This visit was a complete shot in the dark. Dear google, is there a craft beer in Nice, France?
And the last answer that I expected was “yes, there is”.
Of course, I am aware of the fact, that Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont have listed in their World Atlas of Beer of beer over 700 breweries working in France. But I am also painfully aware of the fact that I have NEVER, EVER had a good beer from France.
But there it was – a craft brewery (single one) close to the center of Nice. This time, I was curious, so I have contacted the master brewer Oliver Cautain and announced my visit.
Brewery by itself is located approximately 20 minutes’ walk from the center of the town (it may be good to check if they are open). It may not be the great tourist region of Nice, but I felt safely all the way. Brewery is clearly marked and easy to find.
If I was ever wondering whether the brewery is popular in the area, I got already a first hint when doing the photo outside. Some young couples were passing by, and have noticed me taking pictures; they got interested what kind of tourist attraction here is worth a flash. The guy told to his GF – “hey, look there is brewery, let us go it and see what they have”. So, they did. Interestingly, the owner could convince them to also buy something. I hope they will be back.
On the positive side, during my one hour stay in the brewery/shop there was a constant flow of people, some of the arriving there clearly just to get the beer they like.
(top left) Zytha bottled in "high class" way; (top right) Beer maturating in the bottles and waiting for its labels; (left) small exposition in the brewery shop.
· I was always interested in brewing. I did a home brewing before and then I have worked in California and have noticed that many people do brew their own stuff. After coming back to France, I have decided to leave my work and open a craft brewery.
· The brewery was opened 1.5 years ago, In the beginning I was experimenting with a beer on the smaller scale before I went to bigger tanks.
· I am not able to produce the bitter beers (IPAs), local people would understand it. People are used to a concern lagers like Heineken or Kornberg.
· Price of my beer is a problem. Locals can easily get commercial lagers in the shop for low price. Therefore, my beers need to be sold with a minimal gain to get to the market.
· Start was hard, I was present on many local festivals to present people my beer. But, I have worked myself a certain position. Last summer I was sold out, November seems to rather down in comparison.
· At the current stage I no more must ask people if they want my beer, the restaurants are asking by themselves to get some.
· Recently, I started experimenting with filling up the kegs, it looks good and this may be a next thing I am doing.”
· I try to do beers using regional components – for example Zytha is brewed with the addition of Aframomum melegueta (aka: grains of paradise or alligator pepper) a local spice, I also use local strawberries for my saison. People like the addition of the local components a lot.
Finally, we came to the most important part which was testing the beer – Oliver has served a blonde. For the ones that know me – I do not like blondes that much. in their classical Belgian interpretation, they are just boring (very close to lager on my private scale). But Oliver did here something, for what I was asking already for a long time – add spices and cold hopped. What an effect. A new life put in the boring style. A combination of chickpeas and grains of paradise gave the beer a spicy aroma and taste very unusual for the blonde but very welcome and tasty. And then, the cold hopping added citrus note and welcome bitterness. Not too much, to not scare the people off, but just enough to make it interesting even for me. Very good beer.
As the time was running by, I have purchased the rest of Oliver’s beers and took them with me home (or rather take hotel). I have tested them over the next few days. One clear message to everybody – Yes, I know that this is an IPA glass, but, to my surprise hotels do not offer a big variety of beer tasting accessories.
(witbier with orange and coriander)
Disappointing at the beginning. Aroma is clearly and heavy yeast, absolutely like what you would have expected from the beer of this style. Belgians would love it – I thought. I was a bit disappointed, especially that it had orange and coriander in the name. I was close to pour Blúna to the sink but then my telephone rang. I have spent several minutes on the discussion with somebody and after this time I have tried again. Well, it was much better. Yeast aroma was mostly gone and the citrus aroma was there, I still do not get any coriander, even after warming Bluna in my hands, but an orange flavor in the style makes it much more interesting that I thought before. Still the weakest one in the offer.
(biere rousse/pumpkin ale)
Limited edition beer with cinnamon, ginger, Myristica fragrans, cloves
Uuuha, this sound heroic.
Can the mixture like that go well?
To my surprise this beer is exactly what it promises. Very aromatic and spicy in both aroma and taste. So many spices that it tickles the tongue. It is a spice bomb. Combined with a solid carbonation and some hops it is one of the most refreshing beers I have ever had. It kicks ass. Best pumpkin ale I have had this year.
It is one of the beers that tease your taste buds and make you drink them in no time. Delicate aroma and hoppy flavour of Cascade, well balanced with malt. Tropical fruits aroma. Looks great. Huge, beige head that just goes with the beer as you drink. Not too much carbonation. I cannot imagine, what else I would like to have in a beer. OK, it could have been having 200 IBU. Just kidding. This is a perfect composition, a real pleasure to drink.
Even better, Oliver's policy of not overdoing with hops will make this one acceptable for almost anybody. Please enjoy.
(saison with strawberries)
Last, but not least. A saison that have been made with local strawberries. I have never tasted strawberries from the area, but based on this beer – they must be crazily sweet. And sugar will be processed by the yeast. What is left is rather blunt saison with a tiny aroma of strawberries and huge amount of foam coming out. And I mean it. Huge foam. It is not a head it’s a Vesuvius brought back to life in the bottle of beer. Some strawberries flavor is still there as well.
I was hoping for some sour notes and an overall refreshing product. Sadly, it is not there. After consideration – it is not a bad saison, just not as good as it could be.
And at the end - a gift I have got. It’s a chocolate stout made by Oliver. This beer is still maturating and is not even being sold yet. For the identification Oliver have used the label from the last year. I will try to replace it on the picture as soon as I get a new label.
I plan to test it in January/February and hope for the best.
Thanks a lot Oliver.