Admittedly, the French are not known for their beer. Notwithstanding this, the French have created some exceptional beers over the years, particularly in the northeast of the country where they have taken a lesson from brewing savants in the nearby Flanders region of Belgium. Truth be told, these neighboring cultures have borrowed from each other—the Flemish have incorporated wine- and champagne-like features in their beers, and the French in turn have 'borrowed back' these traditions and characteristics in theirs. Which is not to say the French lack originality in their beers. To the contrary, a unique style of beer referred to as Bière de Garde originated in northern France. Bière de Garde remains today the only original, traditional beer style indigenous to the country. Thankfully there are a few breweries in northern France, in the region that is known by a few titles—French Flanders is one, Nord-Pas de Celais is another—that still produce excellent French beers.
Our second featured international brewery, Brasserie Duyck, is independently owned and makes more of France's only indigenous beer style than any other outfit. The brewery, founded in 1922 on a site that was once a farm, is credited with reviving the style as well as encouraging numerous smaller Bière de Garde breweries in northern France.
Duyck is the surname of a family of French brewers who settled in the hamlet of Jenlain in 1922. Léon Duyck was the first member of the family to take up the trade of brewing. He handed down his passion for traditional French brewing to his son Félix, who set up his farmhouse brewery in Jenlain, near Valenciennes, where he produced his first matured beer, which would become the famous Jenlain brand. The name of the village was not adopted as the name of his famed beer until 1968, many years after it was first created. At that point, the brewery had been under the control of Félix's son Robert for eight years. Robert manned the helm of the family business for thirty years before passing it on to his son Raymond (great-grandson of the family's brewing patriarch, Léon). That's four generations of family brewing, and one mustn't underestimate the value brought to a brewery by having the same family controlling the process for over 80 years.
In keeping with the times and increased demand for their beers, Duyck has pursued an active development policy since the beginning of 2002, adding eight new vats for their filtered beers, five others for the top-fermentation process, as well as a new kettle and a cleaning unit to increase the brewery's production capacity and to meet new market demands in terms of quality and protection of the environment. Despite their brewing scale and recent expansions, Duyck remains a traditional farmhouse brewery, complete with traditional buildings and rustic atmosphere. If you ever find yourself in the northeast of France, visit Jenlain and enjoy this fantastic beer at its absolute freshest.
If you'd like more information about the Brasserie Duyck, check out their website at www.duyck.com.