Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beer. Yes. Beer.

Moving to Paris from the USA has been very traumatic in one clear narrow sense ~ I feared for the lack of decent beer in a wine loving country.

If there is one thing that France exports and the world demands, it's wine.  Fine wine.  Expensive wine.  With pretty labels.  Wines with Names.  Wine with Names on Labels that nearly everyone has been trained to know and love (as they reach for their wallets to shell out, how much was the bottle of Chateau Float Your Boat FrewFrew again?).

I'm a simple man.  I like wine.  I also like beer.  Maybe that makes me an egalitarian instead of simple?

The city we moved from is famously known for it's microbrew.  In fact, it's so well known that a friend who moved from Scotland to our former city did so just for the beer.  It's friends like this that led me to believe finer beer could not be found.  Afterall, the Scotsman lived in Good 'Ol Yerp, ferkripesake, and should've known better, right?

With the move to Paris, I decided I'd become a Wine Guy, again.  Indeed, Jude and I have found some pretty stunning wines for Cheap Plonk Prices.  Yet, from time to time I would be found sitting on the couch whimpering and whining and pining after a wee dram of decent brew.

I confessed to my brother, Peter (a beer fan), with "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been nearly a year and a half since my last Sampling of Suds..."  A few liberally applied Hail Mary's and Our Fathers and I should've been Good to Go.  But I'm talk'n beer in a wine country, OK?

Using the Force, I googled beer in Paris.  Two places came up repeatedly.  Could Salvation be at hand?

Off to the first place, I heard that Pacific Northwest hops were junk!  Junk!! I was told.  After a stunned look I realized he was just teasing.  Great opening line, though.

I learned there are many interesting small batch brewers all around Paris and one or two inside the city limits.  I liked stouts and porters.  That's what I told the man, and that's what I got.  Good.  Solid.  Tasty. Stuff.  On par, if not slightly better than the supposedly Good Microbrew I used to drink.

On my last successful trip down there, the proprietor recommended the Finest Beer Known to Man.  God's Own Brew.

It was after I sampled this recommendation that the Heavens Parted and Goddess of Brewers Yeast and Malts appeared to anoint me and to offer Le Don de Dieu.  Oh, Lordy Lordy, 12 percent ETOH of fabulously balanced jaw dropping goodness.

After a series of mishaps, I decided to try a second Beer Source.  Besides, the second shop is closer to where we live and, well, the prices are more attractive.  They just happen to sell God's Own Brew too.

It turns out, the owner of the second shop makes weekly trips to Belgium/Netherlands/Holland to procure the best beers he can find.  How he can charge so little is beyond me.  My liver deeply thanks him.  Deeply.  Oh, and thanks must be given for the chalice he gave me as well.  It takes a Proper Chalice to drink a Proper Beer.  Come to think of it, the chalice looks a whole lot like the one our parish priest used to celebrate mass with. 

The French make some incredible beer.  There is something of an inside joke/war going on around these parts.  It's related to the amount of hops put into beer.  The Purists have Declared War.  A True Beer cannot have that many hops and still be termed beer.  The Small Batch Brewers have called up the Revolutionary Forces and the (very humorous) War of Words has been engaged.  I've not followed the fracas, but I wish everyone well in the fight.  It's good to see that people enjoy making and drinking beer here in the Heart of the Wine Universe.

For me, I've discovered that the winter-strength ales brewed by old Trappist and Benedictine monasteries (manned by the Monks Themselves) fit my pallet perfectly.  Until now, the closest I'd come to having something this nice was a bourbon barrel aged barley wine.  It was listed at 10 percent ETOH.

The winter ales from France, Belgium and the Netherlands start at 9 percent ETOH and head north to around 12.5 percent ETOH.  These are normal drinking beers.  Nothing special.  Just something to go with dinner before Evening Vespers, apparently.  Yikes! but these are phenomenal!!  The barley wines here approach 15+percent ETOH (try Bommen et Granaten).  They are something quite special, too.

Yes, you can see I retain my sense of American Over Exuberance.  I have yet to develop a Parisian oh that's just sufficient attitude toward anything good and nice.  Certainly not in the face of these new found loves.  Ranked in no particular order, because they are all Simply Incredible to me and my Aging Taste Buds don't really know any better -

If you find yourselve in a Monoprix on a Desperate Friday night and just HAVE to have a  decent beer, I've found one brew that I like -

There are plenty of great beers to choose from.  If you visit either beer shop here in Paris, the staff will happily recommend things that might surprise you.  Try la cave a bulles down in the 4th (Simon is a brilliant man) and take a close look at the ancient buildings as you make your way up to Heaven's Gate.  The alchemist Nicholas Flamel frequented the area.  If you live south of the river, try the Bootlegger at 82 Rue De L'Ouest.  The Gates of Paradise are painted red and the lights announce you are about to enter Everlasting Paradise once and for all time.

It's trying hard to snow outside.  The wind whips bitter cold from the Seine up to Montmartre.  It's winter.  Still, I can't bring myself to wish for spring.  Not yet.  There will be plenty of time for whichever spring/summer/fall beers that come along.  For now, it's Deep Winter and these high ETOH monk's beers are keeping me warm and toasty.

More of my photos of beers found here in Paris.

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