Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Holidays in France?

If you go for the beer, you should look for the regions with the highest beer consumption per capita. This was unashamedly nicked from the blog Strange Maps.

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Beer cruises in the Western hemisphere is nothing new, there are a number of options in various climate zones. Stephen Beaumont offers an alternative, a European beer cruise.

It’s on the Rhine, from Amsterdam to Basel. The preliminary programme ranges from a visit to Amsterdam’s  Brouwerij ‘t Ij to tastings at Belgian, German, French, Luxembourg and Swiss breweries, a pub crawl through Cologne, and even floating tutored beer tastings.

It starts in Amsterdam on October 11.

It’s beyond the capacity of my wallet, but I applaud any efforts to expand quality beer tourism.

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The Financial Times has an article today about the success of the Charles Wells owned John Bull Pub Company in France. It initially ran two pubs to promote the beers it sold wholesale, but has now increased to five with plans to grow to 13 pubs by 2013.

While there are lots of fake British pubs around the globe, the John Bull pubs offer both Bombardier and Director’s on hand pumps.

The Frog chain of brew pubs, with outlets in Paris and other cities, also seem to be doing a roaring trade, with new pubs opening at a steady rate – even if I personally did not like their beers.

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Sept 09 330Another recommendation from Simon at Cave á Bulles.  This was actually five minutes from my hotel, and I had actually walked past it without giving it a second glass glance.

As location is everything in a city like Paris, the street right in front of the Gare de Lyon is filled with brasseries serving food and drinks at all hours. Some of them offer Alsatian specialities, others have shellfish etc. They all have macro beers at rather stiff prices.

Sept 09 327But a few steps away from this strip is a simple bar, not far above the hall in the wall level. During my evening, there was soccer on several screens, I assume you may find it more quiet at other times.

They have 11 beers on tap, 11 in bottles. Macro lagers, sure, but also some fine Belgian stuff. I had never tried the wheat beer from St Bernardus, and there was even a sour Belgian ale, Borurgogne des Flandres (which could have been more on the sour side). A French Tripel, too, Secret des Moines.

I found a sidewalk table.

I think more bars like this is what’s needed for French beer culture to really take off. Specialized places which you travel across town to seek out is fine for the converted. A hand picked selection of good beers in places where people pop in for a quick glass before going on with their business is more important.

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Paris – Le Quincampe

If you are in Paris, there are good reasons that you might find yourself in rue Quincampoix. It is the street where you find the beer shop La Cave à Bulles, recently praised here on the blog.

I asked Simon if he could recommend some places to have a beer, both around town and in the neighbourhood, and he told me that a place for a nice meal with hand picked beers was Le Quincampe. This seems to function as a café in the daytime, too, so I doubt they will frown if you just order a  beer.

The food is French with a North African twist. I had some pastry with duck confit, spiced with cinnamon and sultanas. Not 100% there, perhaps, but there were other options on the menu which I’ll be happy to explore some other time.

The beer list is selected by Simon, who delivers beer to the restaurant. There are 6 artisan beers that all go well with food, and there are even tasting notes in English and French.

Sensible prices, at least for Paris.

There is a bar next door, too, but it was too packed for me to bother to squeeze in, especially as I had a backpack with a dozen beers.

Le Quincampe is at 78, rue Quincampoix.

The beer? Bell de Loing is, if I got this right, brewed by a brewery offering work training for people with mental problems. It is a tasty amber beer. A little yeasty palate, full malt. Orange, pepper and other spices. Well, the cinnamon was actually from the food, not the beer.  A good example of French artisan beer.

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I am not going to blog about the tasting notes for every beer I dragged home from Paris, but here are a few nice ones from Brasserie Thiriez, located in Flanders, just a few kilometers from the Belgian border. Maybe a place worth visiting if you are driving through the area? Both bottles bought from Cave á Bulles, recommended by Simon.

Etoile du Nord – Hazy gold. Interesting aroma. Hops, over-ripe fruit, a hint of barnyard.

Lovely hoppy flavour, full mouth feel. Flowers, dust, dirt, herbs. A little yeast, but not much. Bitter finish, cutting through the complex flavours. Oranges, cheese, leather. But none of these elements are kicking you in the face, they are subtle and blend well into each other.

So this is not extreme beer, but it would probably be a bit off putting to novices. Me? I would not mind a few tall glasses of this. On its own or with a stinky cheese…

La Maline. Very dark, a bit of a gusher. Liquorice, rye bread and spices in the nose.

Dry, almost oaky, playing with a malty base. Complex as well, there is sourness, sweetness and dryness here. A little warming. Prunes, mint, a little soot. Hard to classify, and that’s a compliment.  Could have had a bit more body, perhaps, but its a very fine brew.


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Sept 09 273

One advantage of France is that it’s close to Belgium. (Most French would raise their eyebrows, and many Belgians would point out that its misfortune is that it’s close to France. But there you go). Beerwise, that is.

This means that the logistics of importing Belgian beers should be easy. In fact there is no excuse for a serious beer bar in France not to have a good range of Belgians.

That is the case for Au Trappiste, a bar/restaurant with a pronounced Belgian profile. It is in rue St Denis, withing walking distance of many of the attractions. That also means a hefty mark up – no Belgians would pay those prices. But anyway.

20 beers on tap, about 100 bottled. Lots of Belgians, but also respectable selections of French and German brews. A scattering of beers from other countries, but no serious list of , say, Dutch, British or American beers.

(The majority of Dutch imports seem to be canned half liters of maximum strength beers, drunk by the guys sleeping rough around the railway stations!)

There is an impressive menu and a lovely smell of cooking as I enter when afternoon is on the verge of turning into evening. Mussels is, unsurprisingly, the speciality.

There is a French artisan beer on tap, so of course I go for that – Angelus.

A golden beer, very refreshing. Very fruity, like peaches that have been left on the table ad day too long. Some bitter almonds in the tail. A bit sweet and sour.

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