Text: Jérôme Lefort - Photos: Tiffanie Sibille
The two new owners of Gallia were both driven by a passion for entrepreneurship. Guillaume Roy and Jacques Ferté met in the lecture halls of EM Normandie business school, on a course aimed first and foremost at big groups. They regret it. By the early 2000s, the former, who had become a business developer, had reinvented himself as a coffee executive for a time; while the latter, a farmer’s son and marketing studies manager, was writing a business plan for a micro-brewery on the family farm. Meanwhile, craft beers reigned in bars in the US and the UK. The opportunity was too good to pass up; Lady Luck was on their side when Guillaume Roy and Jacques Ferté came across Gallia, a legendary Parisian brewery that dated back to the late 19th century but had since been left to rack and ruin. In 2009, they bought it for only €250. Gallia was reborn the same year.
“In the early days, we were making small deliveries to bars from the backs of our old Renault Clios. It wasn’t taking off, we were too far ahead of the market.”
Pantin, on the outskirts of Paris. Gallia has been headquartered here since 2010, a town whose industrial past, miles of warehouses, bedroom communities and central canal have the feel of Williamsburg. And just like in the US, here, anything seems possible. Time has made Pantin into a concept town, full of diversity and community spirit, and teeming with creativity. All of which is spot-on for a micro-brewery, especially one that has always been uppermost in the hearts of the people of Pantin.
“Life’s more fun in Pantin. I quickly fell in love.”
Malt, water, hops, yeast. Almost nothing else. Because for Gallia brewer Rémy Maurin, developing a craft beer is all about fine tuning. Firstly, it’s about choosing fine grain. In this case, that means malt grown through sustainable agriculture by century-old family producers, who are especially demanding in terms of product selection and malting at precise degrees. Next, the malt is roughly crushed to free its aromas and mixed with filtered mains water. After that, the must is extracted and boiled, warm hops are added for bitterness and the mixture is centrifuged. Finally, it’s fermented with doses of yeast while retaining the natural gas produced, before cooling and centrifuging again, then being casked or bottled. It might sound simple, but it’s a hugely creative process, especially when it comes to brewing the mixture of malts, adding the hops as late as possible to mitigate bitterness, adding blueberries, apricots or grapes if need be, and a lot more.
“Just like in the kitchen, ‘simple, good’ brewing is hard to pull off.”
rémy maurin, master brewer
Music. The soundtrack to the world of Gallia is rooted in the previous life of Rémy Maurin, techno and psychedelic trance DJ between the ages of 18 to 25, who now mixes beer in the brewery’s tanks to the sounds of an ambient playlist.
“Beer is just like 1970s music right now; overflowing with creativity.”
Drinkability is a term which usually lends itself to wine, but Rémy Maurin has made it his own. Since he joined the brand in 2016, the brewer has dissolved the limits between the two, which in the glass, means craft beers that aren’t too gassy, with acid rather than bitter notes, on the dry side without the heaviness of residual sugars. In the prep room, are whiskey kegs and stone flasks, making for unusual starting points for exploratory the brewing and assemblage of the Sauvages (wild) line, as well as Permanentes (permanent) and Éphémères (temporary), like La Blanc Framboise, brewed with red berries and aged for more than a year in oak casks that previously held wine, or, for example, La Prune-Lard, born of the long-forgotten Gaillac cépage, steeped for 28 days with the beer must, then aged for six months on the lees in stainless steel tanks.
“I chose to feed myself with what goes into the very identity of France; in particular, wine.”
“Beer is a social product and should stay that way.”
A symbol of Paris and its elegance; one of the choices be-poles made for Gallia. The nostalgia that the brand identity stirred no longer matched its craft beers, ales rooted in their time and French heritage. Continuing to use the French cockerel motif of yesteryear, or Brooklyn-style green was now unthinkable. The choice of a straight, sans serif typography in midnight blue, perfectly readable flat design and a more rounded cockerel with a sense of movement, visually embedded Gallia as part of the eternal Paris.
“We wanted to express our Parisian side: edgy, classic and fair all at once.”
A place for a party. In 2017, Gallia opened a taproom next door to the brewery; and from malt to bar, you won’t find a shorter supply chain. So that as many people as possible could fully experience the house’s craft beer, they were all sold at a flat price. Success was instant; 300 people turned up on the opening day to kick back and sample the beers. Kids in swim gear rubbed shoulders with African mamas in the kitchen, foodies in their element and musicians in concert.
“A bar steeped in Pantin itself.”
Afterwards, more projects saw the light of day. The following year, Gallia opened a new brewery in Sucy-en-Brie, with the capacity to produce four times more craft beer for the Permanentes line. It provided even more freedom for the explorations at the atelier in Pantin which in turn created a virtuous circle fed by other benefits, like the use of local malt and a move towards organic beer.
“Moving forwards, we need to communicate our strengths better. I would like Gallia to become to first B Corp French brewery, out of all the 1,400 currently in the country.”