Bordeaux Let It Beer 2015 – an exclusive interview with the Artibrassage87 brewery

In anticipation of the divine upcoming Bordeaux Beer festival (the BLIB), Bordeaux Expats caught up with one of the guest brewers, Artibrassage87 for an exclusive interview.
          Based in Saint-Sulpice-Laurière near Limoges, the brewery was launched in 2012 by English amateur beer enthusiast Steve Ellis - the vision was to create a range of entirely original beers. He brews regular beer styles such as Bitters, Pale Ales, Wheatbeers, Stouts and IPA's; but also limited edition beers such as Black IPA's or beers brewed with wild yeasts, with locally pressed apple juice, beers with Bordeaux grape must, spiced beers, pumpkin ales, Imperial Stouts with mollasses, cocoa nibs and coffee beans and far more... 
A formidable range..!!!
He has also been involved in the creation of the Brewers of Limousin brand, with the Chamber of Trades & Crafts in Limoges. Steve's graphic creation was accepted as the official logo…

Many thanks to Steve for sending in all the info and hope to drink a few million
of your beers during the BLIB.
Artibrassage87 will be attending the end of festival party on the 3rd October in Le Lucifer and will available across the varied festival venues. See the BLIB site for more details.

The Interview

How do you feel about participating in the BLIB? 

          To have a beer festival in Bordeaux, a place synonymous around the world with wine, is nothing short of wonderful. I am excited and very proud to be a small part of the developing beer scene here in France.

How do expect to benefit?

          It's an honour to be asked to attend. My brewery is tiny, we're trying to expand but struggling immensely and so it's incredible and a little overwhelming that my beers are becoming known and enjoyed further afield. To be alongside longer established or much larger breweries is a little daunting. I'm constantly running out of stock and my handmade, hand-stuck labels might look a bit out of place among the glossier stuff.

What are you bringing to the festival? 

          I am hoping to bring my passion and respect for beer styles (more of which in the last question) and their importance in the continuing development of the French Beer scene if only to prevent it becoming a random shambles of "who knows what this is but it's blonde" type beers. Beer wise I am hoping to bring:

Citra Pale Ale - 5% An American style pale ale hopped with Summit and Citra hops. 33cl bottles and hopefully on draft on the Saturday night. Medium bitterness packed with hop flavour and aroma.

Rum Cask oak aged Dubbel 7,4% - A Belgian style Dubbel that has been aged for 6 months with rum cask chunks from Jamaica, formerly from the Jack Daniels distillery. Very limited, hand numbered 33cl bottles only. Very complex and a superb dessert beer.

Blackstrap Jack - A 9% Imperial Stout with molasses, muscavado, vanilla, coffee beans and cocoa nibs fermented with a high gravity English ale yeast.

A wheat beer, not sure which at this time.

Spicy Pumpkin Ale - I'm still working on a name and label design for this one. Hopefully available on draft as well.

What do you think about the future of locally brewed artisan beer in France compared to Paris and  other countries..?

          I think it's an exciting time in France right now and I see it continuing to grow and develop. We have a new generation of open minded brewers, keen to push boundaries and work with ingredients from around the world to create good, tasty and aromatic beers. Because of this, consumers are discovering there is more to beer than the habitual, nondescript hair colours of blonde, amber and brown - meaningless terms that have held people back. 

          I refer to those people who say, "I don't like brown beer" or "I don't like amber beer" as though the colour describes everything about the beer.... Compare a Stout to a Dunkelweizen, a Dubbel and an American Brown Ale, according to many people here these are simply, bieres brune. Ridiculous. 4 beers worlds apart in flavour, mouthfeel and aroma. I use the following example to try to show the comparison. Let's say I don't like chilli peppers, does that also mean I don't like strawberries or tomatoes, because they're red too? Some understand, others just look at me and wobble a bit, their eyes glaze over then ask if I brew amber OR brown beer... I sigh and cry a little inside…  :)

          We have a long way to go and it's an uphill struggle with many, dare I say it, prejudiced barriers in the way but we're getting through or over them. The French people are gaining more and more access to true styles and discovering, learning about, enjoying and actually beginning to request beers by style name. Stouts, Porters, IPA's, Bitter, Weizens, Lambics etc. - bizarre sounding words rarely uttered until recent years.
The legendary 'Black Dragon'

          Some French people ask me why there are no French names among these beers, the horribly brutal answer is because in effect, France has historically brought nothing visible (other than the Biere de Garde, a style so variable in colour, bitterness and strength it's vague to say the least) to the outside world of beer. I've heard worrying rumblings that there is some movement to give French names to these styles. Personally I think that is very disrespectful to the beers and the brewers/countries that brought them into existence. In England we don't rename Champagne or Fois Gras because they're not English words... In my opinion if you want to claim the name to something, create it..!

          The industrial breweries, churning out millions of litres of tasteless, cheap rubbish will no doubt continue to dominate the market, they stamp on small producers and lie in their marketing to appear "artisanale" but, in my opinion, Craft Beer is here to stay. However, as brewers we need to continue to introduce and educate people about recognized beer styles. Experimentation is great within style guidelines but some brewers might consider reining their ideas in a little. We're beginning to see the horribly overused initials IPA attached to all sorts of beers now and it's becoming a bit silly. A wheat and rye beer with 30 IBU bitterness fermented with a German lager yeast is NOT an IPA even if the label says so. It might be a great beer but it isn't an IPA. This is part of truly understanding and respecting beer styles as I mentioned in the third question.
Effing Good Beer

          Organisations that hold beer competitions also need to start introducing and recognizing styles. I will mention no names here but one such institution holds an annual competition and is still judging stouts, porters and any darker beers as brunes, there are lagers, IPA's and pale ales classed in blondes, bitters, darker IPA's and pale ales classed as ambres... it's nonsense, such a competition is quite simply, pointless. They chuck in one random style, like Barley Wine - a beer that traditionally requires a minimum of 6 months aging, 12 month or longer is preferable but then give the brewers 2 months to have the beer brewed and submitted for judging.... Utter nonsense. Each brewer pays to submit their beers that are then judged alongside dissimilar beers. From my point of view it looks like cashing in on the developing beer scene without actually putting much effort in.
Anyway, that's for a different rant…  ;)

Brasserie Artisanale de Saint-Sulpice-Laurière

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