Brasserie des Sources - Bellerose
- Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%
- Serving Temperature: 45-50° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip or Oversized Wine Glass
In 2011, Bellerose won a gold medal at the IBC (International Beer Challenge) in London, and repeated its performance in 2012, reaffirming its status as an exceptional beer (French beer winning beer gold in the UK? Now that really IS something). These back-to-back accolades represented the first time a French beer has been awarded consecutive gold medals at the IBC. Well done! Let’s get to it… Expect plenty of sediment on the bottom of the bottle (it is conditioned in the vessel). This led us to opt for a careful decanting in order to keep the beer as clear as possible in the glass, as we do love admiring blondes (much as brewery founder Gerard Depardieu does). As you work your way through the bottle, the blonde will become a bit more of a dirty blonde (no dirtiness, of course, just beery sediment, etc…). Truth be told, this beer has a bit more of a copper tone to it, but no matter. Topped by a nicely frosted, let’s call it platinum-toned head that goes and goes. We admired its plentiful carbonation jets—which help it stay quite bubby throughout the quaff. Brewed with three different hops (from three continents)—which might not be unusual in a saison, but is not all that common in a “blonde ale”—this beer definitely features her hops. Being a French ale, we expect a certain effervescence, and even a vinous character, and we do indeed pick up a white wine/chardonnay character on the nose. The tiny pops of carbonation at the surface also give the impression of champagne. Look for suggestions of tart fruits and lychees and an herbal quality, hinting at chamomile with just a whisper of lavender; rather expressive yeast characters too. There’s a restrained bready malt in the background that keeps everything in balance. Overall, the aroma features subtle, highly well-integrated aromatics in a complex but very approachable manner. On the palate, there’s a flash of metallics upfront. A bit of warmth allows the metallic notes to subside, and the bouquet to open up. Expect floral characters to take center stage, with notes of rosewater and hibiscus. We also picked up a minor note of powdered aspirin, and a touch of sourdough bread, especially toward the finish, which is a blend of lightly tart and mildly bitter. Finishes exceptionally dry, like a dry white wine. At the warmer end of the suggested temperature range, fruity esters are maximized, with apple and orange peel notes developing alongside green plantains. A bit twangy, like a wit, though there is no wheat in the recipe. Very tasty, and extremely easy to drink. If ever there was a French session beer, this could be it, though at 6.5% ABV, it does teeter on the high side for making it truly “sessionable” (that being said, the alcohol is not obvious in the flavor).
Bellerose works well with, no surprise, French cheeses, like Brie, but also kills it with Indian dishes that are light-to-medium on the spice meter but heavy on the cardamom and coriander. The herbal qualities of the beer make it great with complexly spiced foods, and give it a complex depth where it can easily stand on its own. We suggest enjoying this beer fresh-don’t lay it down—this is one to enjoy within 60 days of receipt—it’s a bit delicate, and features its hops, so you want to get on it quickly to experience this beer as the brewer intended. Bellerose has only been in the US since November 2012, and a mere 50 total cases (or approx. 600 total bottles) distributed to very limited markets at that, so we hope you take this opportunity to stock up on the stuff—it represents another important step in the evolution of great French beer.
Brasserie des Sources (Brewery of the Springs) was founded in 1997 by French film icon Gerard Depardieu and fellow actors from and the director of the movie adaptation of Emile Zola’s 1885 novel Germinal. The story is the 13th in the 20-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart and details a coalminers’ strike in northern France in the 1860s. To portray the setting as authentically as possible, the filmmakers selected the old coalmining town of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux as the site of the 1993 film. While shooting, Depardieu and others decided to start up a local brewery there as a ‘thank you’ to the local community for their hospitality during location filming. This created a number of jobs for the local town, which is located in what has been known recently as an economically depressed part of France on account of mining and textiles operations having dried up over time. Still, it has many riches, including its medieval abbey church tower and thermal waters, the latter of which have attracted rheumatics and connoisseurs for years.
Contrary to popular belief, France does not only produce wine & champagne as its sole libations. As famous beer expert Michael Jackson noted in 1991, "The Flemish corner (northern France) specializes in top fermented beers." Indeed, Northern France is ideal for brewing activity due to its proximity to Belgium—in fact, much of this part of France, near Belgium’s Flanders, was once its own country. Not surprisingly, beer and brewing passion are found on both the French and Belgian sides of the border, with each adding their own touch. Part of that local touch was the creation of France’s only native style of beer—Bière de Garde.
Also a true original, Mr. Depardieu has been making the news lately for various flamboyant acts—most recently his letter to France’s prime minister in which he states his intention to hand over his passport and social security card, unhappy with the increases in taxes that will hit the so-called “ultra rich” in France under President Francois Hollande’s plans to levy a 75 percent tax on revenue over $1 million Euros. So, where’s Gerard going? Why, off to Belgium, it seems, to a town about 30 miles north of the French brewery he helped start. A renowned drinker, famously quoted as consuming about 6 bottles of wine per day, we’re sure he’ll have plenty of beer to drink during his expected residence in Belgium. And, it seems, a bit more money to spend on it.
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