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Over the last few years they have risen dramatically and now have a young and exciting array of talent. Yes, I am talking about French beer and not their football team. In the first of our series of blogs about Euro 2016 I will be focusing on the host nation France. I will be looking into their history of beer and how craft beer has exploded onto the scene over recent years. It’s a kind of French Revolution.
France is predominantly known for its love of wine but they have always had a great fondness for beer. At the end of the 19th century there were 2800 small breweries in France. By the 1970s there were only 23 remaining. There are now over 500 breweries in France.
The biggest brewery in France is Kronenbourg, but we don’t need to talk about them. Number two however is Brasserie Du Mont Blanc which is based in the Savoy Region in the Western Alps. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps for all of you fact fans. The breweries origins date back to 1821 but the brewery has been operating in its current form since 1999. They produce ‘authentic beers, beers with character, high-quality beers, specialty beers brewed using the water from the glaciers of Mont Blanc’. Their most popular beer La Blonde is a Belgian Style Pale Ale which sounds similar to a La Chouffe or Duvel. However, more interesting is their Amber Ale La Rousse which is 7.2%, creamy with hints of dried fruit which I would love to try. Similarly, La Blanche their wheat beer has an orange fruity taste. Their website recommends pouring half of the bottle into a glass then shaking the bottle and then pouring the remaining half in. They also do a novelty beer called La Verte which is a green beer. This doesn’t sound as good as the others.
On the few occasions I have visited France I haven’t experienced much in the way of beer. I have tried Pelforth Blonde which was a strangely malty but refreshing cold lager on a hot day. Similarly La Goudale is a sweet and pale with a malty bread like flavour. It was ok, but nothing spectacular. I couldn’t quite define what sort of beer it was. Without knowing it at the time I had tried a Bière De Garde which is France’s most popular beer style. Translated as ‘keeping beer’ it was traditionally brewed so farmers could brew it in the winter and store in their cellars. Bière de Garde is top fermented and is comparable to a Belgian style saison beer. It can range in colour but is usually pale or amber colour. As the description is vague it means brewers can be creative and can experiment to make their own style of Bière de Garde.
One of the most recognisable Bière de Garde’s is CH’TI Blonde from Brasserie Castelain based in Benifontaine in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region. There is also Jenlain Ambree from Brasserie Duyck which dates back to 1922. Finally the one I really want to try is 3 Monts by St Sylvestre. Reviews say it is clear yellow with a white head with a sweet caramel and malty flavour and it 8.5%.
Over the last few years France has also embraced the craft beer scene. In May there was the fourth annual Paris Beer Week. The only festival dedicated to French Craft Beer holds 150 events over 10 days. This culminates in the Grand Finale where over 45 French and international brewers get together in one room with 90 beers on tap, conferences, food and a DJ. Maybe I will plan a trip for 2017.
One of these breweries is Brasserie La Goutte d’Or situated in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. They begun brewing 2012 and their beers are named after surrounding streets. La Goutte d’Or are also known for experimenting with flavours such as La Chappelle their wheat beer flavoured with chai tea or Chateau Rouge their spicy red ale and these are only part of their classics range. The Dram (in their extreme beer category) is a 9.7% Imperial Stout with ginger notes. I’d love to try some of these.
Another brewery I like the sound of is Paname Brewing Company which only opened in June 2015. It is a Brewpub situated on a floating terrace on the l’Ourcq Canal. They have 5 beers on tap including their own black IPA. Their styles are borrowed from the US, UK and ermany but still sound very good indeed. I mean who wouldn’t want to be sitting out enjoying this view.
There are plenty of other beer bars around Paris and in other cities like Lyon. For more information on these I would recommend reading the following blogs. http://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/paris/articles/a-tour-of-the-bubbling-parisian-craft-beer-scene/ & https://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/travel-tips-and-articles/biere-de-garde-a-travellers-guide-to-beer-in-france
Finally there is a great app for getting your hands on craft beer in Paris. Hop Buddy is like Just Eat for craft beer. You can browse their online shop, choose beers and they will be delivered to your door within an hour or two. This is amazing.
When writing this article I wasn’t expecting to find so many craft beer breweries, bars or even a dedicated week to beer in Paris. I can’t wait to see it for myself. *Checks Eurostar prices