Looking for beers to try in the Limousin region? Here are a few ideas.
5 FRENCH BEERS TO TRY IN LIMOGES
France is usually far better known for its wine than its beer, but the Limousin region may be one of a handful of exceptions. Thanks to the great quality of the water in this region, artisanal beer has been brewed here as early as the 18th century. In Limoges, the region’s capital, the first brewery dates to 1765, and between 1895 and 1970, over 50 breweries could be found in the Limousin region.
One of the region’s most famous breweries, Mapataud, remained a leader in the local industry until the 1950s, when more northern regions stole the local brewing thunder.
While many of these historic breweries have since disappeared, a renewed interest in brewing in France in general and in the region, in particular, has brought beer brewing in the Limousin back into the spotlight; today, there are 14 breweries in the region. With this in mind, here are the top 5 beers to try in Limoges and the Limousin region.
5. Michard Ambrée
Three of the beers on this list come from Limoges’ premier modern brewer, Michard, in operation since 1996. Michard operates both a brewpub in the city center and a brewery a bit outside the center, where one can still sample homemade flammekeuche – eastern French flatbreads a bit similar to a pizza–, as well as house-smoked salmon alongside the beers. The brewpub in the center not only has a more extensive menu, but also offers beer-based cocktails.
I was treated to a tour of the newer brewery, where brewing has increased by five times from the old days though you can still find the old brewing equipment on display at the brewpub. At the new brewery, Mr. Michard works with his daughter Julie, a former optician who has devoted herself to the family trade, and together they craft local products using live yeasts from two original sources chosen specifically by Mr. Michard himself. Four different beers, as well as a whiskey, are made on the premises.
Ambrée is often my favorite French beer style. In fact, when Julie, my guide, asked me to guess which one I would like most before tasting, I guessed the ambrée. While it was quite delicious, I was wrong about my top choice – more to follow on that in a moment! The Michard ambrée is a 5.5% ABV brown ale with a light, malty sweetness and a touch of hop bitterness on the end. It’s not quite as long on the palate as many that I’m used to, but it’s rich in flavor and very drinkable over a long period of time, even with lighter flavored foods. I find it lovely paired with the house flammekeuche.
4. Michard Brune
Perhaps the most surprising beer on this list was the brune, also from Michard. This dark beer pours like a stout but is closer to a Belgian-style ale. It offers a rich, chocolate aroma, and a cherry-like flavor. At only 6% ABV, it isn’t at all heavy. The richness of the beer only kicks in on the back of the palate, making it very drinkable.
Julie suggested adding a touch of something sweet, like grenadine, to create a beer cocktail that’s the perfect winter aperitif. Alternatively, it would pair quite nicely with a glazed duck magret.
3. Maquisarde Ambrée
Yet another ambrée to make the list – Maquisarde is an organic variety made by La Ferme Brasserie des Monts et Barrages. This young brewery, founded in 2009, has been selling artisanal beer made with home-grown products since 2010. Nicolas Brillou is at the head of this venture, which produces about 500 liters a week in several different styles: a light blonde in the pils style, a bitter amber beer and a light blanche, along with several seasonal beers like chestnut ambrée or apple blanche, the ingredients for which are all grown on-site.
The maquis referred to in the beer’s title is a reference both to the maquis shrubland that makes up this part of France and to the French Resistance movement that called themselves the Maquisards.
This amber’s light, yeasty, malty aroma and delicate, soft effervescence are extremely pleasing. There is a light head that dissipates almost immediately, but the flavor lasts, making this a really nice beer for an aperitif. I would also serve it with roast pork and potatoes.
2. Michard Blonde
I am continuously surprised by the pils-style blondes produced in France. This light, 4.5% ABV beer made, once again, by the Michard brewery, has a lovely, balanced flavor right off the bat. There is a certain richness that comes from this balance: a touch of malty sweetness, the distinctive, hay-like flavor that stems from the house variety of yeast and just a hint of hoppy bitterness.
This beer is the one that, for me, pairs the best with Michard’s food offerings of flammekeuche, but I would also pair it with a burger in classic pub fashion.
1. Lepère Defrance Blonde
Lepère Defrance, based in Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, produces a variety of artisanal beverages, from homemade sodas to four different beers in different styles. The blonde is dubbed “la délicieuse” or the delicious by the company, and I tend to agree.
This beer boasts fine, almost Champagne-like bubbles and an herbal, citrusy hop aroma. Its long-lasting hoppy flavor is composed of citrus on the front of the palate with a slightly bitter finish. The beer has a mild malty warmth as well which, for me, creates the perfect balance. This flavorful beer pairs perfectly with a burger, but if you’d rather stick with regional specialties, it’s also a nice match for the rich, garlicky flavor of Limousin grillons (a sort of pork pâté indigenous to the region).