Name of beer: La Goutte d’Or – La Chapelle
Beer description: 5% chai wheat beer
French word for beer: bière
Date joined the EU: Founding member
Have I visited? Yes, probably my most visited country
Ah, la France. The country that the Brits love to hate, egged on ever so slightly by our press. Or at least pretend to hate, whilst really thinking that France is rather delightful. Our most dear enemies. We just love to needle and irritate each other, usually resorting to age-old and inaccurate stereotypes.
I should confess that one of my favourite historical light reads is “1000 Years of Annoying the French”, but I must also admit that I love France. It was my first trip abroad aged four. We went to Dieppe on the ferry and spent a grand total of two hours on foreign shores before returning to the safety of England. It is probably one of my earliest memories and a very happy one at that. We returned to France for summer holidays almost every year after that, and it remains top of my wish list to this day whenever I am planning a jaunt or two.
The French Parliament has an interesting relationship with the executive branch, at least if you’re more familiar with the British-style parliamentary system. I learnt about France’s semi-presidential system of government in Political Science 101 at university, but not sure I can remember too much of the finer detail. Basically, they couldn’t decide whether to have a President or a Prime Minister, so they chose to have both. Talk about having your cake and eating it.*
The Parliament is bicameral: the Sénat is the less prominent and indirectly elected upper house, and the Assemblée Nationale is the lower house consisting of 577 directly elected Members. Both meet in incredibly grand looking palaces. I haven’t visited either, but I am a particular fan of the seven statues in the chamber of the Sénat and the library of the Assemblée Nationale.
At the most recent elections, 11 Members in the Assemblée were elected for the first time to represent French citizens living abroad. These Members have mega-constituencies covering huge swathes of the world. I would love to be able to call myself “MP for Northern Europe”. I don’t envy this guy though, who has to cover 49 countries!
First things first, this beer truly blew our minds. La Chapelle is brewed by La Goutte d’Or, a microbrewery in the heart of Paris’s 18th arrondissement. The beers are all inspired by the neighbourhood in which the brewery is based, with hints of African, Arab and Indian flavours. The beer names are also nods to local areas, streets or businesses.
La Chapelle is named after a cosmopolitan district within the 18th populated since the 1980s by a significant number of Sri Lankan Tamils and South Indians. Fittingly, its namesake beer is a chai wheat beer. Once poured, it gives off an extremely fragrant aroma of spices such as cardamom and ginger. If we thought the smell was intense, the taste was even more so. This is an incredibly flavoursome beer. For me, it seemed like the taste changed and evolved with each sip. My first mouthful was quite citrusy and then a tremendous spicy aftertaste suddenly hit. This is not a quaffable beer; you really need to concentrate on it so you can focus on all the flavours.
Tasting assistant Gareth was well and truly overwhelmed: “Love, love, love the flavour. It is almost too busy and it took me several mouthfuls to identify the different flavours.” He was also a big fan of the label design, describing it as “seductive”. This beer clearly evoked some strong emotions in Gareth.
Bravo, France. An intensely enjoyable beer which makes it even harder for us to pretend we don’t like you. Tant pis.
* Huge apologies.