Tag Archives: France

#126 – St. Louis Premium Kriek

#126 - St. Louis Premium Kriek

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 3.5 %

Saint Louis has done rather well for himself in the naming stakes. A state in Mexico, a city in the US, a famous baseball team, an Oscar winning movie, and of course the cherry on the cake being associated with a range of low alcohol fruit beers from Van Honsebrouck 😉 So who is the gentleman with the crown who graces some of the labels, and what is his association with Belgian beer?

The Saint in question was actually also King Louis IX of France, who ruled between 1226 and 1270. It is unusual for kings to end up as Saints, and indeed he was the only French king ever to be canonised. Considering this canonisation took place only 29 years after his death, it is clear he must have done some seriously good shit in his life to warrant this.

Many considered Louis to be the model of the ideal Christian monarch, a man who spent his early life bravely fighting in the Crusades, and yet always having enough time for the poor and the needy. He was a huge patron of art and architecture, and yet also is remembered as the lynchpin ruler during which the Kingdom of France was at its political and economic zenith. The whole of Europe looked to this fair man as an arbiter at times of struggle, which was some compliment, although the fact he commanded the largest army in Europe at the time may have been a consideration.

Nevertheless, it’s his association with beer which interests us most. During his reign, Louis passed a succession of laws to regulate the brewing and selling of beer, and in 1250 incorporated the first French brewers’ guild. His influence in this sphere at a time when the production of beer was extremely inconsistent cannot be underestimated. Naturally, the good people of Belgium with their love of fine beer have also taken Louis to their hearts, and his name lives on within what I would recognise as pretty decent fruit beers.

The Kriek is made from traditional Gueuze lambic, to which about 25% of fresh black cherry juice and natural sugar is added. The result is a deeply fruity dark red beer, with a pink frothy head which tastes absolutely splendid. It was a mission trying to stop the wife taking sneaky sips, which I am normally very pleased to offer when working my way through your average fruit beer. I realise this review will upset the purists who expect to see authentic steeping of fruit, but if it’s a deliciously sweet refreshing summer cooler you are after, then look no further than the St. Louis Premium Kriek.

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Filed under 8, Lambic - Fruit, Van Honsebrouck

#86 – Watou Tripel

#86 - Watou Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

Watou is a bit of a haven when it comes to beer. If you start to plot breweries on a map of Belgium – which lets face it is a perfect thing to do on a quiet Sunday 😉  – you start to notice a batch of them all concentrated in a quiet area of countryside just north of the French border. Westvleteren, Van Eecke, Struise Brouwers and St. Bernardus are within a stones throw of each other, and each are renowned for the quality of their beers. The latter is based in the small village of Watou for which this beer is named.

The brewery claim that this beer was made for the French, maybe as a compromise for the fact that in 1793 this area was designated to fall within Flanders, as opposed to France. It’s odd because the beer sounds French, although there are villages that ended up in France at the carve-up that sound nailed on Flemish such as Steenvoorde and Winne Zele. It just happened that the geographical location of two rivers meant that it ended up in Belgian hands.

Watou generally translates as “watery area”, a direct reference to the rivers that dominate the locality. It only has a population of around 2000 people, but often the streets are bursting with visitors to the Flanders fields, or to a number of annual festivals that take place in the village and surrounding areas. One of these is a choir festival that takes place in St. Bavo church, the one so beautifully recreated on the label of this beer. The church has been a preserved monument since 1939 and contains the tombs of two of the first counts of Watou. Other visitors come to visit the brewery of St. Bernardus and the famous hop farms of Poperinge.

Local hops are used to make this extremely pleasant medium strength blonde. The bitterness of the hops is played off expertly against the zesty fruity tang which accompanies every sip. To be honest it didn’t start off as a great beer, but it grew with every inch downed. Where it began mellow and indistinctive, it ended alive and buzzing with energy. Rarely does a beer start as a six and end as an eight – though you would expect nothing less from a St. Bernardus.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Tripel, St. Bernardus

#63 – La Gauloise Brune

La Gauloise Brune

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8.1 %

My second beer in the Purnode campsite was another local brew from just across the way – La Gauloise Brune. This is a beer that celebrates the many Gallo-Roman sites in the locality, and which when first brewed back in 1858 by Du Bocq, attempted to recreate how those residents of ancient Gaul would have brewed beer. The strapline of the beer echoes this – ‘La biere de nos ancetres’. These ancestors funnily enough were known as Gauls.

Gaul is the historic name used by the Roman Empire to refer to the region of Western Europe that was what is now largely France and Belgium. In fact, Julius Caesar went as far as to break Gaul down further into three distinct ethnic groups – The Aquitani in the south west, the Celts in the middle, and the Belgae in the north between the Rhine and the Seine.

Gaul was eventually conquered by the Romans during the Gallic wars, where at least a million people died, and a further million were enslaved (totalling almost a half of the entire Gallic population). three hundred tribes were subjugated, and eight hundred cities destroyed. The tribes never really had a chance to be fair, as more often than not they were fighting amongst themselves, even when Julius Caesar became the common enemy. Their principal religion tended to be animism, in which animals were worshipped, and they tended to follow the political inclinations of the Druids, who had particularly strong beliefs in not recording the Celtic wisdom and literature into writing. It is often said that this is the reason the language of the Celts has virtually disappeared without trace except for parts of Brittany. For anybody seeking further information on the Gauls I would suggest reading Asterix. From what I have read on Gaul so far, it remains remarkably coherent in its portrayal of life at this time.

I was served the beer in a cracking little tankard with the newer logo on it, and after pouring I held it up to the light, to see a chestnut brown infused with ruby red. It looked the business, especially with its sepia head remaining pert on top. The aroma was intensely malty, and the taste was smooth and strong, echoing even more maltiness. It was a pleasant drink right to the end, but just didn’t go far enough to earn a better rating. Anyway, it has inspired me to go back and read Asterix, which of course I will do once I finish Tintin.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Dubbel, Du Bocq