There is a new brewery in Les Arcs and to say that its grand opening has been hotly anticipated would be a serious understatement. People in the area have been talking about the advent of a new, local, artisanal beer producer since the Head Brewer, Pat, began drawing up his plans. Now, the brewery is fully functioning, kegs are filling, beer is being bottled and the first pints are beginning to pour in the bars of the Tarentaise valley.
Les Arcs is an area which invites you to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you spend the winters sliding down snowy pistes on a plank (or two) or fill your summers with cycling, walking, canoeing and mountain biking, the French Alps draw you outside and keep you active. It is my humble opinion that, after a full day’s exertion, there is nothing quite like a cool refreshing beer. Perhaps that’s why the establishment of a new local brewery has generated such excitement from the local populace. I found out when the first kegs were due to roll out of the brewery and popped ‘round to find out a bit more.
A brewery for the people
The original idea for the brasserie was to create beers that reflected the unique character of the region whilst also giving the community something special that they could enjoy and, ultimately, be proud of. Since the founding of CAMRA in Britain there has been an increasing focus on the provenance of beer, with pubs being much more likely to have locally brewed real ales on tap for the discerning drinker. As a chef of over 30 years, Pat had always dreamed of transposing his skills in developing flavours, generating recipes and creating truly delicious food to the world of brewing. When you check out the brew room and taste some of the beers, you realise it was a very good idea indeed.
The Brasserie du Petit St Bernard (PSB) is named after the famous high altitude pass which crosses the border between the Tarentaise valley and neighbouring Italy. This is surprisingly apt, as the brewery represents one of the great things about the French Alps: the international community. Describing it as a “Franco-Kiwi collaboration,” Pat inadvertently explains PSB’s appeal – it seems that everyone (regardless of nationality, if they live in the area or just come to visit) is excited about the brewery and its plans for the future.
One of the main ways that the brewery intends to engage with its customers is the ‘tap room.’ This is a hand-built contemporary bar, with double-doors that lead into the heart of the brewery. Not only will there be regular ‘open evenings/tasting sessions’ but you will also be able to take a guided tour of the brewery to see how each beer is made. If looking (and drinking) is not enough, there are plans for a “brew-your-own” experience, where you learn beer-production basics before making (20 litres of) your own bespoke beverage. The entire brewery will also be available for private functions (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and Pat even intends to host exclusive evening-meal soirées where the beers will be paired with delicious home-cooked food.
Blood, sweat and beers
You only have to spend five minutes with Pat to realise that PSB is a real labour of love. The man is not just enthusiastic about his beer, he is practically obsessed. I was fortunate enough to have “the full tour” and it is clear that no expense has been spared, or shortcut taken, in the mission to produce something truly exceptional. The dedication shows, with the scale of both brewery and hand-built tap room physical testimony to many late nights of hard graft. The true indication of Pat’s devotion to his art, however, is the beer.
The intention is that the Petit St Bernard Brewery will have a standard ‘menu’ of six different beers. There are currently two already on the market: Bouquetin which is a hoppy, quite floral IPA and Free Rider, a dangerously potable pilsner. I also tried the Retro Rocket, an absolutely stunning, richer, amber ale which is in the final stages of development. Over the next few months, these will be joined by a pale ale, a New England IPA (NIPA) and another beer, the details of which were being kept a strict secret. I must admit, I have visited a good number of real ale festivals in my time and I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the beer on offer.
How do we get hold of It
...is exactly the question everyone seems to be asking at the moment. As I mentioned earlier, there has been a real sense of expectation around the opening of the brewery and, when Pat started sharing a few sample bottles of his new beers, the interest just intensified. The brewery has already begun supplying a couple of local bars and, when it officially opens in the spring, the good stuff will start flowing from taps all over Les Arcs. Bottles (330ml) will soon be available in local shops, from the brewery itself, and for delivery-to-your-door with meals by Huski. One of the best things about PSB is the location in Bourg St Maurice – it is just off the main road to the Les Arcs villages (as well as towards Tignes, Val D’Isère, La Rosière and St Foy) making it a convenient stopping point on the way into, or out from, resort. Les Arcs finally has a local, independent brewery making proper beer – good times are just around the corner.