The latest from Atlas

Monday, 18 August 2014

Amy Abroad: French Craft Beer at La Fer Rouge

As an English speaking tourist in French speaking country my quest for some great French craft beer began with some dodgy vocabulary and grammar. “Bonjour, je suis looking por le tres bon French biere?”, which roughly translates to “Hello, I am looking for good French beer”. Luckily, most locals I conversed with spoke some English so once I’d made myself understood I was pointed in the same direction by every person I spoke to.|
Le Fer Rouge.

Le Fer Rouge is located in the town of La Chapelle d'Abondance about 7km down the road from
Châtel. We decided to head there for some dinner and as we pulled up outside, first impressions did not disappoint. Le Fer Rouge is a beautiful, traditional Alpine brasserie and once I saw a large sign reading Biere Mason/Microbrewery and saw the mountain bikes parked outside  I realised I'd hit the jack pot!

The interior was rustic with old beer signs mounted on the walls and the lounge area was filled with mismatched antiqued furniture and wooden tables. Our French bartender explained the range of beers available on tap and proceeded to serve us sample half pints of each. Between rounds I bombarded her with questions about the bar. She had some answers but informed me Monsieur Mouthom would know more. She disappeared leaving me confused about her whereabouts and then, all of a sudden, a man in a white coat was tapping me on my shoulder. He introduced himself as Benoit Mouthom, the owner, brewer and chef of Le Fer Rouge. What with my aforementioned bad French there was a bit of a language barrier, however Monsieur Mouthom could speak some English and asked me to slow down my sentences. We proceeded to have a great chat and he was happy to answer my many questions.

Born and raised in La Chapelle d'Abondance, Benoit Mouthom travelled to England many times as a young adult and developed a taste for English ales. The diversity of beers inspired him and made him think of brewing his own back home in France. Turning this dream into reality proved to be extremely difficult as there were no suppliers in France for the correct machinery, hops or malts. It was also quite difficult for him to convince the banks that he was serious about becoming a brewer and that it wasn’t a joke! In spite of these setbacks in 1994 Benoit purchased Le Fer Rouge and set about building his microbrewery business. 

By 1998 his product had been perfected and he was ready launch it. Le Fer Rouge, which means The Red Iron, was the first microbrewery in The Alps and the 35th brewery to open in France. At first, as well as bar sales, Monsieur Mouthom sold his beer to local grocery stores. Over the years demands grew so high and as the brewery itself is so small he decided to only brew for the bar and focus on Le Fer Rouge business alone. Monsieur Mouthom buys all his malts from England, but his hops and yeast come worldwide from countries such as USA, Australia and Europe. I thoroughly enjoyed the beers on tap at Le Fer Rouge and below are my tasting notes for the five beers that are brewed on site.

Ale Très Pale “La Gourgandine” 3.8%

Has a high fermentation and is influenced by North American styles, hoppy and floral.

Blanche “La Potion Magique” 3.8%

This spicy wheat beer has strong hints of a smoky sweetness. It has an aromatic, citrus nose and a fruity vanilla-banana mouth.

Bitter ou Real Ale “La Frasses” 3.8%

Expect to be hit with a hoppy, bitter ale, giving way to chocolate-caramel flavours and an interesting hint of liquorice at the end.

Stout “La Forgeronne” 3.8%

La Forgeronne or "The Blacksmith" is dark, creamy and smoky. This roasted stout was definitely my beer of choice!

Blonde au Chanvre “Flower Power” 3.8%

This blond beer is infused with hemp and was also one of my favourites.

After a lovely evening of chatting with Benoit Mouthom, drinking his tasty beer and eating his delicious food it was time to part ways. I shook his hand, wished him well on future business and said au revoir. Talking to Monsieur Mouthom made me look forward to trying some more English Ales again. So when I return to England I’ll be ditching the mountain bike and will be off on my motorbike again to search for some more!