Origin: Bénifontaine, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France
Date: 6 November 2000
Another review from the archive written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit. Oh for those halcyon days when Safeway UK (since taken over by Morrisons) offered an interesting range of imported beers thanks to the late Glenn Payne. The Ch’ti range is still around, though the brune has been withdrawn, and there’s now a triple and a Christmas beer.
A fairly new line from this well-known Bière de Garde producer: the Ch’ti range, which also includes a Blonde and a Brune, is made with bottom-fermenting yeasts and pasteurised but otherwise brewed along traditional lines, emphasised by the corked Champagne bottle-style presentation.
There’s some debate about the origin of the brand name: some sources, including the label, say it’s slang for a Northerner but I’ve also heard it’s a local dialect pronunciation of c’est toi – ‘it’s you’ in the sense of ‘it suits you’. The brewery is in a former mining area but I notice the portrait of a miner that used to adorn the labels has been removed, at least for the British market, perhaps to avoid any unwelcome proletarian associations.
The beer is rubyish in colour – a very dark amber – and has a smooth but short-lived head. The aroma starts deliciously yeasty but then develops fruity and distinctly sherryish notes. The palate is very malty and has, again, a distinctly sherryish character with a slight hint of wood. It also has a certain syrupy, brown sugar texture, rapidly lifted by very dry, smooth and slightly ashy hops with a mere hint of coffee grounds in a good, long, tangy finish. Somewhere in there is also a hint of marmite.
For a bottom-fermented beer it is notably complex and is very drinkable (especially at a gravity that’s comparatively low in this part of the world) while preserving, in its hop character, something of the northern austerity that is characteristic of the style. A good buy from your local Safeway.