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France - - Bienvenue - Derek Latham Smeth­wick, West Mid­lands

Rais­ing a glass

As a long-term sub­scriber to FRANCE Mag­a­zine and a devo­tee of ‘real ale’, I re­ally en­joyed the fea­ture ‘Go­ing with the Grain’ (July 2017, is­sue 226), which is the first one I can re­mem­ber that has ex­plored the French brew­ing in­dus­try.

My in­tro­duc­tion to Bière de Garde came in a rather un­usual way. In 1990, my fam­ily rented a gîte for two weeks in the vil­lage of Herzeele, close to the bor­der with Bel­gium. Un­be­known to us, the cot­tage was owned by the mayor, who called in af­ter a cou­ple of days to see if we needed any­thing.

My wife ca­su­ally pointed out that she could not find a dust­pan and brush so, af­ter as­cer­tain­ing that this in­dis­pens­able piece of equip­ment was def­i­nitely lack­ing, he took the three of us to the gen­eral store where he bought one. Per­haps he felt guilty about leav­ing two of us empty-handed, be­cause the next thing I knew was that our young son had a car­ton of ice cream and I was pre­sented with two bot­tles of ‘Bière des 3 Monts’ from the lo­cal Brasserie de Saint-sylvestre.

What a rev­e­la­tion this mag­nif­i­cent beer turned out to be. From that day on, and in spite of my plea­sure in see­ing mi­cro-brew­eries ex­pand­ing through­out France, it re­mains my favourite of all the Bières de Garde. On our an­nual trip, we al­ways tuck away a dozen bot­tles in the car boot.

Never would I have thought that a mi­nor dif­fi­culty in brush­ing up some pieces of bro­ken glass on the floor of a gîte could lead to so much en­joy­ment.

ABOVE: Beers from the Brasserie Saint-sylvestre

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