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Haut-Rhin: Raoul Zimmerman, the foutraque of brewing, wins a gold medal with a beer aged 1,000 years

Raoul Zimmermann has been a brewer for barely three years. Before that, he had many other lives. Which may explain why his beers are so rich. Based at Vieux-Ferrette, in the secrecy of his stills, he invents and concocts learned beers.

Beers that nestle on the surface of his brain constantly boiling. With popcorn, birch sap, absinthe, black tea … and the last one the Gose in salted water. A millennial recipe, revisited, which won him a gold medal during the last competition organized by the French Brewery Museum. Portrait of this “popoteur” of beers. Chatter too.

Raoul Zimmermann / © Aurore Flenner
Raoul Zimmermann / © Aurore Flenner

Beer Lab

Unquestionably Raoul has a grain. Barley. Caregiver in the disability community for 15 years, in 2017 he decided to change his life. To listen to his desires that have been screaming in his ears for quite some time now. “I had worked in the kitchen for a long time when I was young, I wanted to reconvert in the catering trade. What exactly, I did not know too much. It was a brewing friend who introduced me to this environment . I immediately liked it. “ A troubled but not dull environment where everything becomes possible provided you have a little imagination and a lot of flair. “Beer is a huge playground. You can mix almost anything, mix flavors, fruits, vegetables, spices …. I like this space of possibilities.”

Lemon and chili for a spicy recipe. / © Aurore Flenner
Lemon and chili for a spicy recipe. / © Aurore Flenner

At 46, here is Raoul who settles 3 minutes from his home. In Vieux-Ferrette. A microbrewery in a micro village, lost in the depths of Sundgau (Haut-Rhin). “People are relaxed in the countryside and I work in peace.” His brasserie will be called Radwulf. Raoul in old German. There is a wolf in Raoul. A little fox too. “I have already created 55 different beers. Thanks to my cooking concepts, I know the mixes that work, the tastes that match. We can do anything.” Because before being a brewer, our man is a patter. “Yes, I cook the beers, I cook them.”

From his crazy head come out the most extravagant recipes.My latest creation is a popcorn beer. With organic popcorn I specify. I came home with 200 pounds of corn, I’m not telling you the job. “ Backfiring.

A popcorn beer. / © Aurore Flenner
A popcorn beer. / © Aurore Flenner

There is also this “Beer of the official” with birch sap. The one with quetsches and black tea. With coconut and citrus. Ginger and lemon. With coffee, chocolate and spices. Passion fruit “with global warming, I will be able to grow it in the garden”. The whole cupboard in the glass.

More traditionally, there is also this peat beer, smoked with peat like a good old Scottish whiskey from the island of Islay. Sea spray without the sea: Raoul is capable of anything. The latter was also rewarded in 2017 with a bronze medal in the competition for best beers in France. “That-either you hate it or you can’t drink anything else. “

The official's beer .. with birch. / © Aurore Flenner
The official’s beer .. with birch. / © Aurore Flenner

Sometimes his overflowing imagination smashes against a quince. Shit happens. “Me, it’s simple, I never try. And hop I immediately make 300 liters. I control the dosages but sometimes it’s not enough. Quince beer for example we can say that it was but it’s okay, I move on. ”

Golden Fourquet

Where Raoul did not miss, it was during the last competition organized by the French Brewery Museum. Less buzzing than its counterpart “the best beers in France”, the latter is the oldest beer competition in France and above all the most popular. 906 samples in competition this year. “It’s simple, it’s the Grail. The jury is made up exclusively of professional brewers. We have real feedback and real recognition for our work. It’s not a business competition.” A first class competition.

Better than a medal, it is a gold fourquet that Raoul won. Fourquet, like the shovel with holes which is used for brewing. Contest of connoisseurs, I warned you. “It was really a big big surprise. It had been two months since the results were in my mailbox … but since there was a wasp nest that had settled there during the confinement I did not go there . It was while receiving congratulatory emails that I told myself that something was going on. I did not return. ”

I had never drank Gose in my life

– Raoul, brewer

It must be said that it was not won in advance. Raoul chooses to compete in the “the way of …” category which rewards revisits of old standards. “This year was the Gose. I had never drunk any of it in my life. We don’t find it in France. Almost not.” A nice name for a nice antique. La Gose is almost 1,000 years old. She was born on the banks of the Goslar in Germany near Leipzig at 11e century. “I did research on the Internet to know its aromatic characteristics. In fact, it is a salty beer because the Goslar, which was used to brew it, flowed in the middle of the salt mines … We then added coriander. It immediately caught my eye. ”

A daring mixture that had to be recomposed with Ferrette water. Bland. “I was inspired by what I had read. Malt, barley, wheat. And obviously salt … I did some tests on the salt level, a little groped I must say and I fell right. “ The result is a “sour beer”, an acid beer with citrus notes. Go find out by what alchemy …

Big projects

This Gose, for now, you will only find it at Vieux-Ferrette. With 2,000 liters of beer produced per month, Raoul, with no choice, only offers direct sales. In barrel, possibly in bottle but especially at the table. “We have 120 m² in an old industrial building, I’m more of a pub owner than a brewer” he has fun. Fortunately for our thirst for discovery, Raoul sees bigger. “For the moment, we are really a family business. I work with my wife who helps me brew and my daughter who learns the trade and who draws the labels for us. But it is clear that we will have to We can no longer keep up. Our turnover is increasing by 30% each year, so if we want to continue this momentum, we have to produce more. ” Clear as a Pils.

The Radwulf brewery in Vieux-Ferrette / © Laure Flenner
The Radwulf brewery in Vieux-Ferrette / © Laure Flenner

Raoul has therefore just invested to quadruple its production and bottling capacities. 120,000 euros which will allow him to soon offer his beers in specialized shops. Until then, Strasbourg residents can find his creations on the starred table of 1741. But, I admit it willingly, it’s expensive beer. Unless you want to lather …