Located near the border with Belgium in the small village of St. Sylvestre Cappel, Brasserie de St Sylvestre can trace its lineage to pre-revolution France. It was acquired by Louis Devriere in the 1860’s and was run by the family until it was sold to a Nephew, Remy Ricour, in 1920. Since then Remy Ricour’s family has owned and run the brewery. When Remy was called up for military duty in 1939 along with several of the brewery’s employees, his 16 year old son took over the reins.
When WWII finally ended, the brewery thrived while others went under. This allowed Pierre to attend brewing school in 1947. When he took over in 1954, he began implementing his plan for the future growth of his brewery. He installed a new brewing facility and modern bottling line while abandoning traditional ales for bottom-fermented lagers. This allowed the brewery to thrive locally through the 60’s & 70’s.
By the early 80’s, things had to change if the brewery wanted to keep going. Pierre’s sons, Serge and Francois, had just finished brewing school, so a family discussion was held to determine the future of the business. They decided that they couldn’t compete as a global or even national lager producer. Thus, they decided to return to their roots as a producer of traditional ales.
In 1983, they produced a Biere de Mars which was a smashing success. The sons then took over the brewery in 1985 when Pierre retired. They launched the 3 Monts brand which is now available across France, Europe, North America, and Australia. The Ricour family has shepherded their brewery through some tough times and have come out the other side successfully!
Gavroche, the beer I’m reviewing here, was originally launched in 1997. It is named after a character in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.” This beer, like all their beers, is brewed with locally grown hops and with malt from nearby a malting house.
Appearance: Cloudy orange with amber highlights, light tan head, good retention.
Aroma: Caramel, earthy, grainy, spicy, nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate, woodsy, fruity, toffee, nutty.
Taste: Caramel, earthy, woodsy, leather.
Overall Impression: It’s always funny to go over your tasting notes and see what you wrote. In this case, I wrote “Big Character!” in my OI section of my tasting notebook. That pretty much describes this beer. The yeast is very present and characterful in this Biere de Garde. It’s balance out with good carbonation and a creamy mouthfeel. While this isn’t a wild beer using wild yeast, it’s certainly funky from its own character. If you’re looking for a Biere de Garde, you certainly couldn’t go wrong with this one. It’s fun. It’s funky. And it’s very reasonably priced.
Availability: At better beer shops that carry beers imported by EuroBrew.