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.