France has seen a surge in the craft beer industry. While many people might not think of France as a top spot for beer, the nation’s brewing culture and history run deep. From traditional farmhouse ales to experimental brews that blend European styles with New World hops, French craft beer offers something for every palate. Take a sip of my French Craft Beer Bucket List.
A Brief History of French Craft Beer
The history of beer-making in France dates back to ancient times. Celtic tribes brewed their own ale using barley and wheat long before the Romans introduced wine to the region.
In medieval times, brewing became an important industry throughout Europe, and French monasteries were known for producing high-quality beers. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that craft brewing began to take off in France.
At that time, a handful of small breweries started experimenting with new styles and techniques. These early pioneers faced many challenges – French law made it difficult for small-scale brewers to compete with larger companies – but they persevered, inspired by the growing popularity of craft beer in other parts of Europe.
Today, there are hundreds of craft breweries across France. Many draw inspiration from traditional European styles like Belgian saisons and German pilsners, while others experiment with unique ingredients like chestnuts or wildflowers.
Why French Craft Beer is Worth Trying
If you’re a fan of beer (or just curious about trying something new), French craft beer should definitely be on your bucket list. Here are just a few reasons why:
The range of flavors and styles available in French craft beer is truly impressive. Whether you’re into hoppy IPAs or smooth stouts or funky sour beers, you’re sure to find something that suits your tastes.
French craft brewers take pride in using high-quality ingredients, often locally-sourced. Many breweries work closely with farmers to ensure that their grains and hops are of the highest quality possible.
French craft brewers aren’t afraid to experiment with new styles and techniques. Some breweries incorporate unique ingredients like lavender or sea salt into their beers, while others use aging methods like barrel-aging or bottle-conditioning to create complex flavors.
Drinking beer is a beloved tradition in many parts of France. In cities like Lille and Lyon, you can find lively beer gardens where locals gather to enjoy a cold brew on a sunny afternoon. Trying French craft beer is not just about tasting something new – it’s also about immersing yourself in the local culture and experiencing a side of France that many tourists never see.
Must-Try French Craft Beers
The Top 5 Must-Try French Craft Beers
France may be known for its wine, but the craft beer industry is quickly gaining popularity, with unique and flavorful brews popping up all over the country. Here are five must-try French craft beers that should be on every beer enthusiast’s bucket list.
1. La Divine by Brasserie de la Loire
La Divine by Brasserie de la Loire is a Belgian-style triple that packs a punch at 9% ABV. This award-winning beer has a bright golden color and a spicy aroma with hints of clove and banana. On the palate, it has a complex flavor profile with notes of citrus and stone fruit, balanced by a dry finish. La Divine is brewed using traditional Belgian methods, including bottle conditioning for natural carbonation.
2. La Parisienne Blanche by Brasserie La Parisienne
La Parisienne Blanche by Brasserie La Parisienne is a refreshing wheat beer that’s perfect for summertime sipping. The beer has a cloudy appearance and a light yellow color, with aromas of citrus and coriander. On the palate, it’s crisp and clean with flavors of lemon peel and wheat malt that finish with just a touch of bitterness. This classic Belgian-style witbier pairs well with seafood dishes or salads.
3. Barbarian IPA by Brasserie du Mont Blanc
Barbarian IPA by Brasserie du Mont Blanc is an American-style IPA brewed in the French Alps using locally sourced ingredients like Alpine honey and glacier water. This bold brew has an orange-gold color and aromas of pine resin, grapefruit, and caramel malt. On the palate, it’s sweet upfront but finishes dry with notes of pine needles and grapefruit pith. Barbarian IPA has won several awards for its unique flavor profile and is a must-try for any IPA lover.
4. Rouge Flamande by Brasserie Thiriez
Rouge Flamande by Brasserie Thiriez is a Flemish-style red ale that’s brewed using traditional methods with a mix of French and Belgian malts. This beer has a deep mahogany color with aromas of dark fruit, caramel, and sour cherries. On the palate, it’s tart and slightly sweet with flavors of dark fruit, oak, and a hint of balsamic vinegar. Rouge Flamande pairs well with roasted meats or strong cheeses.
5. La Vermontoise by Brasserie de la Senne
La Vermontoise by Brasserie de la Senne is a farmhouse ale that’s brewed in the style of Saison beers from Belgium. This beer has a hazy golden color and aromas of peppercorn, coriander, and lemon zest. On the palate, it’s spicy and effervescent with flavors of citrus peel, pepper spice, and dry wheat malt that finish with a crisp bitterness. La Vermontoise pairs well with grilled chicken or fish dishes. Each of these French craft beers offers something unique to the world of beer brewing, whether it’s traditional Belgian brewing methods or locally sourced ingredients from the French Alps. These five must-try French craft beers should be on every beer enthusiast’s bucket list for their complex flavors profiles that showcase France’s growing place in the global craft beer industry.
Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known French Craft Beers
French craft beer isn’t as well-known as its Belgian or German counterparts, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less delicious. In fact, some of the best craft beers in France fly under the radar. Here are three lesser-known but equally delicious French craft beers that you should definitely add to your bucket list.
The End of History by La Débauche
La Débauche is a brewery based in Angoulême, France that produces innovative and experimental beers. The End of History is one such beer—it’s a Belgian-style quadrupel aged in barrels that previously held cognac and Armagnac.
It’s then blended with grape must and fermented with a wild yeast strain for added complexity. The result is a rich, complex beer with notes of dark fruit, caramel, and oak.
It has a high ABV (over 11%), so it’s definitely a sipping beer rather than one to chug at a party. But if you’re looking for something to savor on a special occasion, The End of History is definitely worth seeking out.
Blanche du Mont Blanc by Brasserie du Mont Blanc
Brasserie du Mont Blanc is located in the French Alps and specializes in brewing beers with mountain herbs and spices. Blanche du Mont Blanc is their take on the classic Belgian witbier style—it’s brewed with coriander, orange peel, and chamomile flowers. The result is a refreshing yet complex beer with notes of citrus and spice.
It has a hazy appearance due to the inclusion of wheat malt in the grain bill. At only 4.7% ABV, it’s an easy-drinking beer that would be perfect for sipping après-ski or pairing with seafood dishes.
La Belle de Mai by La Plaine
La Plaine is a small brewery based in Marseille that specializes in brewing beers with locally-sourced ingredients. La Belle de Mai is their flagship beer and is named after a neighborhood in Marseille.
It’s a saison-style beer brewed with lavender, thyme, and rosemary. The herbs give the beer a floral and herbal aroma, while the saison yeast strain adds some spicy notes.
It has a dry finish that makes it great for pairing with food—try it with grilled vegetables or goat cheese. At 5% ABV, it’s also a relatively sessionable beer that you can enjoy without getting too tipsy.
These three lesser-known French craft beers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the variety of styles and flavors available in France. Don’t be afraid to explore outside your comfort zone and try something new—sometimes the best beers are the ones you least expect.
Best Places to Enjoy French Craft Beer in France
If you’re looking for the best places to enjoy French craft beer, you have plenty of options in France. Here are my top three picks for experiencing the local scene and discovering new favorite beers.
Le Triangle – Lille
Located in the heart of Lille, Le Triangle is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. The atmosphere is cozy and casual, with exposed brick walls and wooden tables. They have an impressive selection of over 200 beers, including a variety of local craft brews.
Plus, their knowledgeable staff is always happy to make recommendations based on your tastes. One notable beer on tap at Le Triangle is La Chouffe, a Belgian-style blonde ale brewed by Brasserie d’Achouffe.
It has a fruity aroma and refreshing taste that pairs well with their charcuterie boards or moules frites (mussels with fries). If you’re feeling adventurous, try one of their rotating tap specials or ask for a taster flight to sample multiple beers.
La Fine Mousse – Paris
La Fine Mousse has become a must-visit spot in Paris for beer lovers. You’ll find an extensive menu of over 150 beers from around the world, with an emphasis on local French brews. The interior has a trendy industrial feel with exposed pipes and concrete floors, but it’s still cozy enough for a comfortable night out.
One standout beer at La Fine Mousse is Brasserie Dunham’s Berliner Mango Weisse. This sour wheat beer has notes of fresh mango and tartness that make it perfect to pair with their homemade chips or pulled pork sliders.
Brasserie Thiriez – Esquelbecq
If you want to go straight to the source of some top-notch French craft beer, head to Brasserie Thiriez in the small town of Esquelbecq. This family-run brewery has been producing beer for over 20 years, with a focus on traditional brewing techniques and locally sourced ingredients. Their flagship beer, La Blonde, is a crisp and refreshing pale ale that’s perfect for sipping on their outdoor patio.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try their Etoile du Nord – a bold imperial stout with hints of dark chocolate and coffee. In addition to tastings and tours, Brasserie Thiriez also has an onsite restaurant serving up classic French dishes like beef bourguignon or moules marinières (mussels in white wine sauce).
Whether you’re in Lille, Paris, or the countryside of Esquelbecq, there’s no shortage of amazing places to enjoy French craft beer. These top picks offer unique atmospheres and menus that showcase the best of local brews. So next time you find yourself in France, be sure to add these spots to your bucket list.
Food Pairings with French Craft Beer
French cuisine is famous for its rich flavors and variety of dishes. Similarly, French craft beer offers a range of unique tastes and aromas that can be perfectly paired with different foods.
Whether you’re a beer aficionado or just someone who enjoys trying new things, experimenting with food and beer pairings can elevate your dining experience to a whole new level. In this section, we will explore some classic French dishes that complement the flavors of different types of French craft beer.
French Cheese Plates
France is known worldwide for its exquisite cheese plates, featuring a wide variety of cheeses ranging from soft bries to tangy Roqueforts. These cheeses are often served with bread or crackers alongside charcuterie (cured meats). When it comes to pairing cheese plates with beer, the general rule is to match the intensity of the cheese flavor with the intensity of the beer flavor.
For example, a light pilsner pairs well with mild soft cheeses like camembert or brie, while robust stouts go well with bold blue cheeses like Roquefort or gorgonzola. A hoppy IPA can balance out salty cured meats like prosciutto or salami.
Crepes are thin pancakes made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour and filled with savory ingredients like ham and cheese or vegetables. They are a popular street food in France and make an excellent pairing for many types of craft beers. Belgian-style wheat beers (or witbiers) pair wonderfully with crepes filled with mushrooms, spinach, and goat cheese.
The citrus notes in wheat beers help cut through the richness of these savory fillings while enhancing their earthy flavors. Strong brown ale goes well with hearty crepe fillings such as bacon, sausage or ham as it adds depth and richness.
Charcuterie boards filled with cured meats, such as salami, prosciutto, and pate, are a staple of French cuisine. These boards can be paired with many different types of beers depending on the flavors you want to highlight. For instance, spicy sausages pair well with a hoppy IPA or a crisp lager while a nutty brown ale complements the rich flavor of duck rillette.
France’s coastal regions produce some of the world’s most exquisite seafood dishes. Fish dishes can be paired with wheat beers or saison for lighter fare like grilled shrimp and scallops. Dark ale is a great match for more robust seafood dishes like bouillabaisse or paella.
Beer can also make an excellent pairing with desserts! French patisseries offer a range of sweet treats that will go well with beer. For instance, chocolate tarts pairs perfectly with dark porter; fruit tarts match perfectly with sour beer.
Try pairing traditional French pastries like croissants or macarons with Belgian-style blonde ale for light and refreshing mouthfeel. Pairing food with beer is an enjoyable process that takes your taste buds on an adventurous journey through distinct flavors and aromas.
The above food pairings suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find your favorite combinations!
Fun Facts about the History and Culture of Beer in France
The Birthplace of French Brewing
Did you know that the region of Alsace in eastern France is considered the birthplace of French brewing? This region, which was once a part of Germany, has a long history of beer production dating back to the Middle Ages. Today, Alsace is home to many traditional breweries that produce some of the best beers in France.
Unique Brewing Techniques
France has developed its own unique brewing techniques over time. For example, bière de garde is a type of beer that originated in northern France. This beer is brewed using high-temperature fermentation and then stored at cooler temperatures for an extended period.
The result is a beer with complex flavors and aromas. Another unique technique used in French brewing is bottle conditioning.
This involves adding yeast to the bottle before it’s sealed, allowing fermentation to continue inside the bottle. This creates natural carbonation and can enhance the flavor profile of certain types of beer.
France is home to many famous breweries, including Brasserie de la Loire, Brasserie Thiriez, and Brasserie Dupont. These breweries have been producing high-quality craft beers for decades and are well-respected by beer enthusiasts around the world.
One particularly notable brewery is Brasserie Cantillon located in Brussels but with deep roots in French-speaking Wallonia. They specialize in producing lambic beers using traditional methods that have been passed down through generations since 1900s.
Cultural Traditions Surrounding Beer Consumption
In France, drinking beer has traditionally been associated with socializing and leisure activities. It’s common for people to enjoy a cold beer on a warm summer day or while watching sports with friends.
One cultural tradition surrounding beer consumption involves ordering “une pression” at a bar. This refers to a draft beer that’s served in a small glass.
It’s customary to order several “pressions” over the course of an evening and share them with friends. Additionally, beer is often enjoyed alongside food in France.
Popular pairings include cheese plates, charcuterie boards, and savory crepes. Many breweries even offer guided tastings that include food pairings to enhance the overall experience.
Beer as a Reflection of French Culture
The craft beer industry in France is still relatively young compared to other countries, but it’s quickly gaining popularity among locals and tourists alike. French craft beers showcase the country’s rich history and culture through unique flavors, brewing techniques, and traditions surrounding consumption. Whether you’re a seasoned beer connoisseur or simply looking to try something new, exploring the world of French craft beer is sure to be an enjoyable experience full of interesting discoveries and surprises.
France may be more commonly associated with wine, but its craft beer scene is just as exciting and dynamic. From classic farmhouse ales to experimental styles infused with local ingredients like lavender or foie gras, there’s truly something for everyone in this realm.
Even if you’re not a die-hard beer fan, taking a sip of a perfectly crafted brew can open up new flavors and sensations that might surprise you. So next time you find yourself in France (or even just at your local pub), consider trying out some of these unique beverages and expanding your palate.
Whether you prefer hoppy IPAs or smooth stouts, fruity sours or malty ambers, there’s sure to be a French craft beer that speaks to your taste buds. Cheers!