French beer from Chicagoland? Mon dieu!

February 18, 2011 at 5:31 am

Tom Keith

So I was talking with my new best friend, Igor, at a small bar in the Latin Quarter in Paris (gotta love that generous Local Beet travel budget).

“Zat Fischer Beer … eet iz craap.” he said, seemingly with authority.

I’d always thought Fischer was a pretty good beer. Even if it is a Heineken product.

With very little authority, I replied, “Well, if you really want a good French beer, you’ll have to come to Chicago.” I didn’t think Igor would know where Warrenville is.

He gave me a look that suggested, “You must be out of your mind.”

Post-hangover, it got me thinking. Could two brothers from Illinois really make a French-style beer that rivals the stuff they make in France? (It also begs the bigger question – what could those skinny, effete, wine-drinking, smelly cheese eating snobs that make up the bulk of the French populace possibly know about beer? That’s a question I won’t attempt to explore here.)

I had to do a blind tasting. So I assembled a random variety of French beers, and compared them to Domaine DuPage, a flagship brew from Warrenville’s Two Brothers Brewery. (It’s made in DuPage County, hence Domaine DuPage … get it?)

As it happens, my little brother was in town, so he joined me in this blind tasting. Mind you, his beer fridge is loaded with Bud Light, so you know where his taste buds lie. If he even has functioning taste buds.

We compared the Domaine DuPage to La Goudale (aka the Good Ale), self described as a “biére blonde å l’ anciennne” from Douai, France, northwest of Paris, the aforementioned Fischer Amber (from Schiltigheim, in Alsace), Gavroche, from St Sylvestre Cappel (near the Belgium border), Valmy (from the Champagne region), and Brasserie Lebbe l’ Amalthée, from the Hautes-Pyrenees. A pretty damn good assortment of French beers, if I do say so myself.

l to r, Gavroche, Domaine DuPage, Brasserie Lebbe l’ Amalthée, Valmy, La Goudale, and Fischer

l to r, Gavroche, Domaine DuPage, Brasserie Lebbe l’ Amalthée, Valmy, La Goudale, and Fischer

So, scores. The biggest discrepancy between my tastebud-challenged brother and me was on the Valmy. He liked the hopppiness, I thought it was overly astringent. We almost agreed on the Brasserie Lebbe l’ Amalthée, liking the hoppiness and balance with the malts. The La Goudale was thin, bright yellow, not much flavor, and if anything, it was Budweiser-like (and no, that’s not a good thing). The Fischer had a stale taste, but getting past that, it did have a rich nuttiness. I guess, overall, I’d have to agree somewhat with Igor about the Fischer.

The winner? We’re really not trying to be homies here, but there was no question that the Domaine DuPage was the tastiest French brew. My little brother called its taste “rounder” than the others. I thought the rich maltiness shone through. It could be because the Domaine Dpage was fresher, and didn’t have to suffer a transatlantic boat ride (these are not high alcohol beers that benefit from aging.) The Valmy, though, should have been reasonably fresh, as it came over in my luggage from the market where we purchased it in Epernay, France.)

Other than the Domaine DuPage, I almost never agree with my baby brother about anything.

But these two brothers agreed that Two Brothers Domaine DuPage beats out a bunch of brews actually made in France.

Igor would be dismayed. That could be a good thing. Mon dieu!