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French beer has been something of a theme on this blog in recent months. It's in no way intentional, and today's first beer was an unexpected gift from a traveller in parts Breton. It's from the Philomenn brewery in the very Breton-sounding Tréguin, whose wares were previously reviewed here.

is a tripel: 9% ABV and dark for the style, amber rather than golden. It's heavy and sweet, piling in honey with a side order of clove. The sugary intensity builds to the point where it resembles burnt caramel. I would have expected a lot of fruity esters in a beer like this, but they've kept it fully clean. It's OK. I like a bit of spice in a tripel, and this is missing that. You get the warmth and the richness, sure, but it fails to achieve the casual drinkability of the Belgian versions.

The next one I picked up last October in a charming little épicerie in Nancy called Carrefour. The bottle is quiet about what it actually is, beyond "bière aromatisée" on the label. "Flavourings" is listed on the ingredients though we're not told what they are. Black by Licorne is the name, Licorne being a brewery in Saverne, not far from Strasbourg.

Immediate points off for the beer being dark brown rather than black. It smells beery: that mix of sticky dark malt with a strong boiled-vegetable bitterness. It's predominantly sweet, however, centred on caramel and cola, with only the faintest tang of leafy hops in the finish. There's a certain crispness too, suggesting it's cool fermented. If so, I would broadly class it with the Czech dark lagers, lacking as it does the stronger bittering of German dunkel or the ashen dryness of schwarzbier. Whatever the enigmatic "flavourings" are, they don't have much to say. Overall, it's quite plain fare, though inoffensive. Not a bad find for cheap in a supermarket.

Not France's best work by any means, but fairly solid stuff. The neighbours do these sorts of beers a bit better, however.