Thursday, January 8, 2009

More French Discoveries

Over the Christmas holiday we did a lot of travelling. Not only flying from Prague to Paris, and then getting the train to La Souterraine (I love the fact that my parents live near a town called "underground"), but a few days after arriving we drove from their place to Ashford in Kent to spend the actual Christmas period with my eldest brother.

Obviously getting from France to the UK means crossing the Channel, which means sitting around in the Eurotunnel waiting zone for your letter to be called. A quick aside, when I had just left university and was engaged to a Polish girl, I always looked forward to arriving in Calais and getting the ferry. After 18 hours on a bus, the thought of 2 hours fresh air and stretchy leg time was great - the Chunnel, whilst quicker just isn't as pleasurable as the old ferries.

As we had arrived with plenty of time, we popped into the huge shopping mall just next to the terminal - to pass some time basically, and for me to buy a case of something worth drinking so that I could guarantee I could enjoy my beers from BeerRitz with minimum interference. I later discovered that the only brother of mine who drinks beer regularly was on antibiotics and thus off the booze. Trying to decide what to get was a nightmare - one brother drinks mainly wine and only occassionally a beer; when asked whether he preferred ale or lager, the response was "depends". Another of the brethren (there are 4 of us, and no sisters!) was not fussed "as long as it isn't too strong", and the third will drink most things as long as they are vodka. So I bought a case of Budvar - can't go wrong with the only mass produced Czech lager worth drinking.

By the time we got to the terminal I was getting tetchy, I wanted a beer. Straight to the bar I went, and plumped for a beer called Wel Scotch from the Brasseries Kronenburg. As you can see from the picture it is a nice copper colour with a somewhat thin head. The nose had tinges of whisky, not surprising really as it is made with peat smoked whisky malt, as used in the water of life. Slightly sweet, with a very nice bitter twang and the smokiness of the malt just coming through at the end - this was nice, really nice. France seems to do a fair few beers using distiller's malt, which usually leave me cold but this I could happily drink regularly. I have one criticism, look at the picture - I don't like my beer in plastic pots, but there we go.

With Christmas over and done with, a bit of a chronological jump I know, we headed back to France, spent an age looking for our hotel in Lille and then the next morning toured various World War I related sites before turning south. Our stop for the night was to be in Peronne, a small town that sits right on the river Somme, and is surrounded by some of the most humbling places I have ever been, including Thiepval.

Our hotel for the night was a Campanile, when we walked into the restaurant for dinner my heart leapt because on the board was written "bières régionales". The local beer available was Colvert from La Brasserie de Clerck, a 7%ABV blonde beer whose name translates as Mallard. Boy was this nice, golden amber a big foamy head and a distinct citrus nose. Citrus was very much the dominant theme here, thus the beer was very refreshing and surprisingly light given the alcohol content. I thought the body was a touch on the thin side. I must say though, I loved the glass that came with it - I was tempted to nick it, but somehow knew I would never get it back to Prague in one piece.

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