It's still just about apparent that the area around Perrache station was once a beautiful part of Lyon. The railway arrived in 1857 and brought with it the elegant streetscape one sees all over Europe, dotted with grand hotels and apartment buildings. The twentieth century, however, was not kind to the neighbourhood, witnessing the imposition of an autoroute, extra urban trainlines and a tangle of concrete overpasses and throughways which destroy any impression that the district was ever planned with humans in mind.
Cowering in the shadow of the new,
modern Perrache station sits Brasserie Georges. It had stood here a good
twenty years before the first locomotives, effortlessly transitioning in
1924 from edge-of-town drinks factory to grand art deco railway
buffet. Times have been hard since, but in 2005 it was lovingly
restored to its previous splendour, with the addition of a shiny new
microbrewery tucked discreetly into one corner.
It's an impressive sight when one
enters from the dingy street outside: liveried waiters glide across
the floor, serving an orderly array of tables from a menu that blends
in seamlessly with what this city -- the gourmet capital of Earth's
most gastronomic country -- has to offer the hungry diner. Off to one
side an aproned gentleman tends the dark wood bar, beyond which the
brewkit gleams in copper and steel. Blackboards on the ten
fermentation vessels tell us something about the demand being met by
the beer supply: six vessels of pils, two of golden ale and one each
of witbier and red. So popular, it seems, is the pils that we had to
choose something else when we sat down and ordered our round.
Bière Georges Dorée is brewed with
honey, though shows little sign of it on tasting: just a delicate
floral perfume and a slight waxy bitterness. Other than that it's
quite plain drinking, perhaps a little on the heavy and sticky side
but not so much that it gets difficult or anything.
The Blanche is a pale hazy shade of
almost-green. As is so often the case in French brewing they haven't
gone out of the way to produce anything strange or iconoclastic, but
as an everyday witbier it's spot on. There's just the right balance
of dry wheatiness, laced with gentle spice from the coriander. What
marks it out for me is just a few extra notches on the sweetness
dial, more candied orange than plain bitter orange peel. It came to
me cool rather than cold with a light fizz, making for a wonderfully
refreshing drink: everything you could ask for in a wit.
Lastly there was Bière Georges Rousse.
This is another almost opaque beer, dark amber in the middle, more
watery looking at the edges. A lovely aroma of orange blossom greets
the nose and the taste begins with dry roast, turning to mild milk
chocolate. It finishes with a wonderful Jaffa flourish, doubtless the
result of some surprisingly generous hopping. It's definitely a
significant cut above the normal boring old French ambrée and
wouldn't be out of place among some of the best German altbier.
If you're in Lyon, Brasserie Georges is
unmissable. Even leaving the history aside, the refurbished dining
room and bar are spectacular. Prices are fairly reasonable too, with
40cl of beer costing under €5 in a town where even modestly-priced
cafés will take €7 off you for a glass of Stella. Brave the
concrete jungle out the back of Perrache and spend some time in a
more civilised age.