Monday, April 28, 2008

Brasserie de la Rainette

A jewel, a veritable jewel.
In the UK I had occasionally dabbled in home brew, and I was thinking about brewing some beer here in France. But I didn't know how to source the material - malt, hops, or even a beer kit. In the UK I would just pop into Boots. I searched the net, and found some French suppliers, but the delivery costs were high.
I then joined a forum for amateur brewers, and through them discovered that there is a brewer here in the Charente.
Only 20 minutes from me, the Brasserie de la Rainette is run by Alain Mitteau.
I can't recommend the place enough. It's in the village of Chazelles, in an ancient water mill.
Alain had no brewing experience, he's ex-military, and on retiring decided to give it a go. He had to completely renovate the mill. He dredged out the old weir and rebuilt the weir wall. He renexed the mill wheel and works and, after some research went straight into setting up a serious little brewery.
He said he researched and created the recipes for his four beers, and has never had a failure, and not changed the recipes.
And, let me tell you, his beer is good. Very good. He makes an ambrée - brown complex, tasty. A sweet stout, dark and burnt, and a rarity in this part of France. A bitter ale that is superb, and a white beer that is hoppy and flowery.
Fiona and I spent the afternoon with Alain and his lovely wife Sylviane, with the sound of the water over the wier, talking about everything and tasting his excellent beer.
He makes about 4000 litres a year, and only sells it from the brasserie. He says he doesn't want to get into supply contracts with supermarkets because he brews for the pleasure of it. Once he's tied into production contracts it'll stop being fun.
If ever your in the area, you could drop in because between June and August he's open every day except Mondays, but outside of those dates give him a call, and he'll be able to organise a visit.
But I'd recommend, rather than just dropping in, make a day of it, visit the chateau at La Rochefoucauld and spend a few hours by the river, drinking Alan's superb brews.
I decided to wait a day before writing this, in case it was the effect of the beer that was fueling my enthusiasm. You know how you have a lovely bottle of wine at a restaurant on holiday, so you buy a bottle, and when you try it back home it tastes awful, because the relaxed holiday ambiance isn't there?
Well, lunchtime today we opened a bottle of Alain's bitter ale, and it is just as excellent as the stuff we had yesterday.

The weir at Brasserie de la Rainette
The dredged and renovated weir.

Mill Wheel at Brasserie de la Rainette
The mill wheel

Mill Mechanism at Brasserie de la Rainette
The mill's mechanism. Alain uses the river water to cool the wort. It also generates electricity.

Chewing the fat.

The master brings another beer for tasting.

Their dog is thespitting image of Santa's Little Helper from the Simpsons

Happiness is a bag of beer


At 10:52 pm, Blogger dND said...

That sounds like a really good day out, especially if you aren't the one driving!

Talking of brewing and the like, where do the French get yeast for wine. I can find all the other bits and pieces in the supermarkets, corks, bottle tops etc but no wine yeast. Do they just use the natural yeasts on the fruit?

At 11:13 pm, Blogger Stew said...

deb - I have bought stuff from this mob -

I've had leg rings for the pigeons, and cleaning kit for the shotgun from them. From thier catalogue, mind, not their web site

That link is for the wines & beers page. (But I see no yeast) Use their website to order their free catalogue. It's full of great stuff for farm/kitchen/animal husbandry

I'll nose around and find out where they get their wine yeast.

At 8:41 am, Blogger Lola said...

Sounds like my kinda place. I'm not likely to be in the vicinity, but you'd have to prise me out with a crowbar if I lived nearby.

At 6:41 pm, Blogger aims said...

Those are huge bottles of beer! They look more like a wine bottle than a beer bottle!

Sadly I can't drink beer anymore. Once I discovered I was a celiac - no more gluten - nothing made from barley or hops or whatever.....sigh....I'm still looking for a beer made out of rice. I hear there are some around but not in this area. Sigh - again.

At 3:45 pm, Blogger Breezy said...

We brought a couple of homebrew kits back with us now we just have to find the time to do something with them! TS is really missing his hoppy beers so I dare not let him see this post, after all the place is in driving distance. May be I'll tell him on his birthday

At 1:54 pm, Blogger Andy Holmes said...

Looks great, I'm going to visit La Rainette in June.

dnd - The French get the yeast for their wine from the grapes, it naturally occurs in the vinyard. The same process as for cider.


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