Who or what is Gavroche?
Gavroche was rebellious, yet generous street urchin in Paris and a character in the Victor Hugo novel ‘Les Misrables’.
What’s this? This (in)famous pish-head reviewer changing tactics and subjecting the reader to a thoughtful, and incisive dissection of the merits (or otherwise) of classic French literature? A sidestep onto the path of cultural enlightenment? A diversion from matters epicurean?
Gavroche is a beer from the St-Sylvestre brewery in Northern France. The label features some scruffy, miserable-looking kid with a scarf…Gavroche, I presume. And so endeth the literary interlude.
St-Sylvestre have been making a wide range of traditional ales since 1860.
This is another one of these beers I’ve picked up while perusing the hyermarket shelves whilst on holiday somewhere or other in France. Yes indeedy, A French vacation is naught but pure adventure and white-knuckle, thrill-a-minute high-jinks when on the road with the proxies. Sigh.
Anyways. If it weren’t for me driving all over the continent, hunting down these beers, I’d have nothing much to write about, you wouldn’t be reading this, and we could all get on with living our lives…and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?
“It is a strong, amber beer, where the flavour of its top-fermentation yeast combines perfectly with the taste of the special malts.
Fermented again in the bottle, the Gavroche beer should be served with care between 10 and 12C.”
This beer pours a slightly cloudy, muddy crimson colour with a lively carbonation that sends masses of tiny bubbles rising to form a decent-sized, reasonably foamy, tan-coloured head that unfortunately doesn’t last all that long, although it does manage to leave a sprinkling of lace on the glass.
The aroma is sweet, fruity and spicy, with whiffs of honey, raspberry and black cherries, not to mention pears. It’s also quite tart. There’s a good toasted malt aroma and some earthy, yeasty tones, and a little medicinal phenols. There’s certainly plenty going on to tickle the nose.
It’s full-bodied with a decidedly creamy mouthfeel. The taste is initially sweet and malty, with lots of fruity flavours – over-ripe apples mostly, but lots of other fruit there too. It has a hint of licorice, but the malt is mostly sweet caramel and a little toasty and biscuity. There are lots of spices dancing on the palate – most noticeably ginger, but a suggestion of cloves too.
The hops aren’t too prominent, but it does turn a bit more herbal and slightly bitter in the middle, with some earthy, yeasty, ever-so-slightly musty notes floating around in the background. It finishes with an increasing dryness and a more tart than sweet fruitiness with a long dry aftertaste.
At 8.5%ABV, this is a big and bold beer. It’s perhaps not a classic, but it’s certainly up there among the contenders. Subtle it’s not. It’s an extremely complex beer that has so much going on it’s in danger of becoming over-cluttered. Still, that’s a preferable option to a one-dimensional rice drink like Bud …but then, isn’t everything?
If I was picking a fault with this beer, I’d say it could use a little more hop input, or maybe a little more in the way of dark, roasted malt – it just wasn’t bitter enough.
Pleasant, satisfying and interesting on it’s own, I can’t really think of many foods that would sit nicely with this beer. Some strong cheese and a hunk of bread perhaps, but the beer is too rich in flavour to compliment many meals.
It’s easy to tell that this beer originates from the Flandres region of France, as it has more in common with a Belgian brown beer than most offerings from that part of the world. French beers don’t exactly have a great press – most people associate the country with wine rather than beer, which is rather unfair as I know from experience that they produce a large number of top-quality beers (some of which are listed below).
Would I drink it again? – Yes, and I’m urchin you to do the same.