Size: 330 ml
ABV: 9 %
You need to be a bit careful when you try and find out information on this beer – the first website you come across might not be something you particularly want to let your kids stumble upon. I learnt French at school, badly, but haven’t had a lot of opportunity since to hone my skills. When I drank this beer I was safely and surely under the assumption that ‘cochon’ meant some kind of suckling pig, and that a cavorting half naked pig on the label was just a female version – a cochonnette. I didn’t really give it a second thought. The fact that innocent research in my lunch break led me to having to explain to my colleagues that I was not some kind of filth peddlar meant that there had to be more to this beer than first met the eye.
It turns out that the term ‘cochonnette’ is not a particularly flattering one. Vapeur Cochonnette essentially translates into ‘Steam Slut’. Now go back to the pig on the label and look in more detail and you start to get the picture. Although Vapeur started brewing in 1984, it was 1992 when the brewmaster commissioned a local artist to design a label for the Cochonne beer. The result was two different labels, each with a naked pig drying themselves, with just a towel covering their modesty. The ‘Steam bitch’ was born, and although it was risque the public loved it – so much so that all future incarnations of these beers still have the same theme. Over the years, the pigs have worn lingerie, cavorted on bar stools, worn see-through T-shirts and donned saucy uniforms but the sales have rolled in. The Cochonne beer has remained the same, yet reincarnated itself from label to label, picking up the Cochonnette term along the way, and various other marketable guises.
The beer I got hold of was the Cochonnette with the ‘slut’ on the label busting out of what looks like some kind of nurses uniform. It is universally the same beer as the other varieties – a strong spicy amber beer with plenty of herbs and plenty of punch. It didn’t really work for me though. It was trying to do too much and seemed to forget that beer is supposed to be enjoyable. It may just be that too much effort has gone into the marketing and not enough into the beer, although the same allegations could be made at probably 95% of the international beer market today.