Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brand X Gets an A

It makes sense for things like aspirin, toilet paper, and shampoo.

But buying generic, store-brand beer?

Don't laugh – here in the Luberon Valley in Provence, France, that's not such a bad idea. At least not in the opinion of this thirsty traveler.

Super U is the big local grocery store serving small area towns like Cadenet, Lourmarin, Puyvert. As with U.S. markets, the U sells its own in-house line of products ranging from pistachios to nail polish remover. Yet unlike any American grocery store I've been to with the (best I can recall) lone exception of Whole Foods, Super U also carries a house-brand beer. And unlike Whole Foods' Lamar St. line of brews, the Super U stuff actually has the store's logo on it.

Light, crisp, and refreshing, Blonde Beer (that's its name, you see) is a perfectly quaffable light lager in the continental tradition (that is, no adjuncts – unlike just about any American lawnmower swill – if I'm not misinferring from the label). Hovering in the middle of 4 percent ABV, and with a pleasing flavor to boot, this beer is almost too easy to drink. I say "almost" because drinkability is nothing to complain about.

Oh, and at around five euro for a 24 pack of 25-cl bottles, it's a bargain. For those scoring at home, that's the equivalent of almost 17 12-ounce servings for somewhere in the $7-8 range. And consider that flavor is usually the very first to be sacrificed when dealing with such price points stateside.

Beer: truly the ultimate affordable-luxury item.

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