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Arts and Crafts

La brasseuse

Jungle drums started beating, my chum from brassage-amateur tipped me off that there was a portes-ouvertes at a local brewery. It doesn’t take much more motivation than that – day trip ahoy!

I did a little search online for all breweries in France. Nothing in our immediate area. Nearest to us is the Brasserie de Bellefois in the Vienne, been there, done that. Next nearest is Brasserie des Fontaines up north in Maine et Loire – so off we go. Zip over to Vienne to collect Yann, my brew-buddy and then into the winelands we go! Always love driving through these areas. The differing terroir unfolds in front of you as you roll through countryside that hasn’t changed in centuries. We’re very shortly in serious wine country. Dessert wines from the Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert get stellar scores from Robert Parker/Wine Spectator and have a price tag to match. So, a bold move for a young lady to set up a brewery in this area – I love the chutzpah!

Food for the Porte Ouverte visitors

Brasserie des Fontaines

To the village of Les Verchers-sur-Layon for a visit to the brewery which has been open for a few years now. Set up in a converted hangar we were greeted by a small oven burning dried vine clippings and offering some delightful snacks.

Small bread Galipettes – very similar to a fat pitta bread hot from the oven with garlic butter, some artisanal jams or a giant tub of rillets? Then hot roasted field mushrooms with garlic and grain mustard? Non stop food was on offer to complement the non-stop free beer. Superb – just like being at home!

lady brewer - Anne-Catherine Sailly

Anne-Catherine Sailley, our hostess and lady brewer

We were greeted by our hostess Anne-Catherine Sailley.  She was on hand to run through tours of the brewery for a never ending series of visiting groups.

Good to see a small scale operation like this which wasn’t a million miles from what a home brewer might do. I listened in on a couple of her talks and there were some genuinely insightful questions from some people – fascinating stuff.

Yann - tour guide

Yann. my Brew-Buddy!

My friend Yann was bringing up the rear and chipping in his knowledge of brewing too. Any passing visitor was fair game!

So. Down to business. Beer.


Barman doing the business

The beer was free flowing, we sampled through the range of house beers and also got to taste some limited run speciality beers. I think for me the beers all had a pronounced Belgian style and were a world apart form the usual faire – all very high quality. My standout fave was the Sarcophagus. Jet black, sweet, loads of caramel malt and layers of liquorice and toffee and a fairly robust 8.5%. A slow sipping stunner.

It was good to see the small batch nature of the original brewhouse and have a good poke around the equipment and ingredients. There was a transition under way with lots of shiny new fermenters that had only just been installed but not yet commissioned. It’ll be great to return in the future to see it all in operation and impressive to think that it’s by and large all a one-woman operation.

I managed a brief discussion on one of my pet topics. Home malting. Anne-Catherine had a tray full of germinated barley and a small scale roaster to allow her to both deal with local grains for one of her special brews (Organic barley from nearby and wild hops gathered locally) and also to produce malts to her own recipe. I can produce some excellent batches of my own crystal malts here but I do get quite a dark toast on them – i find it difficult to do a low temperature kilning in my current oven. Anne-Catherine offered up my choice of malts from her stocks so I left double-happy. Cases of beer and sacks of grain in the boot of the car!


"Me? In a Brewery? With my reputation?"

Full marks to Joan who, despite the photographic evidence, was a picture of restraint, hardly touched a drop and chauffeured Yann and I around all day. So, a great day, very relaxed atmosphere, loads of visitors all getting to see the works of a small artisanal brewer, taste beer and case after case of  it was walking out the door. Good times!

As usual, full photoset is on flickr

So, about that no-brasseries-in-the-Deux-Sevres-thing? Someone should do something about that.

All that glitters…

Briefly, in arts news. I have this photo..


Shimmering Barley

.. in the mix for submission in a piece at the Tate Gallery, Liverpool. All part of this exhibition.

Guitars in the Peak district

Slightly off-topic for the Bellebouche blog but I have mentioned before my interest in guitars and just spent a fun weekend outside Tideswell in the Peak District of England, with some old chums playing guitar and having a fine old time of it.

Slideshow is on Flickr

Despite living on top of this area for much of my life I’ve never really looked closely at the environs before so it was good to get about a little and take some snaps. Was also able to wrap up a couple of bonus things on my trip as well so it was a good – if rather tiring weekend. Heinous travel in the UK with the return trip from Tideswell to East Midlands airport taking an eye watering three hours where I managed to average a spectacular 13mph. Only just made the plane back home (by ten minutes) and was very glad to land back in France.

To everything, turn, turn, turn

Finally, after walking past my lathe for a couple of years and never really having the time or opportunity to use it I’ve dusted it down, set up a small workshop area in one of the barns and turned my hand (pardon my pun!) to a bit of wood turning.
Roughed out finial

We have so much beautiful timber that we inevitably just lob on the fire it seems such a shame sometimes to see it go up in smoke… and to that end Joan bought me a lathe and some tools for my 40th Birthday to actually gee me up. Now… I’ve had a go and a few pieces in (tool handles and the like – all dead simple) I’ve managed to turn a matching (sort of) pair of little finials that I’ll stick on the new compost heap construction that is being erected in the garden right now.

That’s just a cob of old pallet scrap that was leftover from building the compost heap. I’ve been collecting cobs of Oak, Cherry, Peach, Poplar, Elm, Ash and Willow for a while so when I get my skills to an appropriate level I’ll have a go at something artsy

A little light entertainment

We’ve been busy as bees ever since we moved to France and all the work on the house and gardens has kept us occupied enough over the last year or so. It’s no surprise then that I don’t think I’ve taken time so far to write about music. I’m not talking about listening to a CD whilst rustling up something in the kitchen but rather making music.

Playing guitar has been an important part of most of my adult life and something that I find hugely enjoyable. I do try and slip in a little playing every few days here but inevitably I’m not able to do as much as I used to when we lived in the UK. Also, digging in the dirt plays sheer hell with ones fingernails, dahlinks.

Certainly, playing out in public was always hugely exciting and I reckon I managed to slip in at least one performance a week at either a jam-night, folk club, acoustic session or open mic for most of 2003 and 2004. I miss my time out and about playing all over Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire… and.. my fave.. the Bulls Head, Mobberley!

So, back then, when I was actively playing and performing (and after much persuasion from Joan) I started to do a little recording. Unfortunately I’ve not even unpacked my recording gear after living here for 18 months.. it’s just not possible to devote time to it just yet when we’ve so many other demands with our new French life.

So fast forward to today and the lovely people of the internet newsgroup are running a collaborative project whereby members submit some of their music for a compilation CD (the fourth!), the CD gets produced, sold and everyone gets to hear what other people are up to.

I had a track out on their last CD (no longer available as it sold out!) and with this one I had nothing particularly recent to contribute. I did dig out a little thing though that I recorded in the Garden at our old Wilmslow cottage – complete with the noise of aircraft taxi-ing at Manchester Airport and some birds twittering.

For reasons that should become apparent I offer… for your listening pleasure… a little slice of me playing guitar.

“I do need a hat” is short (4:14), small (4.9 Mb) but perfectly formed. Try it!

So, the pukka thing will be out on a multiple CD pack available for sale over the next few months and my track along with those from probably another 50/60 more guitarists from around the world is sure to sell like hot cakes, fly off the shelves, be a massive hit, etc. etc!

When I get a bit of free time under my belt I shall turn my hand to a solo CD of similarly melodious meanderings but until then if you want to hear more… bring a bottle over for dinner when you visit and I’ll play for you!

– Adrian

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