Where to Drink in Paris, France
Brasserie is French for brewery, and while there’s one on nearly every corner in Paris, few of them actually make beer anymore. From the mid-19th century to the early 20th, hundreds of small breweries kept the city awash in beer, but by the 1970s a succession of industrialization, war and conglomeration had wiped them out. Except for the family-owned English brewpub chain FrogPubs, which opened its first location in 1993, there was nothing remotely craft in Paris until 2012, when Thierry Roche opened La Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or.
Although most corner bistros and supermarket aisles remain in the golden grip of Heineken and AB InBev, a new crop of small breweries is eking out an existence in a city where wine is still the go-to libation. Many of them operate outside Paris’ urban center, which lacks the infrastructure to comfortably accommodate large breweries. Gypsy brewers are also common, overseeing production of their beers at breweries in the greater Paris region or further afield in France.
Since La Goutte d’Or first brewed Myrha, a Pale Ale with notes of date and spice inspired by the brewery’s diverse surrounding neighborhood, Paris has welcomed enough bars, bottle shops and breweries to satisfy the beer fans among its 16 million annual visitors. There’s even a festival: Paris Beer Week will celebrate its third year in spring 2016.
The speed with which craft beer has found a following in Paris is best measured in liters: Franco-American gypsy brewers Les Brasseurs du Grand Paris increased production of their hop-forward American-style beers from 1,000 liters in 2012 to 50,000 liters in 2015. Deck & Donohue broke ground on its 1,100-square-foot brewery in the former industrial suburb of Montreuil in 2014. Since then, production of its five year-round beers, which includes an IPA and a Brown Ale, has doubled to 6,000 liters a month.
In 2014 and 2015, a smattering of daring brewers like BAPBAP, La Brasserie de L’Être and La Parisienne set up within the city itself, while Paname Brewing Company nabbed a prime waterfront location for its brewpub last summer. In April, the eastern suburb Fontenay welcomes the 2,900-square-foot Brasserie Outland, the brainchild of former gypsy brewer Yann Geffriaud, who gained a following with West Coast-inspired brews like the sessionable Tasty APA. A highly anticipated Outland taproom is slated to open in Paris in summer 2016 as well.
Although widely available in the city, the best beer spots can be found in the east side, also home to a thriving dining scene.
When it opened in 2012, La Fine Mousse was the first bar in Paris to gather a wide selection of craft beer under one roof. Tourists, expats and French beer geeks flock to its 20 taps for styles that run the gamut from Saison to Barleywine. Sour fans are rarely disappointed—bottles from Cantillon are always available. When it gets cramped—as it surely will on weekends—cross the street to the sister restaurant where 10 more taps and hundreds of bottles complement a seasonal small-plate menu.
A 5-minute walk brings you to the gritty charm of Ménilmontant, where Les Trois 8 is a boisterous contrast to LFM’s button-down respectability. This would-be West Coast hole-in-the-wall is lauded as much for its heaping plates of artisan cheese and charcuterie as it is for the rotating selection on its eight taps. Although French breweries like Sainte Cru and L’Agrivoise dominate the regular lineup, monthly tap takeovers are known to feature imports like Sweden’s Malmö Brygghus and beers from Nordic Beer Project, a collective of Scandinavian breweries.
A short metro ride away near the trendy Canal Saint Martin, Le Triangle combines the best of the Paris beer and dining revolutions. Order several of the simple but contemporary French small plates like foie gras with sour cherry jelly and linger over a house Saison. Canadian brewer and co-founder of Quebec’s Brasserie Dunham, Jocelyn Bérubé keeps his eight taps flowing with a mix of house sours and farmhouse ales, and regular guest beers from the likes of Cigar City and Rodenbach.
Further north, a cobblestoned stroll away from the alabaster glow of Sacré-Coeur, snack shack Jurassique Snack is one of the rare places serving quality late-night food in Montmartre. The name is a play on France’s mountainous Juras region, where all the edibles are sourced. Order the hotdog, a juicy, Morbier-slathered smoked sausage swaddled in a crusty baguette; wash it down with something on the tight but compelling beer list that includes London’s Beavertown Brewery and Brussels Beer Project.
A La Bière Comme à La Bière is a bottle shop on the Butte Montmartre where reggae flows from the speakers and, depending on the day, brews from Rogue or Mikkeller might be flowing from one of the four taps. Settle in with some tapenade or wild boar paté and take advantage of the late opening hours to sample from the 400-plus bottles lining the coolers and shelves, or take a growler to go for your hotel.
On the north side of the Butte, grungy neighborhood rock bar Le Supercoin keeps its three taps and rotating bottle list stocked with French craft beer (plus one Czech Pils). Come here for the real tour de France: go local with Brasserie Parisis, then discover France’s new generation of brewers that include Mont Salève and La Vallée du Giffre at some of the lowest prices in town.
Feeling hungry? A few streets away, El Tast [eltast.fr] serves platters of succulent paper-thin slices of jamón Ibérico and creamy sheep cheese paired with bottles from strictly regional breweries like La Vallée de Chevreuse and Distrikt.
Also nearby, Sunset is beer’s answer to the neighborhood bistro. Drop by for a pint of Japanese brewery Baird’s Teikoku IPA or Italy’s Extraomnes Donker Imperial Stout and a saucer of homemade hummus at happy hour, or settle into a wooden booth for an affordable dinner of modern French classics like seared filet of sea bass and veal sweetbreads.
Further south, L’Express de Lyon is an unexpected watering hole adjacent to the train station it’s named for. This former horse-racing bar has traded its betting machines for taps but retains a blue-collar appeal. Wash down a classic steak frites lunch with a BrewDog Punk IPA or To Øl Final Frontier IIPA, or stop by in the evening when the place turns into a rollicking beer den.
Across the river, Brewberry Bar is the place to go for imported beers from names like Evil Twin and Prairie Artisan Ales. Dig into the Burning Pig, a pulled pork burger and sweet potato fries, paired with a suggestion from one of the 24 taps. Be sure to stock up at the neighboring bottle shop on the way out.
Though no longer a lone beacon in a beer wasteland, bottle shop La Cave à Bulles is still an unmissable reference for French beer and homebrew in the heart of Paris. ■