Thursday, August 21, 2008


During my stay in Bretagne, I had the opportunity to taste a couple of different beers that'd I'd never tasted before (and some apple cider and pear cider too).

Most of my beer tasting was from one brewery, the Brasserie de Bretagne (simply: The Brittany Brewery). I tried their blonde (pilsner*), white/wheat/blanc, and this interesting amber beer made with "blé noir" (black wheat or buckwheat as we Americans say). I'm not sure if they keep all the wheat out of it, but I know that there are US breweries making beer for a "gluten-free lifestyle" (including one in lovely Ramapo, NY).

In any case, here's how it happened. I bought a mixed 6 pack of wheat and buckwheat from Brassiere de Bretagne. I tasted the wheat beer, which was fine and then I happened to have Gwiniz Du in a bar. It was weird and I didn't like it the first time I tried it - too different from other beer, my brain couldn't wrap itself around the beer. I packed the 3-pack up and brought it home and tried it again and i liked it the second (third and fourth) time(s). I'm not sure if 1) I got a bad bottle in the bar, 2) the chilling, then unchilling then rechilling of the beer made it good or 3) it's an acquired taste and now I like it after having (so to speak) lost my buckwheat virginity.

The beer is quite sour, with a weird sweet/sour finish. It's very complex with many flavors that my palate is unable to distinguish. Overall, I'm fairly impressed, for a French beer this one is pretty high on my list. The French in general make bland Bud-like pilsners that are fine if you're slamming a thirty-pack at the beach, but not something that my beer-snob psyche really likes to be seen drinking - between Heini and the French macros, I always take Heini, if that tells you anything.

As heavy as this beer is (5.4 abv, dark amber color), it actually works in mildly hot weather. It doesn't stick around in your mouth for too long and leaves it feeling more-or-less fresh (although there is a prevailing sour taste, even a few moments the beer is gone) One last point for Gwiniz Du, it survived the aforementioned skunky test. It was in a fridge for 3 days, then spent a full day in the sun in the back of the car, then two days at room-temperature then got put back in the fridge. And it doesn't taste like shit now. That earns it a couple of merit badges in my book. It also took gold at the Paris General Agricultural Fair in 2006 (edit: 2008 as well). That may seem like a laugh, but they take their agriculture very seriously here.

If you find it (you probably won't if you don't go to a beer fest and/or Brittany), pick up a bottle, just for the hell of it. If not, try one of Brasserie de Bretagne's other offerings. It's something different.

*Fuck Mozilla for not including "pilsner" in their default American-English spell-check dictionary.

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