When you think of the Nord Pas-de-Calais area you immediately think of beer and brewers. The area around the Louvre-Lens is awash with excellent brewers, including the Saint-Germain Brewery which is reputed for its beers, especially Page 24.

The guardian angel of bières de garde

He views himself as a cook, for "beer is a recipe really". Listen to him talking and you can drink in the words of a historian speaking about tradition, a chemist when it comes to the technical aspect, and a gastronomic critic commenting on the range of flavours. Or to put it another way, Vincent Bogaert knows pretty much everything there is to know about beer. He used to collect all things beer related, but no longer tracks down numbered bottles or other memorabilia from Brasmes, a former brewery in Aix-Noulette, the centre of brewing in the Artois region. Instead he opened his own brewery there in 2003, together with two partners, in order to bring the tradition back to life. And things have gone really very well since then.

Around the Louvre-Lens there are ten other craft breweries and the sector is booming. The little company is highly reputed and has won many prizes. It draws its strength from its perfect mastery of the tradition of fermenting the great beers of the Nord. 

For strong beers with more body and flavour.

A meticulous process

The process takes nearly 2 months, with an additional 24 days of maturing, "something which is becoming increasingly rare nowadays". The brewery is also committed to working with locally-sourced raw materials including local malts and hops almost exclusively from Flanders. "There are only seven producers left with thirty hectares of fields. We need to support them otherwise they will disappear". The end result is a beer with complex flavours that really awakens your taste buds. Vincent thinks it is misguided to say that you don't like beer, "it's more that you haven't found the right beer for you". So step into the Saint-Germain Brewery and he will know what to recommend.

A favourite

To create a unique beer it's not enough to be interested in beer, you also need to be interested in wine. Page 24 is aged for eight months in oak casks that have previously been used for ageing Burgundies. This bitter with its notes of wood and wine is a delight with game or cheese.

Practical information

Saint Germain Brewery

26, route d’Arras, 62160 Aix-Noulette - Telephone: +33 (0)3 21 72 24 24

Shop open Wednesdays to Fridays, from 3 PM to 7 PM, and Saturdays from 9 AM to midday. Guided visits on Saturdays at 10 AM, pre-booking required: €4/person.