blonde which accounts for about half of the entire breweries current output. You can also find it locally known as La Molagnarde Blonde.

In my humble opinion the La Binchoise Blonde is a particularly average blonde beer. You can’t dislike it but equally I’d find it unlikely that with the breadth of good solid blonde mid-range beers available that you would continue to drink this one. It looks the part though, with a thick rich amber pour, and the aroma is sweet and fruity. There is a good helping of yeast in the flavour and some basic citric fruits which isn’t that surprising given it is brewed with orange peel – this addition reflective of the orange blossom regularly thrown at the carnival. I may decide to drink this again if a) I ever actually make it to the carnival, or b) if I am lucky enough to get my hands on a Fakir, or a La Molagnarde Blonde.

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#121 – La Binchoise Brune

#121 - La Binchoise Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.2 %

The most striking thing about the standard beers from La Binchoise is the funny looking gentlemen on the labels. Yes, the ones that look like they have just finished a medieval game of water polo. There surely can’t be any better place to start.

These strange clown-like characters are called Gilles, and are the most definitive image of the festivities that take place at the annual Carnival of Binche. The town where the La Binchoise brewery is based is not a big place at all, yet this festival is famous throughout the world – so much so that recently it was proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Quite a mouthful to live up to!

The festivities can often last up to seven weeks, but the main focus of the carnival takes place during the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday leading up to Ash Wednesday. Sundays are generally marching and dancing, with Mondays often descending into a late night pub crawl. The real colour and fun though begins on Shrove Tuesday. While we in the UK blandly knock up a few pancakes after a long day at work, the Gilles of Binche are up at the crack of dawn slipping into their vibrant costumes, wax masks and clogs. They then wait for the legendary tambourine men to come and fetch them and lead them down to the main square for the real fun and games. Plenty more dancing and marching usually happens in the morning, to ward off the evil spirits of course, then in the afternoon the Gilles find their large decorative ostrich feather hats and proceed throughout the town pelting locals and revellers alike with oranges. You couldn’t script it if you tried. The pelting of fruit is a largely popular part of the fun, although in recent years the high spirits have been somewhat frowned upon with increased reports of damage to property and injuries to bystanders.

Either way, I have heard enough to make me check my calendar for the next one – I have always been game for a bit of a food fight. I’m not sure I would make the trek over for the beer alone though. It didn’t start well with me on my hands and knees once again scrubbing beer out of the lounge rug due to my inability to prepare for a gusher. Once I was back on the sofa, the head had dissipated and I had quite lost the moment. She was a thin beer, and seemed a little weak for the stated ABV. There are plenty better browns than this although it is unlikely to offend anybody, unless of course half of it ends up on your best rug.

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#79 – Gribousine Brune de Malonne

#79 - Gribousine Brune de Malonne

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

The Gribousine Malonne beers are common to the Abbaye de Malonne (#14, #92) range in that they are distributed by the Brasserie de L’Abbaye de Malonne, although they are brewed by the La Binchoise brewery in Binche. While these beers may like to be associated with the purity and sanctity of an Abbey, it simply cannot mask the fact that these are actual homage beers to a legendary witch from Malonne – the one astride her broom on the label.

During the early 1800’s in Malonne, some strange occurrences were afflicting the local population. There were varied reports of cows suddenly being unable to produce any milk, strange nuts growing on trees and plants where previously impossible, and people finding themselves riddled with sudden unfortunate illnesses. The legend goes that an old lady living in a small isolated cottage on the edge of the forest was responsible for casting these bizarre spells on the natives – her name was Gribousine.

The witch, as she was known to all, filled the population with such fear, that the locals would avoid travelling anywhere near her cottage, and instead take diversions on other paths which would often add many miles to their journeys. This everyday routine continued for many years, with more mysterious curses being cast, and Gribousine becoming more and more isolated. Eventually as she grew old and unwell, she came to the local village and sought the help of Father Marchand, the local priest, to rid her of illness and cure her of her loneliness. The priest, along with local warden Francis Joseph Bacq took Gribousine into their care one long and troubled night, and between doses of herbal remedies, they performed a full-scale exorcism. Gribousine was never really accepted by the villagers following this, however the curses and afflictions suddenly abated, and nobody ever reported seeing her ride her broomstick again. The legend though of course has raged on in local history, so much so that they even named a range of beers after her.

The Gribousine Brune de Malonne is a strange one. Sometimes you can drink a beer that has a hint of confectionery, or perhaps an undertone of a drink you once tried as a child. This one however was straight from the Hansel and Gretel fairytale, in that it tasted virtually of a cross between Dr Pepper and Vimto, with the slight taste of beer to keep the adults happy. I can just imagine Gribousine standing on the edge of the forest luring children to her candy cottage with bottles of this stuff. This beer won some International Taste and Quality awards in 2008. I can only assume Gribousine had popped back for a bit of fun !

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