In some respects I'm a rather conservative sort of chap when it comes to certain aspects of my beer drinking. I believe that there are certain sorts of beer that are better consumed at the right time of year. It's rare that you get a beer for all seasons. On a hot summer's day there's nothing nicer than whiling away a few hours in the company of a few pints of a cellar cool straw coloured hoppy ale. Try to substitute that for malty strong ale or stout and the chances are I'd give you short shrift. But on these long dark cold nights around the winter solstice, I want a full-bodied robust malt rich beer or stout that will warm the cockles of your heart. With this in mind, tonight, I reached for a bottle of Gavroche from Brasserie de Saint-Sylvestre (Flandre), in the valley of the Trois Monts, French Flanders, the same good folk who gave Alan his Biere Nouveau 2006 a few days ago.
Gavroche biere sur lie - real ale with yeast in the bottle - is a rich deep amber coloured beer with a creamy butterscotch coloured head, weighing in at a more than respectable 8.5% vol. The taste is full on malt with toffee, treacle and brandy snaps thrown in for good measure. There is a slight smoky after taste with a delayed bitterness kicking in once the entire mouthful has been swallowed. This is a sipping beer as opposed to a quaffing one. This quality beer is on the level with and can hold its head up against some very famous Belgium dubbels.
Quality beer brewing is one of the best-kept secrets about France. Over shadowed by their often over-hyped wine industry, and of course, their northern neighbours, French beer needs a wider audience!