There’s more than wine

In the days leading up to leaving for France, the most common question asked of me was some variation on “How many wines are you going to try over two weeks?” No one asked me if I was excited to sample some French craft beers. While I have almost built entire trips around craft beer tastings, you just don’t do that in France. You could. Not that there isn’t an ample and growing beer community, but there’s really so much else that’s worthy of attention. So on this trip, while leaving most of my time to wine (I’ll be writing much more on that soon) I fit some beer in along the margins.

On a late morning (if there’s something I love about Europe, it’s the laissez-faire mentality to a moderate amount of morning drinking) where my wife was getting a few extra Zzzzzs, I popped into Académie de la Bière just down the road in Montparnasse from our hotel and enjoyed a just before noon amber ale from La Parisienne. Nicely balanced, my first craft beer in Paris gave me hope I’d find a few hidden treasures over the two weeks.

Beer at L'Académie de La Bière

Later that same day, with my wife continuing to shake off jet lag, I continued my exploration of the neighbourhood and found a patio seat for lunch. No one will confuse a Kronenbourg 1664 for a craft beer, but somehow a warm afternoon and a view of Paris life walking past made this taste pretty reasonable.

Patio beer in Paris

My French beer luck went decidedly downhill with a couple I picked up for the hotel room. While the Jenlain ambree was passable, the Pelforth got poured down the drain. Should have checked the reviews on that one before picking it up.

Beers in France

The only other beer I had while in Paris was this pretty nice white beer from Brasserie Lancelot while having dinner at a crepe place in Montparnasse. On a warm evening, it was crisp, light and refreshing.

Beer at La Crêperie Bretonne

For the other half of our trip, we were based out of Lyon. It’s not a place known for beer. But it is a place known for cafes with patios and the unseasonably warm weather drew me to a small cafe off of Place des Jacobins. While the work day was ending for just about everyone else, I enjoyed my seat here with a glass of Leffe which brought back deep taste memories of my first ever European trip to Belgium. I took up this exact seat a few times over almost a week in Lyon.

Patio beer in Lyon

More on the craft beer spectrum, I stopped at one of Ninkasi’s brewpub locations in the centre of Lyon for a pint on St. Patrick’s Day. Decidedly not Irish, their white beer was a solid selection – well balanced with a bit of spice, it hit the spot on a day where the temperatures climbed to 22C.

A blanche beer at Ninkasi Cordeliers

A chance discovery in an organic food store led to three bottles for the hotel room in Lyon – two (you guessed it) white beers and another Ninkasi. The Love & Flowers (far left) was a bit muted in taste for me – there was some clove and spice there and if that was punched up a bit this would have been a great beer. That was kind of my feeling with all of these, they each were ok, but missing something.

Beers in France

For a two week trip, that’s not a lot of beer sampling for me. The rest of the time I was on patios, in parks, sitting down in a restaurant or kicking back in the hotel after a day of exploring, I had a glass of wine in my hand. Even with a few tasty brews, beer sampling never had a chance in France when it was competing with Champagnes and Burgundies. More on that coming up soon…

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