A quick guide to French beer (and 3 top tipples to try)
- Credit: Archant
Did you know France is home to around 1,500 breweries?
Beer may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of France’s famous drinks, but there’s a growing appetite for the stuff; according to Statista, consumption has been slowly increasing since 2013, with 33 litres per capita drunk in 2018. Cheers to that!
The most famous style of French beer is bière de garde, which may sound like something the army would drink but actually means ‘beer for keeping’. Originally produced in the northern beer powerhouses of Nord and Pas-de-Calais, bière de garde was once a seasonal beer that was brewed as a strong beer in the winter months so that it would keep over the warmer summer months until the advent of mechanical refrigeration. They tend to be malty, often amber coloured beers, and were traditionally sealed with a cork.
You may also come across saison and grisette beers on your travels: two more tipples from northern France. Like bière de garde, saison was made in the winter and served up in the summer, taking its name from the saisonniers (seasonal workers) who were its main consumers. Grisette, on the other hand, was a favourite of the miners of northern France, and is said to take its name from either the local stone or the grey dresses worn by the waitresses in the pubs.
Today, France’s main beer-producing region is Alsace, although craft breweries are making a name for themselves across the country and there are some 1,500 breweries in total. The best-selling French beer is Kronenbourg, founded all the way back in 1664 in Strasbourg. But if you fancy something a bit different, here are a few to whet your appetite...
Think you’ve seen it all in the beer world? Chances are you haven’t tried something like this before – it’s a beer made out of pains au chocolat! Or chocolatines, as they say in the part of France where this is made. The team at Ice Breaker Brewing Co came up with this inventive dark beer using unsold pastries from a local bakery.
Brittany may be cider paradise but there’s a brewery making a big name for itself in the far north-west of the region, in Finistère. The Brasserie de Bretagne was founded in 1998 and has four main craft beers to its name: Britt, Sant Erwann, Dremmwel and Ar-Men. Britt Blonde is a characterful beer and the perfect accompaniment to an evening meal at the Breton seaside.
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Not far from the Belgian border, La Choulette is one of the few bière de garde breweries remaining and has garnered a reputation for its tasty brews. One of the brewery’s most interesting drinks is the Sans Culottes range, named after the French Revolution campaigners who freed beer from all production and distribution taxes.
If you’re not a fan of beer by itself, why not try one of France’s favourite beer cocktails? There’s the picon bière, beer mixed with a bitter orange liquor called Amer Picon, or how about the Monaco, with some tasty grenadine and lemonade? Santé !
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