It's been almost a year since I've been to Paris, so I thought I better do something with my beer notes before they made no sense any more....
When you think of France, beer isn't the first thing that springs to mind, but maybe it will be, and sooner than you think. Take a walk around Paris and see what everyone is drinking. Chances are you'll see as many people having a beer as having a glass of wine.
With Paris being an easy weekend trip from Denmark, I decided to see just what there was on offer.
Starting my trip in virtual reality, I found there were two brewpubs in Paris -- one of which was a chain with several locations throughout Paris and elsewhere in France -- several specialty beer stores, as well as a farm brewery that would hopefully be accessible by public transport.
After investigation, my goal for the weekend was to visit Brasserie O'Neil and The Frog & Princess brewpubs, the Cave à Bulles specialty beer store, these were located close to our hotel, and then make a trek out to Ferme-Brasserie de Gaillon (Farm Brewery de Gaillon). Unfortunately the trip out to the farm brewery was difficult to plan with the information I could find on the internet, so it didn't work out. Our failed attempt did work well as a reconnaissance mission for a future trip, but that's another story.
Cave à Bulles is a beer store specializing in French and Belgian craft beers. The staff member we talked to spoke great English and was very helpful with recommending French beers we should try based on our preferred tastes. After Kim told him that our favorite beers were stouts and IPAs, he proceeded to show us which French breweries made beers of those styles. We even got some beer glasses for our growing collection. The biggest problem was steering him to show us the world of French beers aside from our preferences. In the end we managed to express this and came away with a selection of beers to get us through the weekend as well as a few to stash in our luggage to drink once we returned home.
We also talked up visiting Ferme-Brasserie de Gaillon, whilst selecting a couple of their beers. What we found out is that had we made the trip all the way out to the brewery, we probably would have been disappointed, as we could have seen or done nothing, just purchased the same beers we were buying in the shop. On the plus side, we learned that it's good to visit when they have open house once a year in October. At the open house, they have tours and other brewing events for two days. A future trip?
Brasserie O'Neil is a restaurant and brewpub, so we decided to have dinner there as well. This turned out to be a wise decision as the bar area was small and packed, and you could only get a table if you were eating as well. We waited about 5 minutes before being seated in a small balcony section. The menu was only in French, but the waiter was very good at English and did a good job translating the menu when we needed it. Flammekueches are the specialty of the restaurant; there is not much else on the menu. The waiter described them as basically a white pizza with bacon and onions, and then various toppings. Sounded like good beer food, and it turned out it was.
O'Niel's beers didn't have very inspiring names, but at least they were easy to figure out: La Blonde (blond), L’Ambrée (amber), La Brune (brown), La Blanche (white), and you can buy them by the glass (25 cl), mug (40 cl), or even a pitcher (1.8 l). Between us we tried L’Ambrée, La Brune, and La Blanche. They were all good beers, La Brune being my favorite, followed closely by La Blanche, which also made an excellent palate cleanser. There was no information about how strong the beers are, that you'll have to gauge on your own after a few pitchers.
The Frog & Princess, our last planned destination, was totally packed and we barely made it to the bar. The sign on the wall showed 4 beers on tap, here they used some creativity in the names: Frog Natural Blonde (4.2%), Maison Blanche (4.2%), Inseine (4.4%), and Dark de Triomphe (5.0%). Kim chose Inseine, for the hops, and I chose Dark de Triomphe, a milk stout. As we moved away from the overcrowded bar and found a spot to stand by the wall that wasn't totally blocking traffic, we sipped our beers, and had a conversation that strained our ears and throats. As we drank, the crowed thinned out a bit, or maybe it was just that a lot of people went outside for a smoke. The Dark de Triomphe was mild and pleasant at first, but the aftertaste was odd. A milk stout is sweetened with lactose, and this one, while not tasting too sweet, had a decidedly milky aftertaste. As this was my first milk stout I wasn't sure if they were all this way, or if it was just the Dark, or if this batch was just bad. In the end, I did not think I could follow this beer with a different one, or drink another of the same. Creativity in the brewing as well, but maybe a tad bit too creative for me.
In addition to what I scouted out on the net, we also found a Belgian restaurant, La GueuzeAdresse:, which had lots of beer options, including Belgian beer on tap and a large, diverse list of bottled beer as well. If you visit the Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Pantheon, it's just right around the corner, so stop in and have a beer!
Still not convinced that Paris is the next great beer destination? I can only urge you to see for yourself.