Tag Archives: Binchoise

#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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Filed under 6, Abbey Dubbel, La Binchoise

#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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Filed under 6, Belgian Strong Ale, La Binchoise