Brasserie des Gabariers: Between grape and barley
Text: Pierre Antoine Zahnd | Photos: Brasserie Des Gabariers
While the Brasserie des Gabariers is rapidly establishing itself as one of France’s foremost small-scale breweries, it does so through its association with the two beverages that the country is notorious for: wine and cognac. In a region not usually associated with the brewing craft, their unconventional approach has put beer back on the map.
The Brasserie des Gabariers takes its name from the ‘Gabares’; flat-bottomed boats that were historically used to sail grain alcohol and other wares up and down the Charente river. By then a family-owned affair, in 2016 the brewery was transplanted onto a winery dating back all the way to 1869, in the picturesque town of Plaizac. There, it would develop its range of top-tier craft beer, including a patented recipe based on Cognac.
It is worth noting that the Gabariers have gathered the necessary expertise to produce three distinctive lines of beer. The Atlantic, aimed at the traditional drinker, comes in four styles: White, Blonde, Amber, as well as a Ruby. This peculiar, crimson-coloured ale receives not only a mixture of red fruits, but also a small percentage of Pineau Rosé, a juicy wine that is typical of the Charentes region. The Jack Beer (affectionately named after the family’s adopted Jack Russell Georgetta) is a youthful, vibrant and fruit-forward Pale Ale.
And then there is the XO beer, perhaps the Gabariers’ most defining product. A subtle and well-balanced ‘bière de garde’, this blonde brew does not get its delicate, Cognac-like flavours through maturation in a barrel, as is commonly done. Instead, it undergoes a complex filtration process through which a small percentage of Cognac is directly added to the beer. As a result, the XO boasts a rich bouquet of caramel, dried red fruit and spice. To top things off, and in order for a unique drink to be poured from a unique bottle, the Gabariers have called on a local glass blower to create an unconventional and thoroughly elegant design for it.
Local, in fact, seems to be the Gabariers’ creed when it comes to their production. The Cognac that goes into their beer does not come from an international brand, but from small-batch makers. Similarly, the red fruits and the Pineau Rosé added to the Ruby are produced and sampled locally. At the end of the day, the Gabariers may be an atypical brewery, but they typify what represents French gastronomy at its best, and beer enthusiasts wishing to discover more may find them at their own Bar, La Gabare, in the centre of Cognac.
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