Gigors-et-Lozeron is a small town in the Auvergne – Rhône – Alpes region. At the same time, it is something like the epicenter of the French art of brewing. Innovation, experimentation and the will to act sustainably are reflected in a particularly high number of breweries. In recent years, the region has become a center of the art of brewing in France, with 368 production facilities, according to “Brasseur de France.” One of the first was Emmanuel Feraa. In 2015, he built Brasserie des Trois Becs in the middle of the fields at the foot of the Trois Becs mountain formation.
For Feraa, who studied agronomy, the reason for the high number of breweries in the Auvergne – Rhône – Alpes region is the structures that have evolved. There are very many and very good restaurants as well as ambitious chefs, excellent agricultural products and culinary specialties, and a population with above-average culinary skills. In addition, the Drôme Valley, where Gigors-et-Lozeron is located, was the first area in all of France to focus on organic agriculture.
France – top and bottom
The number of active breweries shoots up from 663 to 2,300 farms between 2014 and 2020, according to Brewers of Europe. France is now the frontrunner in the European comparison, followed by the United Kingdom with 1,870 and Germany with 1,528 breweries. At the same time, however, France has the lowest per capita consumption at just 33 liters. 70 percent of the beer consumed in France is produced in the country. But the appetite for beer is growing continuously, even among young people.
Organic farmer and brewer
Right at the start of the brewing boom in France in 2015, Emmanuel Feraa founded Brasserie des Trois Becs. His plan is complex, because from the beginning he relies on local raw materials in organic quality. Ecological construction is also at the forefront of the production facility’s construction. The sleek wooden structure is supported by a foundation of recycled glass. A circular economy is also pursued. Various breeding farms in the valleys feed the spent grains to their livestock. The spent grain is also used to bake crackers, which are available as a snack in the in-house pub. In addition, the cooling water is subsequently used to clean the brewhouse. New projects are already in the works. For example, the brewery also wants to become energy self-sufficient by installing solar panels.
Beer from the field into the glass
From the very beginning, Emmanuel Ferraa’s plan has been to produce a genuine farmhouse beer. It should be a beer from the region. Feraa sees his own role not only as a brewer, but also as an organic farmer. He chose the location based on the quality of the water. The Trois Becs brewery and event location are situated on the southern foothills of the Parc du Vercors. Here, the company benefits from the precious spring water and from being able to use land for its own cultivation of barley and hops in organic quality. The role as organic farmer and organic brewer in one, makes Trois Becs increasingly independent in the procurement of raw materials. A real advantage, in a time of shaky supply chains and rising commodity prices. The barley from the brewery’s own cultivation is transported around 60 kilometers to the Ardèche region for malting. There is no malting plant in the immediate vicinity, so this transport route has to be accepted. However, Emmanuel Feraa makes it clear that producing barley and hops in-house is not a cost advantage. It would be much cheaper to buy in the raw materials, because high investments and a lot of working time have gone into growing the grain. But with the ultra-local orientation of his farm, he also wants to be a pioneer for a new consumer behavior.
The terroir and the beer
Beer in France is also about terroir. Just as terroir is reflected in a good wine, Emmanuel Feraa sees the future of beer in its local roots. Just how consistent he is here can be seen in the subject of hops. On the French beer market, the raw materials for beers produced in the country often come from Germany, the USA, or New Zealand. But we want our entire beer range to be local, French and rooted here in the Drôme Valley, says Feraa. The brewery promotes itself with the message of being an ultra-local beer. Trois Bece is already made from raw materials 95% of which are produced on the brewery’s own farm.
Ferraa puts a lot of time and commitment into breeding and growing a native hop variety. He grows several varieties of hops on his own land. He and his staff started with Cascade, a variety from the U.S. with floral and citrus notes, and the German variety Hallertauer Hersbrucker, which has a spicy, floral aroma profile with herbal notes. For the goal of creating a distinctive beer that is rooted in the region, Emmanuel Feraa and his eight employees are also in the early stages of developing their own hop variety. For several years, they have been trying to create crosses between cultivated varieties and wild varieties that grow on the banks of the Gervanne and Drôme rivers. The idea behind this is to create healthy plants that are optimally adapted and resistant to the soil and climate conditions, while at the same time passing on the expression of the terroir to the beer. We hope to be completely self-sufficient in hops in about three years. At the moment, however, the extreme heat in the summer is giving us a hard time, Feraa says.
Diverse beer range
Brasserie Trois Becs produces nine beers and one lemonade. Of these, five beers make up the regular range and four others are available seasonally. Best sellers include Blonde Bio. It is a light beer with 4.5% alcohol and the thirst quencher among the Trois Becs beers. Ambré Bio glows amber-golden in the glass, with an alcohol content of 6.5% and a fruity-sweet note. Following closely in popularity is one of Trois Becs’ earliest creations, Ortie Bio. The label in green and promises what you then smell and taste in the glass. A slightly herbaceous and vegetal taste that ends in a dry, mineral texture with a thirst-quenching effect. It must be Ortie. Ortie, which sounds pretty in French, becomes harsh-sounding nettle in German. More than 50 percent of the hops in this brew are replaced with dried nettle leaves, providing the light herbal note. It’s a beer that fits well with Trois Becs’ farmhouse image and is part of the regular lineup, along with Rousse Bio, the 9% stout, and the mahogany-colored Porter Bio, which has roasted coffee aromas but only 6.5% alcohol. An IPA is not found in the Trois Becs range. An IPA, according to Emmanuel Feraa, would consume too many hops in production. But before he buys in hops, he prefers to do without IPA’s, because the goal of a beer that is 100 percent local is more important to him.
The aperitif. Tradition and trend
French people not only love to eat, they also love to talk about food. In France, people take time to eat. Products like to be bought fresh and from a local merchant. Sometimes they get into a real competition over which region is known for the best melons, peaches, chestnuts or onions. High culinary skills naturally involve the world of beverages, and that’s something that’s schooled from an early age in France. Let’s have an apéritif! On prend l’apérif!
The drink, the drink before dinner is an institution in France. For the apéritif, people are invited home or they go to the bar or brasserie. An aperitif in everyday life is not a full evening event. One or two glasses of this and that, plus a few peanuts or olives, that’s it. Then you say goodbye to your colleagues or send your guests home again. Because dinner is waiting. The apéritif has the task of opening the stomach and preparing it for the meal. So much for tradition. Now let’s move on to the trend. Instead of having a glass of wine or a martini, younger people now like to order a beer. In addition, craft beers from the region with appealing labels have become a popular hostess gift. In addition to the variety and flavors to be discovered, the price is also an argument for the younger generation to reach for the beer. A bière pression from the tap is cheaper than a cocktail. Two bottles of beer as a gift set are cheaper than a bottle of wine. But craft beer also offers enough substance for a cultivated tasting including shop talk. Another plus point for beer as a pleasure drink is appreciated in all age groups, because beer contains less alcohol than wine and is better tolerated, especially in the hot summer months.
Back to Gigors-et-Lozeron again. For all his regional identity, brewer Emmanuell Feraa looks beyond the Valée de la Drôme when selling his range of beers. Production volume increases annually and was 2,600 hectoliters in 2022. Eighty percent of the beer goes on sale in bottles. Priority is given to organic supermarkets, specialty beverage retailers and the company’s own online store. The beer from Brasserie des Trois Becs is also available in other regions, such as Brittany and Paris. But the sales focus is on the southeast of the country, with the Rhône, Alpes, Côte d’Azur and Occitania. Emmanuel Feraa formulates his long-term goal thus: We are working on the French beer of tomorrow, and we may even succeed in creating one of the first beers with a controlled or protected designation of origin.
Travel tips Valée de la Drôme
The beer of the Brasserie de Trois Becs brewery is served in many pubs in the Drôme Valley. The in-house pub is open in the evenings and also offers cultural programs. More information about the region on La Drôme Tourisme. Another specialty of the region is made at the Frigoulette Chocolate Manufactory. The Valée de la Drôme is also a good place to enjoy the lavender blossom. It takes place here at the beginning of July, a little later than in Aix en Provence and the surrounding area.
The cost of accommodation was covered by Drôme Tourisme.