Posted by: musinganorak | July 29, 2010

Dijon Cuts The Mustard

Holiday Musings – Day 1

Today was the first day of our summer break which this year sees us taking another of our trips around Europe. What happens with these trips is that I decide on some cities that I’d quite like to visit and I somehow string them in to an itinerary which usually results in a morning drive from one destination to the next followed by an afternoon of mooching around the city checking out the sites and ending with an evening checking out the beery destinations in town. Occasionally we spend a couple of nights in a city, but more often than not it’s a series of one night stands.

The plan for day one was an early start to get down to the Channel Tunnel followed by a drive through France to our hotel in Dijon. I’m not a particularly big fan of France and so I tend to spend as little time their as possible. Dijon was chosen because it was a city I had heard of that was the right kind of distance from Calais.

Once Dijon had been set as the destination I started to do some research as to what we could possibly  expect on the beer front. I’m sure you are aware that France is not noted for it’s beer scene, and anybody who has tried will know that finding out information about what little beer there may be is hard work. A request for help to a beer e-mail group threw up no more information than I was able to find using Google. The only place in Dijon seemed to be a bar called Beer Country, but at least they had a website with a list of available beers and it didn’t seem to be that bad.

The first pleasant surprise was had when we had checked in to our hotel. Our room overlooked the main railway station, and I mean overlooked. Trainspotter heaven!

The view from our hotel window!

Somehow I was persuaded to leave the hotel and head in to town, a short stroll away from the hotel. It turned out to be a pleasant enough French provincial city with a nice old centre. And lots of shops selling mustard. Even though it was Sunday evening we were able to find a shop willing to sell us the obligatory souvenir of Dijon, we opted for the selection of 7 small pots of different flavoured mustards. Tasting notes may follow in the future.

Eventually we made our way across to the other side of town to check out Beer Country. We found it OK, even though the prominent name on the building was Restaurant Le Grenier, which was the associated restaurant based on the first floor of the building. A brief Franglais conversation with the bar tender established the fact that 2 of the available draught beers were French, the remainder being Belgian and German. So we started with those two, both from Brasserie des Vosges, La Bière du Grenier and Bête des Vosges. Both beers were 8.0% abv. According to the barman the owner of the bar has a hand in the brewing of the beers, and a very good job of it he makes. They both had plenty of flavour and a nice degree of bitterness with the second beer being slightly sweeter.

After a mediocre dinner upstairs we returned to the bar to see what French bottled beer was on offer. I shouldn’t have bothered. I tried a total of 5 beers from 4 breweries; Brasserie des Vosges, Brasserie des Cimes,  Brasseurs de Gayant and Brasserie Burgogne. The Vosges beer was good, although not quite as good as the draught offerings, but the others were terrible. All of them had bizarre flavourings, the first was, I think, juniper and it was green and medicinal. The second was flavoured with, and the colour of, violets – just think of parma violet sweets. The last two I have no idea of the flavours involved, but they weren’t good, and I’ll have to do some checking on-line when I get the chance. But at least I have drunk them and they can be added to the list.

I wasn’t expecting too much from Dijon but it proved to be a very pleasant place although I’m not sure that there would be much to keep you there beyond the one night. It also managed to deliver on the beer front, and indeed managed to exceed my very limited expectations. It would have far exceeded them if I’d stuck to the draught beers. The French may not be known for their beer but it does exist and it is worth seeking out because some of it is very good indeed.

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