Tag Archive: France


Sainsbury’s Pilsner Zero Alcohol (France: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Medium amounts of small bubbled carbonation. A large mounded white head.

Nose: Soft lemon cakes. Slight sulphur. Jiff lemon on pancakes. Slight lime. Dry rice. Muggy hop character. Brown bread. Wort mash.

Body: Clean. Light chemically feel. Soft lime. Vanilla. Light toffee. Some hop feel.

Finish: Soft lime. Light chalk. Low to medium bitterness and light hop prickle. Slight charring. Slightly bready.

Conclusion: This is a reasonable low alcohol lager, with a few flaws, a few quirks that help offset the flaws and one big advantage.

Let’s look at the nice quirks first. Unusually for a pilsner it has a soft citrus style, with lemon and lime notes that make up a good chunk of the character. It is subtly done in execution but it gives it a fresh zestiness that I’ve rarely seen in this kind of beer.

The flaws are mostly those common to a low alcohol lager. There is a slight chemically touch to it (Yes, I know how crap that description is, but all of you know exactly what I mean), a generally artificial note and a light touch of chalkiness that doesn’t suit the easy drinking character. It’s hardly the worst I have seen of this kind of thing, and it manages to dodge the iced tea and dry teabag tannins like notes nigh completely so it is just a touch rough and artificial edged.

The rest of the beer around those two poles is a moderately bitter and slightly evident hop character lager. Reasonable, not fancy but does the job.

So with that we have covered the good, the bad and the generic. An ok beer, some flaws but not horrible and that citrus zest helps perk it up through its troubles.

So, what is its big advantage? Basically that it is easy to get and inexpensive. While not the best this is reasonable, and actually better than a bunch of the “craft” low abv lagers I’ve tried which leaned on hops too much and ended up very rough. As such, since it is very easy to get it is an easy one to slip alongside a meal or such instead of an alcoholic beer. Not one to examine, or dig into, but does the job well enough for what it is.

Background: So, this says it is bottled in France. Dunno what brewery, heck I don’t even know if it is brewed in France or just bottled there. So, with that wealth of information I can say that this is an alcohol free beer from Sainsbury‘s that I decided to grab and do notes on. It is fairly cheap and I always need some low to no alcohol stuff to enjoy. Or at least try. So that is that. Went with X-Ray Specs: Germ Free Generation as backing music.

Saint-Germain Nøgne Ø Rhub’IPA

Saint-Germain: Nøgne Ø: Rhub’IPA (France: IPA: 6.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear at first glance, but if held up light then the light reflects off light sediment within. Large white crisp bubbled head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Floral. Dry lemon. Light crisp bitterness. Lightly wheaty. Pineapple.

Body: Light tartness and bitterness mix. Subtle rhubarb that rises as time goes on. Pineapple. Slight granite edged base. Sweet peach syrup taste and texture.

Finish: Sugared rhubarb pie. Moderate bitter hops. Grapefruit touch. Dry unleavened bread. Lemon. Dried apricot and peach.

Conclusion: I have always been a sucker for a good stick of rhubarb, all the way back to my young ‘un days. My love of IPAs, well that came later – but it is still a long time allegiance.

So…

Rhubarb IPA anyone?

Well, it does have rhubarb and IPA – the tartness of the rhubarb working better with the hops here than the similar concept grapefruit IPA “You taste better when you are scared“. Here the rhubarb is a subtle but definite presence, and the bitterness also has a solid but not excessive kick. Even better, either from the hops, or from the mixing of the different elements, there seems to be a nice range of tart flavours – grapefruit and pineapple standing out, with some small fruit sugar sweetness behind. It isn’t the most efficient melding of flavours, but considering there is little out there like this for comparison, it works the rough edged bits well.

Now, under that, the base ale doesn’t work quite as well – there is a dry, kind of unleavened bread character- it isn’t too heavy mid body but works its way out into the finish where it doesn’t quite work. Maybe this was needed as a base for the other elements to work, but it feels out of place here and unnecessarily rough – it draws attention away from the better front elements.

Now it doesn’t ruin the beer – and the peach syrup sweetness does help keep it at bay for some of the time, but it is a flaw, and a consequence that can come with doing something a bit unusual. So, yeah, it is an element that reduces this to just a fun odd beer rather than a high quality one. Don’t get me wrong, I am charmed by this and its tart to hop balance but on the technical scale it is far from a perfect 6.0.

Still, have fun with it – sometimes you don’t need perfection and a good old try will take you far enough.

Background: A brewery from France I had only run into as part of a Welsh collaboration beer, oh and Nøgne Ø. So a blend of new and exciting and old reliable. A good balance. I grabbed this from Independent Spirit as the idea of an IPA made with rhubarb juice intrigued me – I love rhubarb. I drank it election day as I saw the result predictions as by that point I needed a brew to commiserate. Ah well. Drunk while listening to the Gunflower’s New EP, and Miracle Of Sound’s Metal Up. Both punk and metal awesomeness. Oh, also I love the little swing tops that the use for the bottle. They are so darn neat.

Pelforth: Ambree (France: Vienna: 6% ABV)

Visual: Rich honeyed gold. Loose bubbled white head.

Nose: Very malty. Potpourri. Touch of honey. Slight sugar dusting. Slightly musty. Crushed pine cones.

Body: Malt and orange. Liquorice underneath. Quiet fizzy textured with a waxy style coming in after. Some oaken elements mid body. Slight toffee.

Finish: Dry black liquorice. Has an alternate switch between slick and dry. Finally leaves a slightly waxy sheen as it makes its mind up.  A slight bells whisky finish style. Smoke. Builds to a touch of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: I’m not really sold on this, if only because it only seems half there. That isn’t to say it isn’t full flavoured. More reflecting that it is very simply flavoured.

It’s got the base down pat. A fresh aroma, and a slightly waxy body.  That last element is one I see a lot in French beers for some reason.  Good chunk of malt sweetness backing it up. So it has the texture and the sweetness sorted. Then it just goes, well, nowhere.  Its like they decided to sod off from the workplace for lunch after they got the texture sorted.

Still, while slightly boring and inoffensive the beer does have a very pleasant nose. It has odd elements leading to picking stuff up like “Crushed pine cones” in an attempt to describe what I was finding there after giving up on finding anything closer.

So firm of body and weak of flash. Not one I would recommend.

Background: France always seems slightly odd with its beers. Somewhat thick textured and oft slightly waxy.  It’s an interesting stylistic choice.  This particular beer is in a very small 25cl bottle, thus was perfect for when I just wanted a quick drink to tasting note.

Grain D’Orge: Belzebuth (France: Belgium Strong Ale: 13% ABV)

Visual: Golden hued apricot flesh that holds up a medium bubbled white head.  Only a few small bubbles are evident main body.

Nose: Figs, golden syrup and dry malt. Lemon sherbet mixes with apricot. Some slight pencil shavings then evident overripe banana.

Body: Very sweet. Figs, raisins and liquorice. Banana. Cane sugar massively. Solid malt core.

Finish: Dry malt. Alcohol air, maybe gin. Cane sugar and dry black liquorice. Malt chocolate. The alcohol hits noticeably at the back of the throat for a while.

Conclusion:   In always slightly distrustful of a beer that has its abv nearly as big as its name a on a label. It tends to indicate the beer favours intoxication over flavour. Though this as not as bad a sign as a beer that has its abv as part of the name, that is nigh always a sign you are about to drink shit (Carling C2 I am looking at you).

This beer thankfully doesn’t get too obsessed with abv over flavour like some other (Start The Future I’m now looking at you) but it does come close.  The cane sugar that makes up a good proportion of the main body does remind me of the rare instance I’ve run into a bad Belgium Tripel and the sugar used to get the alcohol up has left a slight over sweet remain.

The beer however redeems itself a lot with banana and fig richness in the aroma and main body. It takes the excessive sweetness and works with it rather than against it. This holds on until the finish where a dry liquorice takes over.  Unfortunately at this point it is almost gin level alcohol influence so it doesn’t quite work

Now as you can probably guess, this doesn’t shout fine craftsmanship as much as papering over the cracks, but at least it claims its flaws and makes them part of the experience instead of trying to ignore them.  It does end up better than you would guess from the individual elements.  It’s like a random pile of broken down items that haphazardly create a fun image. Not fine art, but better than you would expect.

Background: picked up as it is one of Michael Jackson’s 500 great Beers.  Apparently used to be at 15% abv but was reduced, though I doubt the 15% version would have been any more balanced.

La Choulette: Ambrée (France: Biere De Garde: 8% ABV)

Visual: Carbonated amber brown, enthusiastic to escape the bottle forming a lace leaving large froth head.

Nose:  Milk chocolate and malt drinks, quite light initially with wheat grain and husks, but later comes out with almost rum like elements underneath.

Body:  Malt and chocolate, bitter back, just slightly acidic that gives a fresh touch and some black cherry notes.  Thick textured.

Finish: Liquorice and initially very slick and slightly acidic feel. Chocolate again. Drying feel to the end after the acidic touch settles, and yet still a somewhat sticky and cloying feel over the tongue. Light bitterness. Slight spice and nuttiness.

Conclusion:  An odd barrage of thoughts whilst drinking this one. First was the appropriateness of the label – from a distance Id taken it to be a plain white label that was somewhat dirty from time in the cellar.  As I looked closer I realised that there was a subtle grey line image upon it.  Similarly the beers flavours oft seem to be slightly off intrusions muddying the flavour when you first sip it, but you slowly realise that they are balanced against each other intentionally all adding to the whole.

The second thought was how closely tied the texture and flavour is.  The slightly acidic touch mix with a contrasting almost cloying sickness, this is beer you feel as much as you taste.  It reminded me of a view on Japanese food, especially sushi and sashimi, where the variety of the textures is as important as the taste itself.

For the beer then, I find it reasonable, a nice dose of chocolate heavy flavour, and a thick sticky texture (amongst all the other textures), but not special.  There is something about it which makes me think that in the right combination it would be significantly better.  There is something in its balance that would possibly express itself more fully with cheese or possibly grapes. Without testing, I will have to leave this as an interesting mix of taste and texture, but one to come back to for food combinations.



Grain D’Orge: Blond Cuivree (France: Belgium Strong Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual:  Dark burnished amber with a decent off white head that pours easily.

Nose: Light lemon, wheat. Some cinnamon spice, slight sharp lime, peppermint and light sourness.

Body: Sweet, light treacle. Lots of rounded malt and honeycomb. Toffee, yet peppered. Lots of dry wheat, wholemeal bread and grapes.

Finish:  Malt and dry wheat hops, dry bitterness. Some crushed leaves. Golden syrup cake, liquorish and charring lightly touch the end. Peppermint again and coffee whitener.

Conclusion: A surprising take on the style, peppermint and dry wheat teasing into the light sweetness, then an amazingly malt focussed body.

This doesn’t turn it into a world shaking beer, but the balance of elements does make for a surprisingly sessionable flavour to the beer. Note by the way I say sessionable flavour only, as the abv will knock you on your rear end far before the flavour gets sickly.

The slight bitter sourness at the end comes in alongside the pepper elements in a subtle dry long lasting flavour.  All in all it’s not bad, it’s crafted well but just doesn’t shine as an example of something you must try.

Castelain: Ch’ti Brune (France: Biere De Garde: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Initially quite fizzy but settles quickly. Dark brown red – nigh impenetrable to light. Head dissipates soon to leave a brown pool staring back at you.

Nose: Figs and prunes. Burnt offerings, slight acidic quality.

Body: Sharp, quite fizzy and malty. Unripened fruit. Some lactose milk, distinctly nutty.

Finish: acidic, malt chocolate. Dry paste and peanuts. Burnt fudge. liquorice .

Conclusion: A sharp beer with some reasonable notes bubbling under the surface.

Its got good elements but they don’t quite come together in a coherent whole.

The main body seems elusive with tart and nutty hovering around but never settling. A lot of notes but no connection between them.

Its ok as a refreshing beer but it cant settle into a groove. Its beer type apparently indicates a beer meant for ageing, so it would be interesting to see if an older expression was a more satisfying beer.

If I had to match it up for a use, I would put it out on bonfire night with some roasted nuts and burnt ashes wafting on the wind.

I think on this turf it would settle in much better that the environ I tasted it, as the nuttiness is possibly the most distinct and most pleasurable characteristic.

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