Une Bière Dans La Paris
It appears the "craft beer revolution" is even beginning to make its presence felt in the heart of wine country, as I found the first green shoots of a small scene blooming whilst visiting Paris recently. Between the jaunts to some utterly delightful wine bars, we found time to pop into three of the city's microbreweries, and were suitably impressed by the quality of the beer and the passion of the brewers to produce something that is the match of anyone, anywhere. Whilst they may still be trailing behind London, and will never emerge from the shadow of the country's wine obsession (and nor should it), the fact that it is now possible to find a local saison or porter of fine quality is to be applauded and celebrated.
Situated just a few minutes from Gard du Nord station (yes, we did get off the Eurostar and immediately find our way there), Brasserie de la Goutte d'Or is probably Paris' oldest craft brewery as they come up to celebrate their fifth birthday in October. With a full taproom still a month away, only tasting samples are currently available to drink on site, as well as bottles to then take away; owner Thierry was on hand to dispense the beer and chat about his offerings, being both extremely helpful and friendly in introducing all comers. Of their core beers, La Chapelle stood out for its boldness and execution; a chai-spiced wheat beer, it is bursting with clove, cinnamon and cardamom as the base beer provides such a wonderful canvas for the starring flavours. Amongst their specials and collaborations, Panamars leaps out; a rosemary and honey ale beer brewed with Brasserie de la Plaine from Marseille, this does not disappoint as the former envelops the palate, whilst the latter gives it a beautifully thick and sweet body to support the huge rosemary notes.
Le Triangle is set up in a tiny restaurant in the 10e Arr, and focus strongly on pairing everything with food; alas, having already eaten (including some of the only authentic Jambon de Paris still produced) we didn't put that aspect to the test this time, and satisfied ourselves merely with the liquid offerings. Unsurprisingly, saison is the style that dominates the burgeoning scene, with all three of our stops offering at least one variation; all were to a very high standard, showcasing the yeast flavours and aromas whilst also offering modern twists (these guys use buckwheat in theirs). Here the Petite Passion is particularly tasty, and all the more remarkable for weighing in at only 3% – although my friend preferred the raspberry Berliner Weisse Blanche Sure Framboises, which I felt is not quite sour enough. Their Porter is a bigger surprise, and an excellent example of the style that is at least the measure of what many London breweries produce. The dark chocolate flavours come through smoothly on top of a body that is neither too heavy to be stodgy, nor too thin as to be insipid.
Few breweries can match Paname Brewing Company for locale, sitting as they do on the canal up in the 19e Arr (literally, the terrace is a pontoon). A large brewpub, the décor is stripped back with exposed brickwork and metal that gives the place a relaxed, albeit slightly hipsterish, feel. Again the core range is centred around saisons and American-hopped pales, but dig a little deeper and it is quite obvious there is a brewer here who knows his kit. Both the IPA, Barge du Canal, and double IPA, Doublement Barge, are thick, resinous beasts that get plenty out of the hops (or "houblons" in French, I love that word). However it was the beer on their experimental tap that blew me away; a strong Baltic Porter brewed with bananas and ginger, it manages to be both complex yet balanced as it starts sweet and refreshing before ending up silky and warming. A truly remarkable beer that was quite easily the best I tried over the course of the weekend.
So it turns out you now can get good beer in Paris; yes of course, the wine is still far superior, but I am all for varied choices and expanding horizons. That is exactly what these three breweries, along with a handful of others in the city and across France, are quietly doing. The people are warm and friendly, the beer cool and delicious; if ever you find yourself in Paris it is worth your time to take a little detour from the more familiar grounds and explore a different side of the famously relaxed culture that cannot resist a fine tipple or two.