French kiss, French bread...French beer?

When Parisians hear the words “France” and “bubbles”, champagne is usually the first thing that springs to mind. Second might be a bubble bath, but the combination rarely evokes the thought of beer - especially not French beer.


At first the two words don’t seem to go together, at least not as well as other pairings like “French” and “wine”, or “kiss”.


This could be the fault of France’s nearly ubiquitous home brew Kronenburg’s 1664, which is shipped out en masse to the city’s cafes and bars.


While “seize”, as it’s called (pronounced “says”), has no distinct taste or characteristic, it is a consistent and cheap beer whose main fault lies in that it is entirely unspectacular. A baffling fact, when one considers France shares borders with such great beer producing nations as Germany and Belgium.


Yet - unknown to most Parisians - France is home to a rich and varied landscape of beers. Many of the country’s “brasseries” have been passed down through family lines over the generations, but more and more young “brasseurs” have begun to trickle onto the scene with their own craft beers.


Sure, these brews - which would satisfy any hop-head or lust for amber alike - are not readily available in every bar or cafe, but there are a few low-key spots in Paris where Kronenburg is frowned on as a dirty word.


Cave à Bulles, nestled on rue de Quincampoix and just a hop, skip and a jump from the Centre Pompidou, is by far the place to go if looking to discover or stock up on what France has offer in terms of beer. Signless and discreet, this beer boutique specialises not only in French brews, but also boasts a vast selection of other craft beers from around the world. Owner Simon Thillou, an affable guy who can spin off in at least three languages (French, English and Italian), also encourages international clientele to share beer from their native lands, happily offering to trade the next time they swing by the store.


Another place to stock up on French brews is Bieres Cultes, a small Paris-based chain, which reserves part of its shelf-space for a sizable collection of domestics. The staff is knowledgeable, warm and passionate about their trade.


If on the Left Bank, Bootlegger also proffers a handful of French beers, alongside a sturdy selection of other European brews.


But where to sit down over a nice cold one? Although the demand is growing, there’s no place in Paris that specialises exclusively in French beer. However, Le Jemmapes on the Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement offers a small collection of international beers on tap, and better yet, to-go cups that can be carried to the banks of the canal for an impromptu picnic.


Brewberry, in the 5th arrondissement, has been hailed by some as one of the most enjoyable spots to have an after-work pint, while almost any beer-geek will list the 1st arrondissement’s Sous-Bock Tavern as a worthwhile stop-over.


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Brewdog. Scottish. Good.
Dominique, yes, there's a homebrewer club in Paris. The next meeting is 1 Juin at Cave a bulles, 18h00. Andrea, what? Desperados? That's like saying, oh, you can get a great baguette at Aldi. That and Leffe Ruby are nothing more than chemical flavorants dumped into the same Leffe mass-market swill. Hoegaarden at least is a reasonable beer and a good go-to when they don't have anything good - which is pretty much most bars in Paris. The frog pubs, eh, they're alright for beer, but the service and food are the worst I've seen.
I have never developed a taste for fermented German bathwater. Regardless of where it is made.
We make quite good beer in England too but like French beer you have to look for it and the best breweries have closed. Supermarkets now sell over priced lager that is rather tasteless and far too fizzy. We have been criticised for drinking beer 'too warm' but this isn't usually a warm country and so cold beer isn't traditionally popular. It is difficult to discern the flavour of anything if it's ice cold. I like white wine chilled but not too cold; unless it's Italian wine - then the colder the better!
The Frog and Rosbif Pubs are found around France(6 or 7) and are Micro breweries making there own varieties of beer onsite.Stouts to ales....
Great info. good to know where to find the best beer in Paris. wondering if there are what are called Garage Beer Makers in Paris like there is in the US. particularly on the wet coast.People starting making beer in their home or garage and having parties with friends to share their trials and errors???
Actually, the best lager beer in the region (if not the world!) that I've come across is not even mentioned. Perhaps that's because it is only available in the Vexin français -- i.e., the north-western part of the Île de France -- and doesn't make it those 50 km to the east to Paris? It's called, naturally, "Bière du Vexin". It, and its sister beers, have won countless medals at the Salon de l'Agriculture over the years: The only sure way to obtain it is to drive out to the brewery at Théméricourt, in the 95. Open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (jours fériés) from 10h30 to 12h30 and 14h30 à 18h00.
My suggestions for commonly found beers in bars (beyond blah "Kro" or "16"): Desperados (with a hint of Tequila, it's considered a little girly), Leffe - decent blond beer, also comes with a fruity taste as Leffe Ruby; bitter white Hoogarden is also a decent alternative, and plenty of bars have little-known beers on tap, just ask what kind of "bière à la pression" is offered, you may be surprised!
Valuable piece of information right there!
Thank you for this post! I think you should keep an eye on the future parisian locavore bear, Gallia:)
Awesome finds! Been dying for a good beer that I don't have to go to Brussels for. Thank you and keep it up.

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