Craft Beer: Santé to the beers of Brittany and Bordeaux

Biere des Naufrageurs – 'shipwrecker's beer' – is from the Gironde, better known for Bordeaux wines
Paul McConville

A PERUSAL of the aisles of any French supermarket (or indeed hypermarket) will tell you, as if you needed telling, that the grape is still king in the country. However, the grain is holding its own and quenching the thirst of more discerning Gallic beer drinkers.

My recent two-week holiday in France allowed me to delve deeper into the local beers on offer and although the first half of our holiday was taken in the devoutly wine region of the Gironde, home of Bordeaux wine, I did stumble upon an enjoyable local tipple Biere des Naufrageurs.

Brewed in Ile d-Oleron, it's billed as a Belgian-style blonde ale, but is more of a dark amber colour. It had a lovely sweet malty and fruity flavour with a hint of spice, which put me in mind of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Heading north to Brittany allowed me to discover the fine brews of the Lancelot Brewery. The grand title isn't Camelot-inspired, but merely comes from the name of its founder Bernard Lancelot. However, many of the beers they produce do give a nod to the region's history.

One of their standout beers is a blonde triple ale called Duchesse Anne, named after Anne of Brittany, a 15th century ruler who also lends her name to a bar in St Malo and a rock opera. The beer itself packs a punch at 7.5 per cent abv. It opens up with a smooth malty notes before a little hint of fruit and a nice bitter finish.

Lancelot's odes to Breton history also include a red ale called Bonnet Rouges, evoking a 17th centrury rebellion. Of course, you don't need a grasp of Breton history to enjoy its beers, but you may develop an appreciation of some of the brewing practices, especially with Telenn Du (meaning black harp in Breton) – a rich dark ale brewed using buckwheat.

It is reminiscent of a dark rye ale and is packed with the same flavour you'd expect from them.

So, if you're heading to France on your 'vacances', raise a glass to some of their excellent 'bieres'.


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