Origin: Joué du Bois, Orne, France
I know of several expatriate Brits involved with small breweries in France – an interesting country for beer at the moment as a new international craft brewing sensibility is supplementing and reinventing established regional styles. Steve Skews is one of those Englishmen abroad, and his outfit, named with the bilingual fusion Le Brewery, is gaining international attention.
The brewery, set up in 2001, is in Lower Normandy, a region with a strong historic connection to England of course, but these days better known for cider than beer. Steve’s label designs and names evoke the era of the Norman invasion – Odo, William the Bastard’s half brother and later Earl of Kent, was the man who, as Bishop of Bayeux, quite likely commissioned the famous tapestry.
Odo’s namesake beer is an unusual but delicious strong milk stout. Unfermentable lactose is added to the mash to give a sweet, toothy note alongside Maris Otter pale and crystal barley malt, wheat malt and roasted barley. Hops are Challenger, Goldings, Styrian Goldings and Cobb, and the beer is fermented with liquid English yeast.
Milk stout is something of an endangered style, though there are welcome signs of new interest in lactose among craft brewers. The best known traditional example, Mackeson, originated across the Channel in Hythe in Odo’s former earldom, but that’s an industrial beer that’s now thought of as an old lady’s tipple, and is about a third of the strength of Le Brewery’s example.
My 330ml bottle was bought at Drinkers Paradise, a surprisingly beer-friendly corner offie at Kentish Town West. It was lively beer, very dark brown in colour with a thick and smooth tan head, and a roasty, leathery and slightly chocolatey aroma.
The palate began dry and malty before tangy, fruity raisin and roasted coffee flavours emerged, the roast note kept well in check by an obvious sweetish milk gum quality. The finish was also lightly roasty with sultanas, black coffee and chocolate, complex leathery notes and a late whiff of smoke.
Highly recommended – including for old ladies.