19 August 2010

Ambiguous amphibian

Remember that post I wrote from Paris a couple of weeks ago? The one about how great The Frog & Rosbif is and how their ale is an oasis of beery goodness in an otherwise poorly-served city? Well, a few days later we went over to one of the other branches of the chain, the Frog & Princess. True to my word I went straight for a pint of Inseine and... bleurrrgh! A bad infection had caught this one and given it an unmerciful blast of TCP/sticking plasters. But these things happen with cask beer in small breweries; they can be forgiven. I moved to the other previous favourite, Natural Blonde. Oh dear. Diacetyl. Not just any diacetyl, but a pint of blonde ale that tasted like a pound of lightly caramelised butter had simply been melted into the glass: greasy, cloying and awful. Mrs Beer Nut watched my growing horror over a perfectly acceptable pint of Maison Blanche, so that's what I finished with.

Oblivious suggested that the Frog & Princess may be an extract brewpub. It would make sense, I guess, when there are five outlets in one city for all the difficult work to be carried out at one of them (or elsewhere altogether) and the finished beers assembled on site. It could also be what led to such a terrible dereliction of quality control -- whomever released those beers to the public cannot possibly have cared about how the finished product tasted.

Anyway, that's my arse covered if anyone else goes to a Frog pub on my recommendation and finds the beer awful. On to the rest of Paris.

Aside from the Frogs, the city's only other brewpub is O'Neil, just round the corner from the Frog & Princess as it happens, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It's not an Irish theme bar, despite the name, going instead for more of an American cocktail bar vibe -- dark wood and mood lighting. The brewkit is out in front and is in active use. What I hadn't known until I read the smallprint on the menu is that it's a member of the 3 Brasseurs chain, though not branded as such. All three beers invoked my memory of my last 3 Brasseurs visit, four years ago near Calais: they all taste powerfully of fish. I'm sure this isn't what Reuben meant recently when he noted that the 3 Brasseurs beers all taste the same, but for me it was fish market all the way and little else to show.

L'Ambrée is lightly perfumed and golden-amber; the seasonal Bock is heavily estered with pear drops in the mix; and the Brune is dry, caramelly, rather light for 6.3% ABV and tastes more intensely of fish than the other two, which is a lot. If you don't make it to O'Neil next time you're in Paris, I wouldn't worry unduly.

Much better beer was to be had following Knut Albert's recommendation of Au Trappiste at Châtelet. Not wishing to go madly ticking among the dozens of taps and bottles, I decided I wanted something reliable and nice. Draft Bécasse Gueuze did the job: a lovely big tartly refreshing pint of it. It was Mrs Beer Nut who went looking for the exotic, and picked L'Angelus, a strong French blonde ale from the far north-east. It's lovely when cold: spicy and perfumed like a good tripel, but it does get a bit sticky as it warmed. A pint of it may have seemed like a good idea on a hot Paris afternoon, but you really want to neck it quick for full refreshment value.

And that, in seven blog posts, is what I did on my summer holidays.