Beer sellers: Abbaye des Saveurs
Origin: Auchy-les Mines, Pas de Calais, France
You’ll look in vain for the delightfully assonant St Glinglin (pronounced like ‘san-glan-glan’ but with French nasalised vowels) in the Dictionary of Saints. When a French speaker says something will happen on St Glinglin’s day, it’s a humorous way of saying it won’t happen at all, similar to English expressions like ‘when pigs fly’. When Thomas Pierre chose to label his first commercial beers after the nonexistent holy man, he was deliberately digging at breweries that fake monastic credibility with the names of fictitious or defunct religious institutions.
Such irreverence is characteristic of a brewer still in his late 20s, who moved from garage brewer to professional in 2007 on a budget of a mere €50,000. He’s succeeded through quality, flair and an iconoclastic imagination, catching attention with a cannabis beer called Weed alongside new twists on more familiar styles.
This superb special edition, recommended to me refermented in a 750ml bottle at the Abbaye des Saveurs beer shop in Lille, is one of an occasional series taking Thomas’ basic St Glinglin blonde recipe but with a single hop – in this case the distinctive and fashionable Pacific Northwest variety Amarillo, yielding a fusion between Flemish abbey blond and hop-accented American pale.
My bottle poured clear and very pale golden with a fine bead and a thickish, very tight white head. An inviting and distinctive aroma had notes of apricot, black pepper, roses and grass. The palate was crisp but full with plenty of herbal and fruity complexity, apricot, tobacco, honey and lemon with faint notes of detergent and burnt dried fruit. Salad green bitterness emerged in the mouth and developed in the lingering finish, but wonderfully softened by fruit, with a rush of juicy orange, and more apricots and pepper.
It would have been unthinkable a decade or so back for such a vivid and unusual beer to emerge from a Northern French brewery – so maybe St Glinglin has his day after all.