Stephen Loughnan is the owner and brewer at Quillan’s new brewery. We met for a chat to discuss life, the universe – and beer
Judging by your accent, you’ve fallen pretty far from the tree. Where have you come from?
I’m actually from Newcastle, near Sydney. It’s a coal mining town with beautiful beaches
What was your working background before you came to France?
I was a lawyer for twenty years
What drew you to Quillan?
My wife and I wanted a holiday home and were daydreaming of life in France. After a couple of years of thinking about it she told me to come over and take a look around. I searched from Bordeaux right the way down. I found an 18th Century river house in Quillan, which was possibly originally a hunting and fishing lodge. I thought I was buying a holiday home, but when my wife saw it she told me we were moving!
So, what do you like most about Quillan?
The people are friendly and polite. It’s a very green environment with good facilities like schools and hospitals, and a good position for getting to beaches. Plus, there are nice cities nearby, and then there are the mountains for skiing and walking. It’s a good family place
How’s your French?
It’s much better than it was. It’s been hard and it still needs a lot of work but I can now have sensible conversations with people
Have your family adapted well?
Yeah. We have four kids, all at school in town
Your house must have needed a lot of work?
When we bought it, it looked a bit like it had been bombed. I bought it from an English guy, but before that it was owned by a butcher and before that it was a tabac. We moved here in December 2014 and it took about 18 months of work, but it’s now a beautiful house and it’s in a great spot. It’s definitely ‘home’ now
Why start a brasserie/ brewery
I was studying for my MBA, but I realised that I don’t want to work for a big company anymore. I wanted to work for myself. I was pretty sure I could make good beer, so I took some brewing courses and I opened the business in May this year.
Was it easy to start up a small business in France?
There are bureaucratic hoops, but I had a lot of support from the community and there are organisations in France that help start ups
Why ‘Cochon Volant’ (‘Flying Pig’)?
Well, I’m not a beer snob and I wanted to make beers to enjoy, at a good price. I just thought the name sounded interesting and fun
Can you describe the beers (we enjoyed the Saison and the Pale Ale as we spoke – both very nice)
The Saison is a golden summer beer, with a hint of orange and star anise. The Pale Ale is slightly darker and much like an American Pale Ale. I’d say it’s moderately bitter and the aroma of the hops really comes through. I’ll have an IPA ready soon and that’s even darker in colour, more bitter and more aromatic. I’m not going to get too technical here but the flavour comes from various hops and other aromatics. They’re brewed and produced in small batches of 1200 bottles usually. There will also be a porter and another blond in the future.
Where can people buy your beers?
In Quillan, they’re on sale in Cafe du Fleuve, Le Palace, La Chaumiere, the local Carrefour and the tabac, and sometimes even direct from me in the Grande Rue, as well as being featured at some festivals this summer
A friend asked me if it’s possible to make a beer for coeliacs
I know they are made by some of the larger breweries in the UK, but it might be hard for a small brewery. I would consider looking into it if the demand was there
I’m expanding through to Carcassonne, Toulouse and Narbonne. I hope to be able to employ at least 2 people in Quillan in the near future. I’m concentrating on the five beers right now, but there could be more…
Stephen’s beers, brewed in Quillan and made from pure water from the mountains, can also be bought via his website: www.lecochonvolant.fr