Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Brasserie St-Germain: Page 24

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Brasserie St. Germain: Page 24 podcast

Brothers Stéphane and Vincent Bogaert founded the St. Germain Brewery with Hervé Descamps in 2003 in a former joiner's workshop on the route d'Arras in Aix-Noulette, France, very near Lens, and not far from Lille and the border of Belgium. Prior to opening the brewery, Stéphane worked in the pork industry, and Vincent and Hervé were involved with microbrewing/brewpubs. [To get to the English version of the brewery's website, confirm your age on the French site, then click the British flag in the upper right corner of the page. We found that the age checker doesn't always work on the English homepage.]

Public entrance.
The 20 hl (17 bbl) brewery, which produces about 6,000 hl (5030 bbl) of beer per year, is named for the patron saint of the town, which was also home to the long established, well known regional brewery Brasme before it closed in 1986. The brand name, Page 24, is a reference the the writings of Hildegarde de Bingen, a 12th century German Benedictine abbess and saint who wrote about mysticism and herbal medicine. In one particular text, she described the beneficial attributes of drinking beer -- on the 24th page.

Tasting room, with dried hops overhead.
Nord-Pas-de-Calais, where Aix-Noulette is located, is a rugged and beautiful region with a rich brewing tradition. When Stéphane, Vincent and Hervé began there, they had a vision to use locally produced raw ingredients, just as brewers there had done for centuries, and they continue to use locally grown hops to this day. Due to their desire to variate their recipes, they've been trying to get a few of the area's eight producers to grow some different hop varieties. They also use other local agricultural specialties -- rhubarb and chicory -- in two of the beers in their extensive portfolio.

Hé biloute! That's très Ch'ti!
The most sessionable of their beers is the 4.9% Blanche (Wit), and the strongest is the 8.9% Malt & Hops (Bieré de Garde), with most of their brews averaging around 6% a.b.v. Their first products were the classic styles of Blonde and Wit, but after a while, their customers were asking for some more distinctive styles. So, two versions of Bieré de Garde were created -- the Hildegarde Ambreé and Blonde -- as well as many other northern French specialties.

The brewery operates a well appointed tasting room with a cheerfully rustic wood bar, displaying a restored vintage beer delivery truck and a collection of vintage beer bottles and memorabilia, giving it the feel of a tiny brewery museum. They also operate an extensive bottle shop in the space, where the public can buy individual bottles, cases, crates, gift-packs, small kegs and glassware four days a week. About 15% of the brewery's sales are from the brewery shop. Most of the shop's customers come from within 30km of the brewery, but people do travel from further south in France to buy their distinctive regional suds, which are not that widely available outside of the northern region. 35% of sales come from regional supermarkets. And, of course, a few of their beers are available in the U.S.A.! If you find yourself in southern Belgium or northern France, drop in for a tour!
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[Photo credits: B.R. and Ryan of Shelton Bros. Importers.]
Line 'em up.
Tasting room bar.
Boil kettle.
Brewhouse computer.
Primary fermenters.

Secondary fermentation.
Bottling line.
Kegging line.
Barrel aging.
In the warehouse.
B.R. gets beers shipped just to her!

Stéphane in the shop.

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