Beer: 'Bona' brews from France's Catalan country

The amber ale from Cap D'Ona is malty with plenty of fruity flavours also following in
Paul McConville

FOR a couple of days on our recent family holiday in France, we hired a car and went driving around the area to the southwest of Perpignan. We whizzed past countless vineyards, with the little tree-like vines straining under the weight of the leaves and grapes sprouting from them.

The further south you go in France, the more ubiquitous vines, grapes and, of course, wine becomes. However, this was also Catalan country. Like their compatriots on the other side of the France-Spain border, they also like to do things differently and have managed to forge a small Catalan craft beer scene.

So, although it cost as little as €2 to fill up a litre bottle with local fruits of the vine, the beer enthusiast in me sought out the local brews. I found two breweries showcased at the local supermarket, Cap D'Ona and Biere Canigou, and picked up a few bottles.

Once I had Googled the Catalan for 'cheers', I was good to go (it's 'bona salut', by the way).

First up was the amber ale from Cap D'Ona. It was a malty little number alright, with a strong whiff of, well, Shreddies from the glass. The malt hit doesn't dominate too much, though, and there are plenty of fruity flavours following in after that.

The next one from Cap D'Ona was the brown ale – or 'brune' if you want to be authentic. This one poured like a thin porter – really black in the glass with a slim, off-white head. It had a lighter mouthfeel than a porter though. There were a few nice sticky, toffee flavours going on, before a slight fruity and bitter finish.

On to Biere Canigou and my two favourites from the six-beer taster pack had to be the 'biere de printemps' or 'spring beer' and the blonde ale. The printemps was refreshing and light but quite complex too. It had herby and juicy flavours and a nice little hint of spice too – very much a beer for all seasons.

The blonde was lovely and yeasty and had a smooth mouthfeel. It had slight hints of clove and a touch of banana and almost strayed into wheat beer territory. It was refreshing and the perfect way to wash down some freshly barbecued Catalan sausage.

Bona Salut!

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