Beer: Les Bleus won't beat the Belgians but Coreff and La Goudale are magnifique
THE French football team had the upper hand on their Belgian counterparts in the recent World Cup semi-final, a result the Belgians on the French campsite we were staying on dealt with by throwing back huge goblets of Affligem.
For although Les Bleus enjoyed footballing bragging rights over their neighbours, many of the best beers in the bars and resorts of provincial France are Belgian.
But explore the cathedrals of commerce that are the grandly name ‘hypermarkets’ and you’ll find an admirable offering of French brews.
Of course, the beer is easily dwarfed by the wine section, but there are a few nuggets to be had and I discovered a few little gems on my recent holiday to the land of the newly crowned World Cup winners (that was a noisy night all right).
Coreff is a brewery which has been flying the flag for modern French beer for the best part of three decades from its remote Brittany base. It's kind of like the Hilden of that region. Its core range includes what seems to be something of staple among French independents – blanche, blonde and amber, all of which are nicely brewed beers.
The founders of Coreff honed their brewing craft in Wales, learning from their Celtic cousins across the water. Their most recent offering is their own take on an IPA. However, if you’re expecting a West Coast-style hop bomb, don’t get your hopes up. This one tends to the more traditional origins of the India Pale Ale, and borrows more from the take of Les Rosbifs on the style.
The bitterness is medium, with more of the sweet malt of a traditional British bitter and with a slight hoppy, citrusy finish.
But the best beer I had on my ‘vacances’ came from La Goudale. It comes in a blonde and amber variety, and it was the latter that I really took to. The blonde itself went down quite well, a little alarming for a beer that’s north of 7 per cent abv, but you can pick it up in 250ml bottles. It has fresh, citrusy flavours with a prominent yeasty taste.
The amber version, though, is a belter. Coming in a 750ml with a Champagne-style cork, it already feels like a treat before you’ve even cracked it open. It pours an almost mahogany colour and immediately throws up sweet, sticky toffee and roasty aromas. It gets all the flavours spot on too – sweet, caramel, dark fruits; there’s also a bit of orange peel and coriander crammed in there too.
The 750ml bottle – and the 7.2 per cent abv– mean this is an ideal one for sharing. Santé!