For a drinker interested in quality and value, wine can sometimes seem like the only option in this city. Every street, it seems, has its own cave à vin, complete with regional focus and invariably helpful staff, if you speak French. My favorites include Les Caves Saint-Martin on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, where I once bought two bottles of an excellent grower champagne on the recommendation of the shop owner, and Trois Fois Vin on Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth.
The great food halls devote huge amounts of space to France’s most famous wine regions. I remember wandering into the recently reopened Galeries Lafayette food hall (“Lafayette Gourmet”) in 2014 to find acre upon acre of wine, the vast majority of it French (including 1,200 options from Bordeaux alone!). There were a few desultory shelves of beer.
It hasn’t always been like this: Brasserie, after all, means brewery. When Alsatians founded these palaces of gustatory gratification in the late 19th century, there was often brewing on-site. There still is at Brasserie Georges, which reinstalled a brewery in 2004, but that’s in Lyon. Paris’s mightiest brasseries long ago gave up grain for grape.
Beer is flowing in establishments with a young, energetic vibe
But things are changing. Breweries and bars are popping up throughout the city. It’s a young, energetic scene, exemplified by the annual Paris Beer Festival (formerly Paris Beer Week). That the name is in English rather than French is telling; much of Paris’s modern beer culture has more than a hint of Anglo-Saxon influence. That said, there’s a definite Gallic edge to places such as La Fine Mousse, an elegant bar and restaurant in the Marais, or breweries such as La Goutte d’Or, which uses ingredients reflecting the rich diversity of the local neighborhood.
The heart of this nascent Beervana can be found in northeast Paris, where rents are lower and the population younger. Around the Bassin de la Villette, a half-mile-long artificial lake in the 19th arrondissement, you’ll find Paname Brewing, a brewpub where the New England IPA is called Brexiteer (an example of how the French occasionally conflate “Anglo-Saxon” countries), and L’Atalante, with a huge outdoor terrace that fills up with young Parisians on summer evenings.
One of the most interesting breweries is Gallia: Originally founded in 1890, it was reestablished as a brand at the end of 2009. At first, the resurrected brand’s founders, Guillaume Roy and Jacques Ferté, focused on conservative pale lagers — but under head brewer Rémy Maurin, the range has expanded to encompass an impressive variety of flavors and styles.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed; in September, Heineken bought a minority share. Most bars in this city are tied to big brands such as Heineken or Kronenbourg. If they start offering customers the likes of Gallia, it’ll be a genuine game-changer.
It’s about time. Paris sits on the dividing line between northern Europe, where beer has traditionally held sway, and the wine-drinking south. Only Champagne, of France’s great wine regions, is further north, and it has (or had, until global warming) a fairly marginal grape-growing climate. This is natural beer country; it’s only right that Beaujolais, Bordeaux and the rest make room for la bière artisanale.
Will Hawkes is a freelance travel and drinks writer based in London.