28 January 2016

Brewpub roulette

I've mentioned before that micronations are a bit of a fascination for me. A week in Nice over New Year left plenty of time for the short train trip eastwards to Monaco, a barely-there principality clinging to the side of the mountains which sweep down to the Med. Just before they get there, however, there's a yacht-filled harbour and among the quayside clubs and bars is Brasserie de Monaco, the country's only producer of beer. Inside, it's a typically stylish nightclub, all low leather seating and mood lightning. Somewhere to drink cocktails and be seen. But where you might expect to see the DJ box there's a shiny chrome brewkit, and by the malty smells emanating from it when I walked in, it's very much in active use.

Pils and Bière de Noël
Three beers were available and we sat outside to work through them in the last of the winter sun. Pils de Monaco is 5.2% ABV and very obviously unfiltered, presenting a cloudy orange colour. It still tastes nicely clean, however, with a refreshing lemon spritz in the foretaste and a bit of a waxy kick on the end. With no yeast fuzz or husky grainsack it's a clear cut above many a brewpub's lager. There's substance to the style at this place.

In place of the usual Ambrée, the brewery was serving Bière de Noël, a dark spiced 7%-er which presented as a murky brown colour and smelled of coffee roast. It tastes surprisingly dry, with a touch of milk chocolate and just a light dusting of the Christmas spices. While sweet it's not cloying, having that in common with good milk stout, and it certainly hides its strength very adeptly. Decent stuff.

So there had to be a clanger and it's the witbier, Blanche de Monaco. 4.8% ABV and looking the part: the right sort of hazy pale yellow. The description says it uses native Monegasque oranges, which is actually quite impressive, given how much farming generally gets done in Monaco. But... the flavour just isn't there. You get a little hint of jasmine spice at the front, but once that's gone there's nothing behind it but a hollow wateriness and a yucky tang of soap. Maybe the coriander needs upped, maybe the yeast needs changed, but this is not a good example of a witbier and is definitely a rank below its brethern.

So you needn't go rushing to Monte Carlo for the beer, but I can imagine a few rounds of that pils going down very nicely of a warm afternoon.