Beer sellers: Abbaye des Saveurs
Origin: Esquelbecq, Nord, France
Daniel Thiriez began reinventing Northern French beer as far back as 1996. He ploughed a lonely furrow for some years – only from the mid-2000s have other startup breweries in the region dared to brew beyond established traditions. But Daniel maintains a commanding position with his world class beers, several of which I’ve written about elsewhere on this site.
Blonde d’Esquelbecq is his best seller, a tasty and distinctive but accessible blond beer that’s a great first step in exploring the newer beers of the region. Named for the village where the brewery is based (from an old Dutch name meaning ‘acorn brook’), the beer is brewed whenever possible from local barley malted at the Château du Soufflet, with bittering hops from Flanders and aroma hops from the Czech Republic. The yeast originally came from Brussels, and the beer is conditioned for at least three weeks at the brewery before being reconditioned in the bottle with fresh yeast and sugar.
A 330ml bottle bought in late 2011 at the Abbaye des Saveurs in Lille poured a hazy gold with a fine white head and mineral malt aroma with suggestions of coriander (though I’ve no evidence the beer is spiced) and some slightly phenolic, medicinal notes. Those mouthwashy phenols persisted, if gently, on a very creamy, fresh, quite clean and malty palate, with notes of citrus and grassy, gently spicy “noble” hops. The finish remained coating, creamy and full, with more citrus and hops and a building nugget of bitterness. A perfectly poised blond with extra interest from more complex flavours.
The recipe has been tweaked slightly very recently and the beer, and an alternative English language label, simply reading Thiriez Blond, now declares only 6% ABV.