It was nearly 7pm when our little Dash 8 swooped into Charlottesville's little airport. It was Hogmanay, though for Reuben of Tale of the Ale fame it was already 2012. Mrs Velkyal and I had finally finished crossing the Atlantic, having spent 2 weeks in France, the last 2 days of which were spent in Paris with Reuben and his wife. I am not much of one for flying, or at least the taking off and landing bits, I don't mind the middle bit as long as there is an absence of turbulence. I also find that being 6'4" makes flying an exercise in feeling the pain of the sardine.
From a beer point of view, France was something of a Curate's Egg. Much of the beer was distinctly meh, some entirely undrinkable, some reassuringly as good as usual and some a lot better than expected.
If you have been following Fuggled for a few years, you may well recall that the last time I went to Paris was in January 2009, and that I was somewhat scathing about a British themed brewpub near Gare d'Austerlitz, The Frog and British Library. The beer was thin, the mouthfeel overwhelmingly watery and in the case of the stout, simply unfinishable, but the food was good. We found ourselves there again on Thursday night as, out of necessity, we were in the area and needed feeding. The food is still good, and happily the beer is much improved. The In Seine no longer left me wishing that was exactly where it was, indeed I had a second pint as I revelled in the flavours and aromas of Styrian Goldings - a hop that I like very much. The Dark de Triomphe actually got finished this time. I am not saying they are wonderful beers, but they are drinkable and repeatedly so.
Thus on Friday, having walked from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, via the Champs Elysee and my first ever hot beer (won't be doing that again, I am sure I can still feel the fur in my veins from the sugar), we jumped on the Metro to head for the original Frog brewpub, The Frog and Rosbif. Part of me wonders if having a British themed pub on Rue de Saint Denis is irony, coincidence or the 20th Century equivalent of hoisting your bow drawing fingers at the vanquished French?
Whatever the truth may be, one thing is certain, Le Frog and Rosbif would be a regular haunt for me if I lived in Paris, simply because they have the In Seine on cask (or at least they did on our visit, maybe they rotate). Not only do they have it on cask, the waitress wasn't utterly baffled by me asking if it was sparkled (it was) and happy to give me an unsparkled pint so I could compare. I won't get into the ins and outs of the sparkler debate but I prefer sparkled beer and this test did nothing to challenge that.
Discovering that the beer at the Frog brewpubs had improved was probably one of my beer highlights of the trip. I am one of those people who thinks that it is better for the beer industry as a whole for existing breweries to get better rather than go under; it keeps people in jobs for a start. Some might moan that the beer styles being brewing by The Frog guys are uninteresting. However, as I have said many, many times, if a brewer can't make a sub 4.5% abv beer that I want to drink several off, then I wonder to myself how good a brewer is he or she in reality?
* The picture is from the 2009 trip, the In Seine I had last week was darker, so I guess they may have messed with the recipe as well.