A Belgian in France

I was lucky enough (it wasn’t luck, it took a ton of money) to get to study for about a month in Strasbourg, France. On the whole, it was a great experience and I have some wonderful stories from that time (I have some not so good stories too), but for now I want to talk about beer. Yes, it was in Strasbourg where I truly came to love beer. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “You were in France, and all you can talk about is beer?! Didn’t you drink some wine? Isn’t France known for its wine? What’s wrong with you?”. Okay, well maybe you aren’t thinking that, maybe you like beer as much as I do and don’t feel the need to question. But most people were wondering why I wasn’t blown away by the wines, after all miss, z’iz is France! Keep your pantyhose one wine-lovers We did take a wine tour and I tasted many delicious wines, but the beer is what captured my heart. For your edification (that’s a fancy word, isn’t it), Strasbourg is in the Alsace region of France and for many years was actually part of Germany. It was lost in a war (there was tons of skirmishes between Germany and France) but was officially part of France again at the end of WWI as decreed by the treaty of Versailles. Due to this, and the close proximity of Germany (about 25 miles from the city center) the culture in Strasbourg is a melange (that means mix) of German and French which means that the cuisine is heavy and rich and beer is prominent! This was certainly a blessing for me, ahhhhh yes indeed. The first beer that I was properly introduced to was at the joint where I ate the most heavenly tarte flambee. For those of you that don’t know, tarte flambee is a french spin on pizza…made by the gods! It was the most delicious dish I ate in Strasbourg, and I can’t wait till winter to make it for myself (Why winter you ask? Well, I’ll have more post about France soon). So, back to the beer. It accompanied the meal in a most complimentary way; the meal was heavy and the beer was light and refreshing! It was a light and citrusy beer with actual orange pulp in it! Extremely refreshing without tasting like nasty canned stuff! It was one of the best beers I tried! Beer was and is still such a big part of the culture that we even took a tour of a brewery, including the bowls of the building which was kinda like a beer museum! But is wasn’t at the eatery or the brewery that I really came to explore the different types of beer available to my Vagabond palate. No, the blessed spot of my alcoholic education was the Belgian pub just a short walk from the cathedral and next to the canal, and the name was Berthom (ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, insert catholic monk music). The bestest Belgian beer in the whole wide world, and some day I will be going there..the holy land of my favorite beers! At this lovely little pub, we met some wonderfully friendly (and sometimes handsy) people who made the trip so much better! First of all, the pub itself was quite interesting! The tables were all nested around artificial trees with the tables looking like a slab of the tree itself. The booths were very intimate, and the windows at the front of the pub could be completely opened, which (if you’re really friendly) allowed one to take part in the conversation going on at the tables outside. I spent many evenings there trying all the different beers on the menu and hanging with the locals. My friend (above) was a big fan of the light but classic Duvel while I preferred the darker and more robust beers. My first night at Berthom was quite balmy and after the warm walk over I was in great need of something cool and absolutely refreshing. Therefore, my first order was a Kriek Cerise, which is a cherry lambic beer. That was down my gullet in a matter of minutes and I moved on to a more serious order of Maredsous Brune, a dark dubbel with a higher alcohol content (8% ABV). I called it “the gateway beer” because from there I moved on to Maredsous Triple (10%ABV) and  to my all-time favorite beer Mc Chouffe which is a dark beer with a perfect balance of spice and bitter, heavy and smooth. In between these I did try others, but soon discovered that the darker beers were most certainly my preference. I also tried out a Kasteel Rouge, which is a dark ale flavored with cherries and cherry juice (that’s the “rouge” part) which was quite delicious. Though it is flavored with fruit it is not a lambic beer, and it indeed much darker, and heavier than the Kriek. However, Kasteel Rouge isn’t at all bitter or very sweet, simply more savory than a lambic. If you don’t like cherries, than Kasteel puts out a simple dark ale. Yes, I love those Belgians and their beer…and maybe one day I will marry a Belgian beer-maker and live happily ever after.

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3 thoughts on “A Belgian in France

  1. There are some places where beer is just the right drink. My husband and I became connoisseurs of dark German beers one trip, and would actively seek out the best and darkest of the local product everywhere we went. It went well with the food and definitely added to our enjoyment of our trip.

    Great post!

  2. Pingback: The Story of Strasbourg~Cathedrals | Vagabond in Service

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