Top 3 French Classic Beers
France, well known as the land of cheese, wine, baguettes, macarons, Paris and the Eiffel Tower, is often visited for its plethora of food, history and monuments. It is usually not visited for it’s beer. However it is a little known fact that actually the beer scene is definitely a part of France and very rich within the French history. Actually the ever blossoming culture of craft beer is very much alive in Paris, and certainly a great way to experience this is to check out Le Bon Paris Tours Paris Beer Tours.
Regardless of the modern wave of bière artisanale (craft beer) in Paris, France is known for a specific type of beer. This is called the bière de garde. As the name suggests these are beers which are gard[ed] (“kept”, or lagered) longer. These were most prominent in Northern France, and strongly resemble Belgian Seasons: rich, sweet, stronger beers in big glass bottles usually topped off with a cork.
While this style of beer is traditional and has its roots in abbey-style beers (where French beer flourished), sadly there are virtually no significantly old beers/ breweries from before the 20th century remaining. Unfortunately due to the world wars, and a shift in the modernization of brewing techniques almost all old breweries and brewing traditions were all but lost.
Fortunately, there are still quite a few modern breweries which resurrected this great traditional style, which represents France in the universal world of beer history. Here are our top 3 classic French beers to try when you come to Paris, to taste what we mean.
Brewed by Duyck Brewery, Jenlain is well regarded as basically the first modern retake of a traditional bière de garde. Although the brewery supposedly started in 1922 in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of Northern France, the Jenlain brand wasn’t launched until 1968. This beer is said to have “started it all” with regards to the wave of modern French craft beer. It became popular because in the 1970s many college students in the Northern town of Lille started adopting this “throwback” “new” beer as their beer of choice, a call the tradition that was once rich in France. Duyck claims that it pioneered the cork style bottle. While this may not be completely true, they certainly popularized this traditional style which was inspired from post World War II. At that time because glass bottles were in short supply apparently used champagne bottles were reused and easily sealed off with a cork. Despite being a relatively modern creation, it is made in the traditional abbey-style that was developed through centuries of brewing in monasteries. It is a smooth tasting lagered strong beer, with very little hops, and lighter to drink than it’s Belgian Saison counterpart.
Ch’ti is brewed by Castelain Brewery, which started brewing in 1926, also in Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. Inspired by the success of Jenlain, the Ch’ti brand was launched in 1979 with the goal of brewing a bière de garde that was lighter and smoother to drink. Thus the Blonde biere de garde was made. True to the style of bière de garde, after the process of fermentation the beer is lagered for several weeks at 0°c to help develop more aroma and finer taste and balance.
Brewed in the farthest Northern tip of the French Flanders region, the 3 Monts Brewery (also called St Sylvestre because it’s located in the town of Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel) started brewing in
1920. According to their website at the start of 1900 there were 220 breweries in the area, but theirs is the only one left. Just as with the other two breweries, 3 Monts only launched the 3 Monts brand in 1984. In addition to the great taste provided by local resources and generations of brewing, they pride themselves on using a Belgian style bottle to differentiate from other bières de garde. In addition they use a special single “staple” metal clasp to hold the cork in. This provides for secure sealing and ease of opening!
We recommend you try these beers in Paris, after taking our Paris Beer Tour. Bon appébeer!
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