Paris. A city of lovers. A city rich with culture, food, drink, pleasure, history, and amazing scenery. For all that Paris is and has, one thing it lacks, like LA up until recently, is craft beer. I found myself not caring as much about the beer offerings, as I was constantly inundated with amazing landmarks, inspirational art, and incredible visuals, but when it came time to sit down and relax in the evening at The Deux Magots, my decision was always wine. There are really only a few beers offered in Paris, and most of them are Pelforth (Heneiken), Kronenbourg, Affligem (Belgian), and on occasion, Leffe (Belgian). With the exception of Leffe and to some extent Affligem, the other beers are super light lagers with very little taste. It’s a shame that a city so focused on amazing food and drink has little to no craft beer.
I was able to do a small amount of research before we arrived in Paris, and it just so happened that our apartment was literally across the street from a brew-pub I had read about. Enter O’Neil Restaurant Bar and Brasserie, a brewpub with a London/Irish-ish flare. To the left of the doorway sat their small copper 10-barrel system, which was still warm to the touch from a recent brew. After sitting down, like at many other Parisian Brasseries, you can order a la carte or pre-set menus. You are, of course, encouraged to order pre-set menus because they want to entice people walking by the restaurant to look at and want the food you are eating. We decided to just do the beer and order a taster flight. Blonde, Blanche, Ambree, and Brune. I try to stay away from being too negative, but these beers were pretty underwhelming. One even tasted like chicken soup. I’m reminded of a similar brew pub I visited in Thailand. The beer was sub-par, but the establishment looked top notch. O’Neil is in a really good spot, smack dab in the middle of St. Germain des Pres near St. Sulpice. With a little revamp in the brew program, I’m sure the beers would draw a large crowd.
The next brewpub we visited is part of a larger chain called Frog Pubs. Each Frog Pub takes its name from the street or area it inhabits. In this case, our pub was on Princesse street, hence Frog & Princesse. Upon arriving at the pub I was excited. There was a healthy crowd spilling out into the street; everyone a pint in hand. Inside was lively, low lit, and fraught with the sounds of a younger college crowd. Near the doorway were several 10 bbl fermentation tanks colorfully labelled according to beer style. At the bar, the same colorful labels were applied to the tap handles, each backlit and glowing. At this point, my wife and I were excited. There were a number of really interesting beers on tap including a Ginger beer. Craving something darker, I ordered the Dark de Triumph, labeled a stout, but really more of a dark Euro porter. Katie took a stab at the Inseine, a hoppy English bitter style beer. Both beers were okay, but as they warmed, an intense flavor of green apple dominated and overpowered. It was apparent in their Maison Blanche as well, but again this was only as the beer warmed. I was initially very exited to try this pub, but was disappointed after having the beers, mainly because I know they could do better. The restaurant was really nice inside and seemed like a really fun hangout. I think that with just a little more focus on the beer, it could be awesome.
After doing more research on beers in the area, the only other option was to find a good beer bar. There were several in the area that served a range of German and Belgian brews. Going to a big brewery was out of the question, as it was way outside the city limits. Perhaps another time. Katie and I settled on two places, Cafe 6 near our apartment in St. Germain des Pres and La Gueuze, near the Pantheon. Cafe 6 has a few German and Belgian beers on tap, and La Gueuze offered a solid Belgian bottled beer list. There are a ton of other beer bars in the area; you just have to find them. We noticed a few near Boulevard Montparnass Bienvenue, Rue St. Michel, and Rue Moufftard as well.
Brasseries and Cafes are a huge part of the Paris lifestyle. Parisians snag tables when the night is young to converse over cigarettes and bottles of wine while they people watch. For those looking for a meal, many of the brasseries also offer moules et frites, steamed muscles and fries. The muscles are steamed and covered in various sauces, served with French fries, and then paired with light beer. The choice beers in this situation for most restaurants are Pelforth and Affligem, although I’m betting that there are numerous craft brews that would make this dish even better. If you aren’t sure where to get your moules et frites, the chain cafe Leon de Bruxelles is a good place to start. Once you’ve figured out if you like the pairing, you can move on to the smaller, local brasseries to find it.
Paris is an incredible city. We had an amazing time and honestly, it’s hard to be bummed out about the beer, when there is so much to see and do. That being said, this amazing city would be even more so if it had a strong craft beer scene. With mini craft beer revolutions happening all over the world, it would really surprise me if one didn’t find its way into Paris in the years to come. I wonder if they will catch the same craft beer bug that LA caught 3 years ago. If it does happen, I can see Paris being a beer destination. Viva la Revolution!