Pouillé-sur-Cher, Touraine (Loire).
A new craft brewery has opened in the Loire, bringing to this part of France the American brew culture with a different touch. I reported a few months ago how Emily began to brew here in theLoire, these were just tries at the beginning, but this is getting serious now. This California transplant spent 10 years in Paris, writing about food (she was a Paris Paysanne or Paris farmgirl over there) and she published her Paris Market Cookbook or how to cook from what you find along the different seasons in your favorite street market and grocery shop in Paris, including tips on how to find the best off-the-beaten path natural wine bars, craft breweries, urban gardens in the region.
As you know, her love for natural wines led her to visit the Loire and take part to a harvest with Noëlla Morantin where she met Ben, a musician who is a longtime amateur of these wines, and this was to be another world opening up, moving to here far from Paris and with the nature so close. Once settled here she took part to the artisan wineries life, working for the picking or doing biodynamic spray like on the video on the left, she and Ben really immersed themselves in the vibrant artisan domaines' life around here. Now Emily & Ben have this cute little baby who joined them and Emily is also lauching her own brewery with associate/friend Yann. Their nascing facility is located in a low building (below, left) on the back of Yann's house (right). When this visit took place, Emily's parents were there, they're from San Jose, California if I remember and they've been visiting several times since Emily settled in the region.
Yann's story is very interesting too, he's another transplant, sort of, a Frenchman who spent years in Norway, married there and decided one day to come back and setlle in this quiet part of the Loire valley with his family. Pouillé is getting more and more international...
Yann lived 16 years in Norway, his wife Lára is Icelandic, he also loves the cold weather of Scandinavia but they both wanted to make a change in their life and the one of their 3 children, they wanted this change to occur early enough so that their children would grow up in this new environment. A few years ago in 2012 they made a visit in this part of the Loire visiting Laurent Saillard whom Yann knows for 20 years (they worked together in New York) and after staying 3 weeks here they were charmed (in spite of the non-stop rain in july 2012). In 2014 Yann came back for the harvest with French and California friends, that's when he met Emily, and back in Norway he and Lára felt that this was the place they'd like to live in and raise their children, so they sold everything (business and appartment) and kind of sailed back here, looking for a house, not even knowing what they'd do for a living.
Actually they didn't even know at the beginning if they'd stay here, from what I understand they saw it as a pause offering a possibility of durable perspectives but they had also the option to relocate in Iceland, and Idea that Yann considered but something his wife wasn't too warm about. They stayed in 3 or 4 different houses in Pouillé at the beginning, moving from rent to rent, including when they stayed at La Tesnière with Laurent and their children were beginning to be tired and wanted stability, so they chose to remain and bought the house last december, a nice stately house certainly built between 1870 & 1900, fixed it in the following months and moved in last may.
Then Yann decided to work with Emily for her craft-beer project, so the two are joining their efforts to launch the brewery. They set up the brewery in this outhouse at Yann's place for now, it's OK at this stage, they bought these small but good quality fermenters/vats (they're made in Italy) but in the medium term they'll find another location especially after the production volume takes off, and that might be a place where they can serve beer and food as well, possibly in Montrichard for example, a gem of a small town with everything you need, and I guess Yann will this way use again his restaurateur skills. Yann says that compared to Chinon, Montrichard is much more alive and vibrant, and I agree, it's less bourgeois I'd say, more relax and authentic, it may be because Chinon is too close to Tours or something like that, I don't know. and Yann says that Montrichard is where the Cher à Vélo (the bicycle path along the Cher river) begins. I tried to find a webpage with the bicycle routes but in spite of all the communication budgets these regional bodies are wasting they've not been able to publish a single informative page on the subject. Whatever, just follow the side roads along the Cher river by yourself and you'll certainly love Montrichard, Chenonceaux and the journey eastward to Bourges.
So right now for their debut they make 2 beers, the day before they bottled 200 bottles (they do only 75-cl volumes right now) and their goal is to make 2 brews per week, each brew making 180 liters per fermenter. Yann helps for the production but he says he's still learning, Emily is the one who designs the beers and makes the recipe. The important thing he says is keep concentrated at making the same beer batch after batch, get the regularity of the taste. Right now they're pretty happy with the types of beers they produce and had a good feeback.
Here they're busy with the hand-powered mill, grinding the malt before use. They had a problem with their own hand-powered mill, it wouldn't work properly, so they contacted Carole Honigmann who also makes craft beer in Blois (also in the Loire, not far from here) and she lent them this one. The milled malt gets easily soaked with water and releases its sugar (pic below : malt before- and after grinding). It is very important to mill the malt correctly for the sugar release and following fermentation. It is very helpful that there are other craft brewers in this part of the Loire to whom they can ask questions when needed. I guess it's like in the natural-wine movement, people help each other and don't see you as a rival or competitor. They samely got help and insightful exchanges with Stéphane and Ludo of La Pigeonnelle, a brewery which sells its artisanal beer all over, including in the U.S.
Yann says that in Norway he had a home-chef busines and he relied in part on a few recipes that had a good success when he cooked for others, so here it's very similar in that regard. The big difference with the wine, it's that the wine changes its expression depending of the vintage, here with the beer, once you get your ideal recipe it's good to keep producing the same product as much as possible, which doesn't mean you can't make slight improvements. Emily says that as they're beginning, they'l tend to adjust the recipe and the taste, and a difference seems to be no problem in a wine-producing region like here because people are used to such changes in wines.
Emily says they'll listen to the opinion of all the tasters in the area (and if you meet artisan vignerons you know they like craft beer and drink some regularly) and they know many in the area to see which variations people love best. Emily presented her beers recently at the Pet-nat fair last summer in Montrichard, THE wine-tasting event for natural sparkling, and this was a good opportunity to have focused wine amateurs taste the beer and listen to their feelings. She'll also produce a few American-style craft beers, because she likes them and will introduce the beer amateurs of the Loire to such beers produced locally. And of course Emily and Yann want to make beers that they like to drink themselves.
For example their cuvée Drunk in Love (pictured on right here above) is a saison-style beer, a bit more on the malt side, easy to drink, that's more of a French or Belgian style, Emily says, this is the type of beer people would drink in the past after work or after spending a day in the field. It's not a beer with lots of hop but they stil use classical hop.
The other beer (on the left) is an American Pale Ale, but not with too much bitterness, they use a single type of hop but pretty generously. Its name Case of Glou was inspired by this song by Joni Mitchell. That's funny because these days when in the countryside I play now and then a burnt CD found on a flea market, and it's a 1968 live recording of Joni Mitchell, love it ! including this lovely casual talk in between the songs like here on this link.
The beer they brought to Bulles au Centre (the Pet-Nat fair in Montrichard) this summer was quite bitter and people loved it this way. When I made this visit they weren't yet allowed to sell their beers (the French administrative hurdles take time) but they produce to get stock and how the beers to future potential professionnal buyers (and when you'll read this they'll have their registration completed and will be able to sell). They're for example in contact with Amicalement Vin, a wine shop based in Pocé sur Cisse near Amboise and selling wines from artisan vignerons as well as craft beer. One of the guys there worked at Bertrand Jousset, they know what they're selling, they tasted their beers at Bulles au Centre and will certainly take some for their shop (their own craft-beer selection is pretty wide, even compared to what you find in Paris). Anyway they try to sell locally to cavistes like here or to other wine bars and cool bistrots of the region.
Now I've been explained the process and saw it for this batch but would have a hard time reconstitute it for you, but that's not that important, the beer experts know it already and will understand which is which (and you can read this brewery terminology index, it helps a lot). In broad terms, Emily explained that here there were making a batch of Drunk in Love, they heated a stainless-steel vat of water (the boil kettle or tun) to 74 ° C. I forgot to say that the local water is good, important detail), then they mix with the malts which are Munich and Pilsen 2RP (If my notes are good), using 20 kg Pilsen and 10 kg Munich and pouring them progressively with the hot water in the 2nd fermenter (that's what Yann is doing on right), the mash tun, where the malt will infuse quietly.
The sugar will be then naturally extracted from the malts at a temperature between 64 and 68 °C, which creates the enzymes that will be eaten by the yeast. They rack this liquid (named Wort) in a 3rd container (pictured here) where it'll be brought to boiling temperature for 60 minutes after which they add the hops. Then after the boiling time is completed they cool down the liquid with a plate chiller (the metal block on the table near the two bottles, 2nd pic above). When the yeast are added it takes about 5 days for the fermentation.And they do this twice in a row to get their targetted volume. It's still a brewery in the infancy with small fermenters but for now they focus on the beer they want to make, there'll be later bigger vats with appropriate tools in a roomier location.
After that stage they make a racking, after a clarification process because the dead yeast, hops and malt accumulate like some kind of lees or sludge at the bottom of the fermenter, which you have to get rid of. They then add a sugar syrup which will create the carbonation in the bottle, like a 2nd fermentation, that's what will give the beer head, the frothy foam on the top of the glass. About the lees and sludge they which is left in the bottom, they give it to Corinne of Les Maisons Brûlées, she uses them as compost for their vegetable garden near their wine farm (located just outside Pouillé on the plateau). Emily says that it's a problem for the craft-beer breweries in Paris for example, they can't find an easy (and healthy) way to get rid of these lees, so they just dump them. At La Pigeonnelle they give these lees to a farmer who feeds his farm animals with them, nice recycling, everyone is happy I guess, including the vegetables or the cows/sheep (may get a little drunk also)...
Emily should be pouring her beers at Les Vins du Coin in Blois (less than one hour by train from Paris) next december 2nd (saturday), and there'll be a nice list of natural winemakers as well...
Source : http://www.wineterroirs.com/2017/11/emily_dilling_female_boss_brewery.html