Food

A Visit to a French Microbrewery

On the first Sundays of each month, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin like to make the most of free entry to museums (like the visit to Musée d’Orsay in January), but sometimes, something else more tempting comes along… something like a Porte Ouverte to some place interesting. Open doors to a local microbrewery? The duo say: yes please!

So, France has a huge reputation for viticulture, but not many people seem to know that the French make beers too. Truth of the matter though, is that France is the largest European producer of barley, and the largest exporter of malt. Sure, domestic consumption is nothing compared to wine, but let’s not discount the 600+ breweries that exist.

The most renown French beers come from the French Flanders (think Lille and Nord-Pas-de-Calais), Brittany (à la Celtic brewing), and of course, Alsace-Lorraine due to its proximity to and history with Germany. Well, Meuse just happens to be in Lorraine.

Ferme de la Vallée - a microbrewery in Meuse

Ferme de la Vallée – a microbrewery in Meuse

The guy who runs the show is a M. Fagot, and he served as guide for the visit. He runs the place with his wife and his daughter was busy giving a hand with labelling the bottles when we arrived.

A label in French is called "etiquette".

A label in French is called “etiquette”.

Verbally walking us through the process, he described the three life stages of the grain, from orge (barley) to malt (malt) to drêche (which lacks an English translation, but appears to be this horrific thing described as the residue of the distillation of grains).

Since most people can Wikipedia the process of making beer, this  blog post won’t go into the details of it. Instead, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin prefer to share some interesting fun facts they have learnt during the visit:

Enzymes are used to help break the starch down into sugars at 63°C so the beer has a sweeter flavour. In the past however, before people got all fancy with their temperature-controlled techniques of mucking around with science, what was a quick source of amylase? Yup, you got it – spit.

Torrification - also known as roasting. It's the difference between your light and dark malts.

Torrification – also known as roasting. It’s the difference between your light and dark malts.

The ratio of barley to hops is 1000:1. The brewer called hops a “spice”. Something tells us he thinks he’s cooking…

Industrially produced beer go through flash pasteurisation to kill off all traces of organisms, but microbreweries tend to leave a tiny trace of yeast in their final product. This is how some beers arrive at a second round of “bottle fermentation”, as the brewers add some form of sugar to the beer before sealing the caps. This bottle fermentation is what gives the beers its bubbles.

Water changes the flavour of beer due to its pH levels. Never knew those minerals were that important, did ya?

Water changes the flavour of beer due to its pH levels. Never knew those minerals were that important, did ya?

The light beers are a mix of barley and wheat. See, the French do more than just make baguettes and croissants with that stuff.

French microbrewery beers, a most underrated craft.

French microbrewery beers, a most underrated craft.

For more information on visits and purchase, please visit their website. Although it’s been discussed as a brewery here, they also do a great many other things, and the owners are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about environment conservation (the building is made of straw and they have solar panels installed; plus they have a Rocket Stove).

Please note that the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin were not remunerated in any way for this post. They just think it’s an awesome little gem tucked away in the northeast corner of France.

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