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PARIS – Saint-Tropez, the naturally beautiful French Riviera village patronized by jet-setters and celebrities, now has its very own beer. Hailed as “une jolie blonde,” the beer is called Blonde of Saint-Tropez. While locals rumor the new brew to be named after indigenous starlet Brigitte Bardot, the beer’s co-owner Sarah Redding says, “It’s absolutely not a reference.”
“Blonde” is simply the French for a clear, light beer. This one, though, is fermented with natural yeast in the bottle and in petite or grand-size magnums, like champagne, in a Belgian castle-turned-brewery just over the French border. “It is therefore a Belgian beer inspired by Saint-Tropez,” says Redding, praising the beer’s lack of additives, its noble hops, and the notes of muscat grapes, apricot, lime zest and grapefruit.
“But I suppose it’s a natural connection!” She adds of people’s willingness to tie the bière to the legendary, honey-haired sexpot whom the French consider their Marilyn Monroe, and whose image is inextricably linked to Saint-Tropez.
Even the story behind the coastal town’s eternal “It” restaurant Le Club 55 starts with Bardot. In 1955, the actress’ breakthrough movie, God Created Woman (1956), was shooting on Pampelonne Beach, when her director and then-husband Roger Vadim mistook a beachside family home for a bistro. He said, “We are filming for two weeks, we are 80, can you feed us?” — the son of Club 55’s founders and now proprietor Patrice de Colmont recalls. His mother prepared roast beef, ratatouille and salads, and after the film was finished, the technicians left, but Vadim and Bardot kept coming back — and Le Club 55, named after the production year, was born. The restaurant is among some six dozen establishments in the peninsula that stocks Blonde, which is exclusive to the area for now, but will be available in the wider Cote d’Azur and, eventually, beyond.
Recently, Le Club 55 took the film’s iconic wooden boat, which Bardot’s character Juliette used to run away, and converted it into a bar for Bibi’s, its plage-facing snack hut attached to the back of the restaurant. Stripped down to its natural wood, the vessel’s only giveaway are the words “ET DIEU CRÉA LA FEM…,”chalked lightly on its bow.
An exhibit of unpublished and rare photographs of Bardot later in life opens in Saint-Tropez on July 26, in an exposition hall on the Place des Lices. “Brigitte After Bardot” runs through Sept. 28, her 80th birthday, and takes its cue from Bardot’s sudden and utter break from stardom in 1973.
The graying blonde still lives on la péninsule. The reclusive actress-turned-animal-rights-activist can occasionally be seen driving around in a faded turquoise 1960s Renault 4L, loaded with ragtag rescue dogs. In early July, Canadian marine activist and Sea Shepard Conservation Society founder Paul Watson secretly found refuge at Bardot’s seaside home. Watson has an extradition warrant against him by Costa Rican authorities for endangering shark hunters in 2002, and Bardot publicly called on French President Francois Hollande to help resolve “these ridiculous procedures.” Bardot also indicated she wanted to transfer her Legion of Honor, which she received in 1985 for her “years of cinematographic activity,” to Watson.
Meanwhile, we’re wondering if Bardot has given the Blonde beer a try — and we’re especially curious as to who the Redhead amber and Brunette stout of Saint-Tropez would be.
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