By PAT HARTMAN
Today’s visiting expert is Caroline Morton, who is in charge of the UK branch of the Food and Drink Department of France. In a piece called “French Trade Commission to showcase Beer and Cider from across the Channel,” Morton tells us that on July 2, 2009, her department will host a beer and cider tasting event in London. Convivial gatherings of this type often foster international understanding and accord, as well as the opportunity to set out some proud facts, such as the ones Morton cites here:
In 2007, France produced 15.1 million hectolitres of beer, of which 1.8 million were exported. Beer is produced in many regions of France, from Corsica to the Alps. French cider, on the other hand, is mainly produced in the west and north-west of France. In 2007, France exported 266,726 hectolitres of cider, of which 67,733 were sold in the United Kingdom.
How’s that for cooperation between two nations so long and so frequently at war over the centuries?
One of the trade show exhibitors, Brasserie du Mont Blanc, makes beer from Mont Blanc glacier meltwater. Another beer exhibitor is Brasserie Pietra, which creates a specialty beer tinctured with fragrant herbs from the wild vegetation called maquis that covers the Corsican highlands. Another of this brewer’s specialties is one understandably called Pietra, which is made with chestnuts along with malts and hops, but no chemicals. The chestnuts come from Corsica’s Castagniccia Forest, a beautiful place in an island full of beautiful places.
In the Columbia Basin Herald (Washington State, USA), staff writer Matthew Weaver tells us about an entrepreneur who makes dried and roasted chestnut chips available to home brewers through the mail. It’s not only that chestnut beer is considered delicious by its many fans. There’s a great social benefit in action here. In the United States today, one out of every 133 people is gluten-intolerant, and that is a real miserable condition to have. Chestnut beer can be enjoyed by the gluten-intolerant, and for that discovery, we have Corsica to thank.
By strange coincidence, Corsica is a place for which Kevin nourishes a very great fondness, as demonstrated by that region’s near-ubiquity in the pages of The Third Tower Up from the Road. He tells us of a town near his home in France, where a shop called l’Epicerie de Longeuil is “the store Ali Baba would have founded if he had been a grocer.” It’s an old family business and, although the French as a rule abhor root beer, this store carries it. He also reveals in the book that he doesn’t particularly like Corsican chestnut beer.
France makes a lot of good cider, too.