It’s funny how you can look back and put your finger on a time when you started to enjoy something.
When I took French at high school it started a bit of a lifelong enjoyment on most things French. The country is well known the world over for its food and wine culture. It has produced some of the best wines, cheeses, dishes, and chefs. I love the food, I love to visit the country, and I love the wine. Every year at school, when Bastille Day (the French National Day commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789) came around the teachers would take the class over to the park from school, and we would stuff ourselves full on croissants and play boules.
Not that the language skills ever stuck with me, the most I can remember is how to say hello along with a few swear words.
But it brings me back to when I can put my finger on enjoying something. And in this case it’s the French beer Kronenbourg. When I first tried Kronenbourg I was in Paris in 2002, we were on a tour and as I sat in a room that was costing us around €200 Euro’s a night, I looked out across the city, over to the Eiffel Tower and I wept.
I didn’t weep because I was in the city of love or because the city sights were just so incredible, nor did I weep because I knew our next stop was to an 8 degree English summer. No I wept because my mind was crunching the numbers and I realised that that the 200 Euro with the exchange rate was actually costing me somewhere around the equivalent of $500 Australian dollars and the my beer brain was telling me that was about 10 cartons of beer that I would never get to enjoy…
To dull the pain I wandered down to the nearest brassiere and introduced myself to Kronenbourg 1664, and I must admit that the call to celebrate Bastille Day comes on somewhat stronger when there is beer involved.
You don’t often hear about beers from France, you usually associate it with wine I guess. However since 1664 (hence the name), Kronenbourg has been knocking out this lighter style beer. Lighter in taste definitely, but not lighter in alcohol or appeal. Their efforts in brewing, though not as renowned as say the traditions of Germany, Belgium or England, have produced beers that have added to brewing history. And the Kronenbourg brewery is an important part of that history, last year the Kronenbourg Brewery celebrated its 350th anniversary, an impressive feat for any brewery.
The Kronenbourg 1664 was first brewed in 1952, almost 288 years after the brewery was founded. In 2004 and 2005, Kronenbourg 1664 won the International Brewing Award’s gold medal, so you have an inkling that it’s going to be a quality beer. But it’s also a beer that divides a lot of people, there doesn’t seem to be much room for fence sitting when it comes to the Kronenbourg range. You either like them or you don’t.
I’ve found over the years that you can’t swap to Kronenbourg 1664 if you have already had a few other beers. Because the taste is lighter it can easily be overwhelmed by most other beers, including our mass produced, very light tasting, commercial lagers. And to try and swap over to their Kronenbourg Blanc, a wheat beer, is just damned near impossible, as it comes out tasting like bubblegum sweetness.
However, if you start on any of the beers from the Kronenbourg range, you will find that they have very distinct tastes that are quite enjoyable. In fact I find the range particularly comes alive at this time of the year, on our warmish winter’s arvos, having a few quite ones and watching the Sunday footy. This comes back to those light tastes and I find that come summer those tastes become overwhelmed with the humidity and heat, and you are generally looking for a beer that goes down quick rather than one that makes you think about it.
If you haven’t tried their drops give them a shot, it might surprise you.
Kronenbourg 1664 – There’s a distinct smell of hops on the nose but there is also some subtle citrus scents in there as well. The Strisselspalt hop used is not all that common, it’s a very mild hop, particular to France, and brings something special to this beer. 1664 isn’t huge flavoured but it is smooth, a little creamy across the tongue and leaves the mouth clean. There’s no crisp snappy finish to it, more of a lingering malty sweetness that becomes more enjoyable out of a glass rather than from the stubby. There isn’t a dominant bitterness in the aftertaste, and it’s not so heavy that you couldn’t have a session on it. It is a very easy beer to drink; lovers of American styled blonde beers will find this little French number attractive.
Kronenbourg Blanc – let me be very clear about this, you need to have this as your first beer of the day, you will not be able to start on something else and swap over to the Blanc as this wheat beer will taste like its confectionary sweet: fairy floss and bubble-gum. When poured into the glass from an eye catching bright blue bottle, the beer forms a fizzy white head, with aromas of peach, orange and lemon zest. On the tongue its starts off with that citrus combination and touches of apricot but remains very smooth in the mouthfeel As the citrus fades away there’s a more typical witbier body but very subdued, with wheat, grains, and subtle yeast. It is very well balanced, and will appeal to those that enjoy those wheat flavours in a beer, such as White Rabbit or James Squire Golden Ale.