I suppose this beer really does qualify as a ‘hard-to-find’, unless you’re Belgian…or French…or from somewhere else but relocated to the Low countries…or visiting the region and…
Of course, I fell into one of the above categories (can you guess which one?) and in that respect it wasn’t hard-to-find at all. I just walked into a French hypermarket, made straight for the beer section – stampeding lil ‘ol ladies and small children in the rush – and grabbed me as many different beers as Mrs P’s cute little arms could carry.
Turns out one of them was La Gauloise.
Brasserie du Bocq, in the Ardennes village of Purnode, in Belgium, began life as a farm/brewery back in 1858. At that time, they brewed only in the winter when there wasn’t enough work for the farmhands. It was founded by Martin Belot and six generations later, is still a family concern.
They use traditional manufacturing processes of top-fermentation and all their beers are bottle condition (yeast is added to spark a second fermentation in the bottle).
They produce a range of beers, including: St Benoit, Saison Regal and Blanche de Namur, but this review concerns La Gauloise. It was first produced just after WW1 and as well as being the oldest beer from Brasserie due Bocq, is also their most popular.
The label on the bottle features a picture of a buxom wench gathering sheaves of barley and wearing one of those Asterix-type helmets – y’know, the one with the wings. This might explain the title of this review.
“A dark reddish brown, clear, living beer with a fine and generous white head. It has a typical, rich, estery smell (fermentation) with the scent of coriander, balanced.
It’s full-bodied and balanced with a slightly bitter aftertaste.”
La GAULOISE pours a beautiful, translucent, very dark, ruby-red colour which is topped by a thinnish, tan-coloured head which doesn’t quite disappear, but doesn’t leave much evidence behind in the way of lace.
The aroma is a little medicinal, with the scent of ripe pears being very evident. There’s a decent whiff of caramel malt, and this sweetness is enhanced by the addition of candy sugar. Not much in the way of hop aroma, perhaps just a slight floral hint.
It’s medium-bodied with a fairly robust mouthfeel, and the taste is all about malt. Up front, it has a very noticeable, sweet caramel flavour, before turning a little more fruity. Plums and pears are the most prominent of these fruity flavours, but I think there’s a fair old mixture of dark fruit flavours vying for attention. It’s a little spicy, but I taste ginger rather than coriander – it’s also quite musty from the yeast. There’s some hop bitterness towards the finish – just enough to balance it out a little and add a touch of dryness.
At 8.1% ABV, this was a very nice beer. It’s not overly complex or fussy, just a very pleasant, dark, malty brew. When you’re drinking it, the alcohol content is not really apparent – always a good sign, I think.
It’s not a classic, by any standard, but it has a fair bit of competition from so many other excellent beers from that part of the world. Still, I wouldn’t climb over it to get to a Coors.
I had this while scoffing Sag Aloo and onion bhajis and I have to say, it didn’t go well with that at all. Something a little plainer might be the order of the day – a hunk of bread and a slab of cheese perhaps.
Having said that, it’s a fine, tasty ale and I’d ditch the curry before I’d ditch the beer.
Would I drink it again? – Dinnae be sae gallus.
(gallus – ADJ. Bold, daring, rash, wild, unmanageable, impish, mischievous, cheeky)