When you think of France’s great beverages, we’re betting that you’re probably not thinking about beer. However, France does have a long-standing brewing tradition, especially in the country’s northeast region where the culture has been heavily influenced by the brewing utopia that is Belgian Flanders. In fact, the two neighboring cultures have exchanged much over the centuries, with the Flemish having incorporated wine- and champagne-like characteristics into their beers, and the French having been influenced by the Flemish, borrowing back those features for their own beers. But the French do also have a unique beer style all their own known as Bière de Garde, which originated in the north of the country and remains France’s only indigenous beer style. Lucky for us, there are still a few breweries in the French Flanders area of northern France that continue to brew excellent beer for us all to enjoy.
The independently owned Brasserie Duyck is one of those breweries, and specializes in France’s native beer style. Begun in 1922 at a location that was once a farm, it has been credited with saving Bière de Garde (which translates as “beer for keeping”) from becoming extinct, and for inspiring many other small Bière de Garde breweries in the region. Léon Duyck was the first member of his family to embrace the art of brewing, and he passed along both his passion as well as his traditional French brewing know-how to Félix, his son. The Duyck family eventually settled in the tiny town of Jenlain, near Valenciennes, in 1922, and it was there that Félix built his farmhouse brewery in the town that eventually would lend its name to the iconic Jenlain brand. Robert Duyck, Félix’s son, took over leadership of the brewery in 1960 and ran the family operation for three decades. Raymond Duyck, Robert’s son and the great-grandson of Léon, took over the family brewery in 1990. It’s rare and refreshing these days to see a family business that’s almost ninety years old, and the value of that passion can’t be underestimated. Under Raymond’s leadership the brewery has expanded their offerings and now boasts several excellent beers, including year-round and seasonal releases.