Bringing better beer to the mountains: Q&A with the Bec Jaune Brewery
No day is ever the same at the Bec Jaune brewery in Morzine. Chrigl Luthy, who originally brewed beer in London at The Kernel Brewery in Bermondsey, likes to keep things interesting with an ever-evolving selection of in-house brewed beers. Following his mission to bring better beer to the mountains, Chrigl is a self-described flavour-junkie with a famously short attention span, which means things never stand still and there is always a new flavour to try at the bar.
We caught up with Chrigl to find out the story behind the beer.
What’s brewing now at the Bec Jaune?
We have four beers on tap right now: a Bohemian Pilsner (4.3%), a Dryhopped Saison (4.1%), a Rye IPA (6.2%) and a Coffee Stout (6.0%). So, a couple of ‘sessionable’ options and a couple of flavour bombs.
We notice that you like to mix things up, how do you decide what to brew next?
I suppose it comes from my early brewing experience at The Kernel. That brewery was, and still is, a very experimental brewery, always unearthing old beer styles from books or, conversely, coming up with completely new styles and ingredients. At any rate, the intent of any brewer to experiment simply comes from a love of all beer styles and the desire to try them all!!
At the Bec, some of the differences between our iterations are significant and some are only slight. An example of a small change, if you look at our IPA, would be hop varieties. My co-brewer, Nathan, and I find it much more exciting to try different hops and hop combinations week on week rather than simply settle on one recipe – so you could have juicy mangoes and passion fruit flavours one week, then bright piney and citrusy flavours the next.
What styles of beer do you brew at the Bec Jaune?
It is tricky to list specific styles, but generally we always have a couple of ‘sessionable’, low-ABV, easy-drinking options on tap, normally a lager or wheat beer and variations within. Alongside those we have more punchy varieties – we always have an IPA-style hop bomb on tap, as well as a dark beer, such as a porter or stout. The styles are somewhat seasonal too, such that in the summer we tend to drop all the ABVs a notch and we brew some very light, thirst-quenching sour beers, sometimes with fruit, or herbs. We are soon installing another two taps to give us more range at any given time.
Why did you start brewing beer in the mountains?
Because there wasn’t any! Seriously, the Alps, especially considering the English presence, was devoid of decent beer until, well… now. Just look at how many breweries have opened in the last few years. This is a fantastic era for beer drinkers, the Alps were just a little late to the party. Personally, I had been brewing beer and cider in University with friends, and a few years after that, around 2007, I realised that I was struggling to find decent beer where I wanted to live: the mountains. It took years to put the plan to action, and I got distracted working with the wonderful people at The Kernel for a few years, but we got there in the end!
The Bec Jaune has also gained a reputation for fresh and tasty home-made food thanks to Matt Stone, your partner and head chef, how did you guys come to join forces?
Matt and I share the only two things in common required to make the Bec Jaune work: a love for the mountains and a love for flavours. At the Bec, we enjoy making everything from the ground up, from brewing the beer to baking the burger buns to pickling the pickles – even the mayo is home-made. We try and ethically source ingredients too, the brewing malt is organic, and thankfully our dispense system is very low on packaging waste. We met when our wives, who knew each other from work, introduced us. We drank some beer, skied some powder (not in that order) and the partnership was sealed.
What other breweries are you enjoying at the moment?
There are fine breweries popping up everywhere, even on the run from here to Geneva you will pass several new ones. One that has been around for a long time and making fantastic beer is Mont Saleve – talk about a large range of beer! Michel, the brewer there makes some fantastic sours. They are about to expand production, which is great because it can be hard to find their beer in the shops. And, when I’m over in the UK, it’s The Kernel every time!
What is the one Bec Jaune beer that everyone should try?
Oh no, that’s like when people ask us, “What’s good then?” I would say, if you can rationalise why you do or don’t like something, then you are on your way to experimenting with beer styles. Too bitter? Not bitter enough? Too sweet? Too dry? Beyond the obvious reason for drinking it, beer, like food or wine, can be a fun way to engage with your senses and try something new… like the Stout! Hahaha. But I’m not here to preach, if you like lagers, then by all means, order our lager!
All this talk making you thirsty? Be sure to pop down to the Bec Jaune Brewery on your next trip to Morzine.