Tag Archives: France

150. La Choulette Ambrée

As the halfway point of this ridiculous project looms, we won’t let the fact that we spent all day at the 30th Colchester Real Ale and Cider Festival prevent us from opening something nice.

This’ll do. It’s another Bière de Garde found at L’Abbaye des Saveurs in Lille, and lugged back home on the Eurostar. They present their beers well in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and this is no exception.

The 750ml champagne-corked bottled seems ideal to crack open and share with friends Ben & Sophie over a sumptuous feed at their house in Essex.

La Choulette Ambrée

La Choulette Ambrée pours noticeably darker and stickier than the St. Sylvestre 3 Monts, the previous Bière de Garde the three of us shared. It’s sweeter and richer too, making it more reminiscent of L’Angelus, another near neighbour, geographically speaking.

There still a lageriness to it, but it’s a darker, more Bock-like lageriness, rather than the Pilsner crispness that the 3 Monts displays. There are Greek honey, caramel and toffee notes but also a pleasing lingering bitterness.

As such, it’s probably less suitable as a table beer, but it did the job. The bottle did not last long at all, despite the generous 8.0% alcohol payload. You can taste that strength, but you don’t mind. This one elicited another “that’s actually quite nice” from Sophie, not a regular beer drinker.

And it is too. Something a little bit rare, a little bit different, and I can’t think of a more pleasant set of circumstances in which to see off beer number 150.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brasserie La Choulette, Hordain, France
Style: Bières de Garde
Strength: 8.0% ABV
Found at: L’Abbaye des Saveurs, Rue des Vieux Murs, Lille, France
Serving: 750ml bottle

147. L’Angelus

It has been quite a productive day in Lille. Having made early progress by tracking down the Leffe Triple, I inevitably found myself drawn towards L’Abbaye des Saveurs, a specialist local beer shop. Laden with rare yet remarkably inexpensive beers that you may soon be reading about, it was off to Les 3 Brasseurs for more drinking beer on a pavement in the rain.

And finally an eagerly anticipated highlight of the trip: La Capsule. A local institution, owned by the proprietors of L’Abbaye des Saveurs, this is where you end up when you type “best beer café in Lille” into Google, because nobody’s arguing.

La Capsule, Lille

La Capsule is tucked away down cobbled mediaeval streets and is open, quite frankly, when they feel like it. The tap lineup on the day was formidable: local specialities sat alongside Belgian gems from breweries such as Dupont and De La Senne and—somewhat unexpectedly—a couple of Scottish ales.

That barely left time to even look at the bottle menu, let alone the special menu, crammed with vintage Geuzes, aged Trappist ales and so forth. All in what is basically just a really nice little bar. I started with a L’Angelus au Froment from Brasserie Lepers.

L'Angelus at Lap Capsule, Lille

This is technically a substitution, since the Annoeullin Pastor Ale doesn’t appear to have existed for quite some years. It’s a pretty obvious drop-in, though, identical in style and also brewed by the Lepers family. Information is scarce, but I suspect this may even be the same brewery, having simply moved a bit and changed its name. And the names of all of its beers.

L’Angelus is our third example of a Bière de Garde, the style of beer almost synonymous with the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in which we’re currently sat.

Darker in colour than the 3 Monts, L’Angelus is noticeably sweeter and even a little sticky, whilst staying just the right side of cloying. There are noticeable honey notes and perhaps a little wheat. I don’t know if Belgian yeast is used, but this one seems more reminiscent of a Belgian blonde or amber beer, as opposed to displaying that lagery dryness that the 3 Monts had in spades.

I suspect this one would not work quite so well as a table beer as we found the 3 Monts did, instead being ideal for taking your time over and sipping in smallish quantities in a pleasant bar.

Which is terribly convenient, really. I remember enjoying this one a great deal, whilst managing a scandalously negligent smattering of useful tasting notes. I’m not sure that matters: sometimes it’s better to just enjoy a beer and the experience surrounding it. Stay tuned to see what else I found at La Capsule.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brasserie Lepers, La Chapelle-d’Armentières, France
Style: Bières de Garde
Strength: 7.0% ABV
Found at: La Capsule, Rue des Trois Molettes, Lille, France
Serving: Keg, 25cl

113. Castelain Ch’ti Blonde

This is the second Bière de Garde to be covered here, after that rather pleasant St. Sylvestre 3 Monts we enjoyed in Essex a couple of months ago.

As I’m sure I mentioned back then, Bières de Garde are basically synonymous with the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. They were originally brewed on farms during winter and spring, and then kept—hence the name—somewhere cool, in order to keep the farm’s workers, and no doubt owners, well lubricated through the summer and autumn.

Castelain Ch’ti Blonde is a little more sessionable than the 3 Monts at a mere 6.4% ABV, and comes in a small enough bottle that I’ll probably manage it all myself this time. The name apparently is Picardy dialect for “c’est toi”, meaning “it suits you”. It certainly suits me to pull this one from the fridge and crack it open.

Castelain Ch'ti Blonde

Poured from its 330ml bottle, Ch’ti Blonde is a lovely, glistening copper colour with a big, foaming white head that seems to fade quickly.

I’ve noticed that happen with many bottled beers, and recently read that it may be to do with pouring them in the kitchen where the air is likely to contain microscopic oil particles from cooking. It’s an interesting theory, and one I’d be fascinated to hear people’s views on.

There isn’t a huge aroma beyond a malty Rich Tea biscuit sweetness and some general lagery notes. The initial taste is faintly sweet too, but it’s balanced out by a full malty body and a big, long dry finish. There’s a slight golden syrup note that’s a little reminiscent of a Belgian Ambrée such as Bush, or perhaps a lighter version of the famous Pauwel Kwak.

As with the 3 Monts, this isn’t a beer that shouts, but it’s hopelessly easy to drink, and this one went down quickly enough that I had a job on my hands just getting a respectable number of tasting notes written down.

Bières de Garde do seem to pair particularly well with food, and Ch’ti Blonde again is robust enough to stand up to strong spices, while being subtle enough not to upstage lighter flavours. I didn’t have this one with food, of course. I had it while sat at a laptop typing a blog post about how well it would go with food, but I think my point stands.

Good stuff, all in all, and particularly welcome straight from the fridge after a long, sweltering week at work in London.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brasserie Castelain, Benifontaine, France
Style: Bières de Garde
Strength: 6.4% ABV
Found at: Beers of Europe
Serving: 330ml bottle

90. St. Sylvestre 3 Monts

Now then, here’s something a little bit exciting. This is the first French beer to be featured on 300 Beers, and moreover it’s the first Bière de Garde I’ve ever tried, as far as I can remember.


The term “Bière de Garde” means “beer for keeping”, a name which harks back to times when beer was a seasonal product. This style of beer was brewed on farms during February and March, then stored in oak casks for drinking during the summer months.

St. Sylvestre 3 Monts is considered something of a classic of the style, though it has only been in existence since 1985. It can also be reasonably tricky to find, but once again, Utobeer came up with the goods this weekend.

Some beers really are meant for sharing, and weighing in at 8.5% ABV and coming in a generously sized 750ml bottle, this should probably be one of them.

Conveniently enough, Threehundredbeers had been invited out to deepest, darkest Essex for excellent food and company by good friends Ben & Sophie, which seemed as good an excuse as any to crack this one open.

As it turned out, I was glad to have some help with the actual cracking, because this is not the easiest of beers to get into. There’s a sort of Champagne-cork style arrangement held in place with a sturdy staple, all sealed under a plastic sleeve.

St. Sylvestre 3 Monts

Once actually opened, 3 Monts pours a deep golden colour, with a frothy white head of foam. It’s certainly an effervescent beer.

Despite this technically being an ale, since it is warm-fermented, the first taste is distinctly lagery. Perhaps that isn’t surprising, as 3 Monts is made with Pilsner malts. Beyond that, it’s mellow and subtle, and doesn’t shout. Sophie, the non-beer drinker of the three of us, hit the nail on the head by declaring “that’s actually quite nice”.

And it is too. It’s modest enough to complement food without upstaging it, yet robust enough to hold its own against spicier flavours.

While 3 Monts isn’t especially hoppy, the finish is bitter enough to keep things satisfying. The magic really happens as the beer warms slightly to about cellar temperature, when drier, more biscuity malt flavours come through, and there’s even a hint of sour appearing.

Although 3 Monts is filtered, I suspect that sour note would become more prominent with ageing, as is the case with Orval, for example. If I can find another bottle, I may attempt to find out.

Interestingly, we all agreed that the hefty 8.5% alcohol payload was remarkably well integrated: this is not a boozy beer by any means. Instead it’s a great beer for sharing, and is the perfect accompaniment to great food and great company.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: La Brasserie de St-Sylvestre, Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel, France
Style: Bières de Garde
Strength: 8.5% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 750ml bottle