I took a trip over to France late last week, I was planning to go before Christmas but due to the crazy snow I thought best not get stuck on the Eurostar for umpteen hours so rescheduled. A really good friend of mine lives about 30 mins drive from Lille into Belgium, quite an eccentric chap and bit of a Lord of the Manor type. We took a drive around his estate before lunch taking in the views of his 100 acres of land, he regularly organises hunts in this fields (not my cup of tea) but recently he has set aside a large amount of land where he is now growing Barley for beer.
As far as the eye could see were these fields, you could see the Barley just coming up and should be ready to cut by June when it will be turned into Belgium's most popular export beer. After a great meal at L'Enoteca in Ramecroix and a few bottles of the excellent Coste delle Plaie a wine from F1 driver Jarno Trulli's Vineyard it was time to head back to Lille.
I'd heard a lot about this shop, L'Abbaye des Saveurs a specialist beer retailer, based in the Old Town of Lille which is beautiful and I was advised it is in a building which was a 18th century villa. It's run by Antony and Stéphane two guys both very knowledgeable about beer, we'd called them beer geeks. They helped me with my selection as so much in this shop was new to me, I'm not very familiar with beers from the North East of France and they seemed to stock them all.
Lille is probably the beer capital of France, Stéphane advised me and enlightened me with more facts that there are more new breweries in the last 2 years in the North East of France then in any other region. I suppose it's got to do with the North East being closer to the UK and the current boom of micro breweries we are having, well that's my opinion anyway.
The first few bottles I picked up where La Blonde d'Esquelbecq a 6.5% a very Belgian influence blond beer and Etoile du Nord 5.5%, a very hoppy beer right down my street and very IIPA. Both French and both very tasty, if this is what is going to come out of this region then I'm excited.
Next up I picked up a few bottles of a black bier Black Albert 13% ABV an Imperial stout, quite thick and poured a dark brown creamy head. It had velvety mouth feel and yes it was an intense brew. My other selections were bottles of Mocha Bomb Struise Black Damnation II 12% ABV. Also a Imperial Stout poured a deep black got a huge nose of roast coffee and dark chocolate, again it had a velvety mouth feel and even better picked up NO alcohol as if had none. WOW what a great couple of beers brewed by De Struise Brouwers, Belgium.
Sticking with the black beers I picked up a couple of Lancelot XI.I 11.1% ABV, I was told this beer is brewed on the 1st of Nov and is a beer to bring in the Celtic new year. No surprise the 11.1 % ABV (11th month of the year, 1st day). What great marketing I thought, but the guys in the shop were dead serious it is brewed that way...who am I to disagree! A French beer poured very dark brown again with a creamy beige head. Strong licorice caramel aroma, with some roasted coffee. Some hints of berries smooth and full-bodied. A delicious beer that is only brewed once a year, on the night before 1 November...yep Halloween GULP!
Finally a beer I had heard about but never managed to find it, Agent Provocateur 6.5% ABV no not a beer by Joseph Corre but by Craig Allan a Scotsman worked in a few Scottish micro breweries over a period of time until he packed his bag to the shores of France to do his trade. A Belgian IPA by De Proefbrouwerij (how many beers does this brewery make?), pours a lovely golden colour with a lasting head, good fruitiness on the nose with hops. Dry with a well-balanced bitterness and picked up loads of fruits like grape fruits, lemons even mango. It's a very nice beer unfortunately they had only 4 in the shop, will have to look out for more.
La Blonde d'Esquelbecq 6.5% - 5/10
Etoile du Nord 5.5% - 6/10
Black Albert 13% - 8/10
Mocha Bomb Struise Black Damnation II 12% ABV - 7/10
Lancelot XI.I 11.1% ABV - 7/10
Agent Provocateur 6.5% ABV - 6/10
L'Abbaye des Saveurs is a great little find and a great pit stop either on your way to Paris or even to Belgium to stock up on your French beers.
L'Abbaye des Saveurs est le specialiste a Lille des bières artisanales. 13 Rue Vieux Murs 59000 Lille, France 03 28 07 70 06