Alsace, Where Beer Is King

I’m sure that some of you, naming no names, are getting tired of my obsessing about wine all the time, and have been pining for equal time for beer.  Well, here you go then, this one’s for you.

Beer is everywhere here.  This part of France has belonged to Germany several times in the past, and that influence can really be seen in the food, which I’ll tell you about soon, and in the oceans of beer that accompany it so well.

We had the chance to visit the Kronenbourg brewery, France’s largest brewer, and to tour their lovely old facilities

where beer is manufactured in enormous copper pots.

We got to taste three different roasts of barley, from pale and wan to dark and bracing as coffee, and learned how those contribute to the various flavors found in beer.

Even the Kronenbourg Christmas tree is decorated with vials of barley.

We sniffed the hops too, a mild and musty variety that smelled quite different from the pungent version we know from the Pacific Northwest.

We didn’t get to see, taste, or smell the yeasts used at Kronenbourg because, as our guide Florence explained, the yeast is the most secret part of the brewing process, and is the most important factor in the differences between brands of beer.  I had no idea that yeast espionage could be a major issue, but Florence assured us that guarding the secret of the yeast is one of a brewery’s most important tasks.

The Kronenbourg plant also houses some beautiful old beer-related artifacts. This is L’Etoile des Brasseurs, the Brewer’s Star, which has been a good luck symbol of brewers since about 1397.

There were also old casks of mellow wood

and a series of antique ad placards left over from the days when

advertising had more character

and beer’s image was far more elegant than it is today.

After the tour came the tasting, and as this statue clearly shows, tasting to0 much beer is likely to leave one leaning against the nearest wall in a state of excessive bliss.  As the French are so fond of saying these days “A consommer avec moderation.”

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5 Comments on “Alsace, Where Beer Is King”

  1. Ed Ward Says:

    French beer is one of the few things here I cannot stand. Even the Belgians they import aren’t very good, although I guess if I hunted for a shop high and low I might find one that actually had something good.

    I’m astonished you found hops at Kronenbourg; I can’t taste any in their beer, just sugar and way too much alcohol.

    I’m told, however, that Météor is good stuff. As a couple of Strasbourgeois told me, “Even the Germans drink it.”

  2. Abra Bennett Says:

    Have you tried the Grimbergen de Noël? That’s a delicious Kronenbourg product. I like the Fischer beers too, although I’m not much of a beer drinker, I have to admit.

  3. Ed Ward Says:

    Fischer I stay away from ever since I bought a can one night in Paris and saw the ingredients, which included glucose syrup. Haven’t tried Grim’s Noel beer — haven’t seen any, in fact, but I’ll go looking, albeit with diminished expectations.

  4. Derek Comstock Says:

    Hello. Interesting blog, I enjoyed looking around it! I essentially wanted to post a comment asking what it is you guys do as a career that you guys are living in the south of france taking these wonderful expeditions!?!? Please tell because I would love to do the same but don’t know how!!!

  5. Abra Bennett Says:

    Derek – Well, technically we’re retired, but I’m just about to start on a book having to do with our adventures here.


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