I had the pleasure and honor of finally meeting Gérard Rubaud today thanks to my friend Marcus, something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time now. Gérard is a 78 year old French baker who owns and operates Gérard’s Breads of Tradition in Westford, Vermont, and is the definition of an artisan baker. He apprenticed as a baker when he was 13, and was also passionate for skiing and mountaineering which is what led him to Vermont 30+ years ago. At age 47 he decided to go back to his original love and start a bakery in Vermont. He makes an amazing sourdough bread that is available around the area, but usually sells out as soon as its delivered. Earlier this year we used some of his bread in a batch of beer, which was soured with his bread then aged in french oak barrels. Even with the ABV at just over 3%, it has an amazing amount of flavor and aromatics that come through.
When I arrived, he was finishing up his day by taking the last dozen or so loaves out of the oven. The smell of levain and wood fire filled the space, which was a beautiful collection of hand made wood tables, chairs, bread crates, various other items used for bread making, and a sweet litte black lab named Jo Jo.
Gérard showed me the oven and I was able to watch how he sorted through all the loaves to pull only the ones that were just right. The smell was incredible, and I’m sure in another life I would have loved to have been the baker.
We opened a small bottle I brought, a straight pull from the barrel that holds the beer I made with his bread. Gérard doesnt drink alcohol, but he was more than happy to try a half glass sample. We both sat and enjoyed the beer and talked about all the ingredients and processes used in making it, even a financial comparison of his daily bread making and selling, to me brewing this batch that has taken up space in a few barrels for 6 months, and the costs associated with that.
There are a lot of similarities to what we each make, the one in particular that holds most of the secrets is the yeast used and how its taken care of. “It’s alive!” He exclaimed when we discussed how the yeast is propogated and stored.
He seemed to really enjoy the beer, and described the pleasant aftertaste that stayed on his pallet as sweet but not sugary sweet, that has a sour balance to it. And even commented that he really enjoyed it “without the bubbles.” He was very attentive to all of the flavor components that I also reflect on.
I plan to make a new batch of Gérard’s beer soon, and I’m building the grist based on his grist… barley, wheat, and spelt. I plan to use the bread again, and I plan to propagate wort in the bakery as the base yeast for fermentation. In the meantime, I think its time to bottle this first batch up and send it out. We’ll keep you updated.
One goal of mine is to create something that gives people an awareness and appreciation for the thought put into creating the beer. My heart and passion are in this kind of beer making, and this was an amazing affirmation that I am on the right path.