French Beer Week: Bières23

French Beer WeekEven though I’m doing an entire week on French Beer, there were only three actual beers from France that I was able to find locally this week: Fischer Amber, Les Sans Culottes (review tomorrow), and Bières23 Bière de Mars. (I found the Gavroche in Eugene and while I have found Jenlain Ambrée in the past, I haven’t seen it lately.)

It’s the Bières23 I’m writing about tonight, because while I found the bottle of their Bière de Mars at Whole Foods, I didn’t buy it: it cost $11.99 for at 750ml bottle. Now, I’ve been known to occasionally spend similar amounts for similar volumes of beer, but it’s rare, and this week was one where I just couldn’t justify the price.

But I thought the brewery itself was notable enough to write about. And, to add to the review-that’s-not-a-review, I’ll at least spare a few words about the Bière de Mars.

What makes Bières23 interesting, at least to me, is that it’s not your traditional French brewery: the owner and brewer is a “cranky Englishman” (according to the label). Following nine years of brewing in England, John Davidson and his wife moved to the town of St. Etienne de Fursac in France in 2004. The “23” in the name comes from the fact that they are located in the 23rd department of Creuse.

Here’s their capsule description:

As devotees of artisan brewing our aim at Bières23 is to produce both Continental and English style beers by the high fermentation method, using only the finest natural ingredients, water, malt, hops and yeast.

Our three vessel brewery was designed and built in Austria to our requirements, specifically for our unique brewhouse. All of our artisan brewed beers are fermented and matured in a turn of the century granite cellar.

They produce four “house” beers, and at least two for export (Shelton Brothers handles the import for these two): the Ambrée and the Bière de Mars.

Bières23 Bière de Mars labelThe Bière de Mars is a 5% farmhouse ale, a nice session beer that gets high marks on the review sites: BeerAdvocate grades it at B+, and RateBeer scores it 3.71 out of 5 (their 90th percentile). Some of the descriptors from the reviews:

  • Green apple, leathery Brett, nice aromatics
  • Tart apple and pear fruitiness, herbal-spicy hops, clove spices
  • “Expertly balanced sweet, sour, funk, and bitterness”
  • Delicious funk
  • Lavendar, hibiscus, rose, following “tangerine, mango, lemon, apple, a hint of banana, and even a bit of cherry”

Definitely sounds like a winner. Perhaps I’ll pick up a bottle after all.