Are You Tasting the Pith? - 29th August 04
This column is something of a double-edged sword at times. On one hand, it enables me to be a dawdling flaneur of booze, gently shuffling my way around, looking for the next gustatory experience in which to immerse myself. Of course, the other edge of the sword is that I have to go to ever-increasing lengths to satisfy my (and your?) desire for something different. Fear not, my chair-bound beer-loving chums, as a two week trip to Brittany has left me with plenty to meditate on.
As well as having one of the coolest flags in existence (and if that doesn't scream "we are a land of pirates and rebels, and you can shove your McDonalds Happy Meal up your arse", then I don't know what does), they also have a thriving brewing industry, majoring mainly in what might be generically termed "Belgian-style artisanal beer". And in place of doing any serious research, I'm going to claim that this brewing revival was kickstarted in the mid 1980s by the founding of the Coreff brewery, producing Brittany's first and only real ale.
It is something of a surprise to go into a small coastal drinkery and see a handpump on the bar, but my intrepid spirit forced me on, and before long, a demi of Morlaix's finest sat before me. Oddly, it looked just like a half of British mild, fairly dark, slightly viscous, with a creamy Yorkshire-style head on it. It gave off a slightly caramelly, nutty aroma, and the palate was similar - slightly sweet, erring on the side of malty rather than hoppy, but pretty well balanced, with a long sweetish finish reminiscent of a nutty brown ale, and the slightest hint of a Goudenbande-style sour yeastiness. Incredibly, they also produce a rather passable stout, again slightly sweet, but very drinkable and, more importantly, pleasantly distinctive.
They also bottle four beers (the stout, along with a blonde, a brune and an ambrée), which while pretty good, fall a little way short of the draught version, although that is damning with faint praise, so let me be more clear. They are excellent craft products, a welcome diversion from the dull beers one normally drinks in France, although I found them a little wild and sharp (lactic?) for my tastes. However, as a statement of identity from a land of pirates and rebels to "les fuck-offs", I welcome this, with a smile on my face and a cold one in my hand.
BACK TO TOP