Luxembourg – small but strong

Beer, EU, Luxembourg

Name of beers: Battin Gambrinus; Simon Pils

Beer descriptions: 5.2% pale lager; 4.8% Pilsner

Luxembourgish word for beer: Béier (Luxembourgish), bière (French), Bier (German)

Date joined the EU: Founding member

Have I visited? Yes

Luxembourg_City_pano_Wikimedia_Commons 

The country

The only remaining sovereign dukedom in the world, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg might like to make itself sound big, but let’s face it, it’s quite a small place.

I’ve visited the capital, Luxembourg City, twice. The first was as a slightly grumpy 17-year old during a heatwave. No city appears pleasant in 41-degree heat. The second was during a rally in the pouring rain, where the group of demonstrators I was marching with somehow got lost. No city appears pleasant when you’re carrying a wooden placard in a downpour.

So I feel I need to give Luxembourg and its capital another chance. Which is fortunate, because I’m going for the weekend in two weeks’ time. And I’m rather excited about it. I’m also keen to visit the industrial south where I am told there are breweries and steam trains galore. My kind of place.

The Parliament

Luxembourg’s Chambre des Députés is a unicameral legislature with 60 Members from just four constituencies: Centre, East, North and South. Not sure what happened to the West.

It meets in the Hôtel de la Chambre situated in the centre of the capital. I’ve not visited it properly, but I have seen it from the outside. I remember describing it rather disparagingly as a semi-detached house. Before any Luxembourgish readers get apoplectic with rage, I would like to remind you that this caustic remark came from a moody and overheated teenager.

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The Chamber of Deputies – definitely not just a semi-detached house

My former colleague from the Luxembourg Parliament is also a beer enthusiast. In fact, I’ve even tasted his home-brewed beer. It was easily the strongest beer I have ever drunk. I think I was tipsy after a single mouthful. Tasty though.

The beer

Beer in Luxembourg is dominated by big multinational breweries, predominantly brewing lagers. From what I’ve read, there is not so much of a craft beer scene, although I am looking forward to trying a few brewpubs in the capital in a few weeks.

For this tasting, Gareth and I were once again joined by my friend, Daniel. There were two Luxembourgish brews on the menu. The first was Battin Gambrinus, brewed at Brasserie Nationale in the industrial south of the country. The brewery is best known for brewing Bofferding, only acquiring the Battin beers and brand in 2005.

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In terms of appearance, this lager is a really nice honey-esque colour, with a delicate roasty smell. We were all fans of the amount of carbonation – enough fizz to be a good lager, but still pleasantly smooth. As for taste, the beer reminded Daniel of Düsseldorf’s Altbier, and Gareth agreed that it was very North Germanic (it turned into a bit of a geography lesson at this point). Overall, we rather liked it: “It tastes exactly as it looks – a satisfying, full-flavoured lager”, said Gareth.

The second beer was from Brasserie Simon, a smaller brewery in the north-west of the country. We got quite excited about its Pils variety because it came in a metal bottle. Daniel was a little over-excited in fact, describing the bottle as “very, very attractive”. He practically needed a lie-down.

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Once the thrill and elation of the metal bottle had passed, we got round to pouring it. The Pils is a clear, straw yellow colour with a sweet, fruity smell. It had a strong, hoppy flavour with a dry aftertaste. Between sips, Daniel and I agreed that we liked the prominent flavour, which was quite different from other Pilsners that we had tasted. Gareth drank the whole thing very quickly without comment, which he assured us meant that he liked it.

So, Luxembourg brews decent beer. It is heavily influenced by its neighbours, particularly the lager-loving Northern Germans. This is no bad thing, but it would be fun to see whether the country is able to eventually develop a craft beer scene with its own distinct, Luxembourgish flavour, whatever that might be. Strongly alcoholic, if my former colleague’s home-brew is anything to go by.

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