Category Archives: Silenrieux

#117 – Pave de L’Ours

#117 - Pave de L'Ours

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 8 %

Pave de L’Ours – a remarkably splendid name for a beer, and one which loses much of its meaning in translation. The ‘pave of the bear’ means very little in English, but in French tends to mean ‘to do more harm than good’. Its origin comes from a famous proverb by the renowned fabulist and poet Jean de La Fontaine entitled ‘The Bear and the Lover of Gardens’.

In a nutshell, two unlikely characters; a man and a bear, become friends and agree to look after each other following prolonged periods of loneliness and unhappiness. The man agrees to do the gardening while the bear does all the hunting. Perfect, what could possibly go wrong?

One day, when both the man and bear have finished their chores, they both relax in the garden, and while the man sleeps a fly begins to buzz infuriatingly above his head. Remembering his promise to look after the man, the bear decides to rid his friend of this nuisance thus allowing him to catch up on some uninterrupted sleep. He reaches out for the nearest item to him, a rather large paving stone, and in one unwieldy movement, throws it at the buzzing fly. The fly managed to avert itself from the hurtling piece of pavement, however the sleeping man was less lucky, his skull being crushed on the spot. A tragic tale of how harm can come even from the best of intentions.

This fable is a well known tale in France, and has even been the inspiration for a novel by Toshiyuki Horie, who brings the tragic story to a conclusion in Normandy. Bears are rare in Normandy, so Horie uses two friends, one a Frenchman, the other a Japanese translator.

I had been looking forward to drinking this strong honey beer for some time. What a complete disappointment to discover that the beer so romantically named, ended up as tragic as the tale on which it was based. I have never drunk the urine of a bear before (strangely) however if somebody had told me they had mixed bear piss with honey I wouldn’t have disbelieved them. It was foul. The one saving grace I suppose was that at least it did taste somewhat of honey. I couldn’t even finish it, which is just as well as I probably saved the bear from another deeply distressing manslaughter trial !

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Filed under 3, Bear, Belgian Strong Ale, Silenrieux

#115 – Joseph

#115 - Joseph

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 5.4 %

Straight after Sara (#114) came Joseph – a kind of younger brother beer from Silenrieux. Where Sara is unusual in that it is made from buckwheat, the Joseph is made from spelt.

Spelt is often known as the ‘poor mans’ wheat’, and is an ancient form of the modern day crop. It does differ in its make-up, but probably only because over the years wheat has been so genetically modified whereas spelt remains fairly true to its heritage. Spelt was the common crop across Europe as far back as the Bronze Age, and survived in abundance right through to medieval times. Only then did farmers began to fiddle with it to ensure a higher level of grain per ear, and therefore better returns. This evolutionary journey is well reflected by the latin term for wheat – ‘spelta’.

Spelt was very easy to grow, in that it did not require particularly fertile land, and inevitably required very little attention to keep it flourishing. Its flavour is often described as nuttier and sweeter, so you wonder what led to the desire to modify it. It may have been much rougher than wheat, and the husks much tougher, but spelt has also been found to contain much more protein, which is one reason for modern day farmers to begin to re-introduce spelt. It is healthier in that it contains more nutrients caused by being genetically unmodified and being grown organically. It is however a popular misconception that spelt is gluten free. It isn’t – although Silenrieux produce two buckwheat beers for this purpose (#110, #114).

The end result is to all intents and purposes a wheat beer – it’s just of course made with spelt. The specimen is pale and fairly cloudy, although the brewers do lightly filter the end product and additionally referment within the bottle. The taste was surprisingly fruity, yet more fizzy and refreshing than your average wheat beer. I really enjoyed this and yet again wished it was a 33cl bottle as it was over so quick. A nice end to a long days driving.

(Post-Script) – I assume the name Joseph is derived from spelt being especially prevalent in biblical times – unless anyone else knows otherwise?

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Filed under 7, Fish, Silenrieux, Speciality Grain

#114 – Sara Blonde

#114 - Sara Blonde

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 6 %

I have only just drunk the Sara Brune (#110), and so quickly onto the Sara Blonde, and a rare foray into the world of farming. It would be extremely churlish to drink another buckwheat beer and not know anything about its key ingredient.

The most important point to make is that buckwheat is not actually a cereal or a grass, and therefore not a member of the wheat family, although it does share many similar properties. It is for this reason it is said to belong to the Pseudocereal family, and is much rarer than wheat or barley. Other examples of Pseudocereals include amaranth and quinoa.

These pseudocereals are mostly used nowadays as they still produce a malt that can produce the mash in brewing, but it does not contain gliadin or hordein, which combine to form gluten. People who are sensitve to glycoproteins or who might be coeliacs are able to drink this beer and avoid the common symptoms which wheat, barley and rye can bring about.

It is important to mention that not all Silenrieux beers are made with buckwheat, and therefore not all will be suitable for gluten-free diets, although the Sara beers do hit that spot. Sarasin is the french word for buckwheat, which is how Silenrieux came up with the name, although the name in English originally derives from the word ‘beech wheat’ as the triangular seeds closely resemble those of the beech nut.

Disappointingly I had picked this beer up out of date again, and unlike the darker Belgian beers you need to be a bit more vigilant with lighter beers as they don’t keep as well. The Sara Blonde was extremely pale, petite and very crisp which was welcome after the disaster that was the last beer! (#113). She was very wheaty and ended up just like the farmers girl I had expected to her be – plenty of substance, but otherwise plain. This is though a pretty decent beer for anyone who needs to control or avoid gluten in their diet.

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Filed under 6, Fish, Silenrieux, Speciality Grain

#110 – Sara Brune

#110 - Sara Brune

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 6 %

Silenrieux is a rare breed among breweries in Belgium, promoting a range of traditional beers that are made from the most natural of ingredients. Eric Bedoret started the brewery in 1995 while living on his parent’s farm in the Ardennes countryside. Eric had spent a fair amount of time in the local library and had begun to discover that the area in which he lived was once rife with two rarer types of grain – namely buckwheat and spelt. He also discovered a history of local brewers long since out of business who had used these grains to produce beer. His mission was now to recreate them; firstly by growing the grains, and then turning the harvest into a range of drinks.

With the help of a number of local authorities including the Director of Agriculture he was able to glean the farming know-how, and through liaising closely with the professors at the University of Louvain was able to rework ancient recipes into a modern day solution. Eric then set about the final piece of the jigsaw in terms of getting a loan to fund the whole enterprise.

The money soon began to trickle in though, as the quality of the beer became known, and the switch started to trigger in customers that here was a very natural beer. The story reached even greater success with the Sara and Joseph (#115) launching as truly organic beers in 2000. This meant following stricter guidance on the production of the ingredients, but this move towards producing ‘superbeers’ has really paid off. What used to be a rustic farmyard is now a modern brewery which is reeling off 70,000 gallons of excellent beer each year, and exporting as far and wide as much of Western Europe and the United States. You can even drive by and drink the beers on the premises at the bar-restaurant should you wish.

This Sara Brune was picked up in a local beer store in Couvin and drunk in the safety of my own home. I was very interested to discover what a buckwheat beer tastes like, but like most 25cl beers it was all over so soon. It was though pleasantly crisp and light for a dark beer, and fairly spicy on the tongue. I wouldn’t be in a rush to drink another but felt strangely liberated to be drinking an organic beer !

(Post-Script) – Silenrieux also make a Sara Blonde (#114), and this report highlights how the beer got its name.

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Filed under 7, Fish, Silenrieux, Speciality Grain