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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Biere - Beer. Ordering a Beer in France? All the French you need to know.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated February 2018.

Draft beer.
Photograph by Ahmet Guler from

Towards the end of this post on French beer, there is a short introduction to Belgian beer.

You may, correctly, assume that France drinks more wine than beer but France still produces over 2,000 different beers. Every French department has its own craft beers though more than 75% of the beer consumed in France comes from the large producers. The well-known French beers include Kanterbraü owned by Danone and producing more than 7 different beers. Gayant, an independent producing more than 11 different beers.  Castelain is another independent producing more than 7 different beers and last, but not least is Kronenbourg, owned by Carlsberg and brewing, in France, more than 8 different beers.

Wikipedia has a site where you may click on the name of each French region, choose a department and find the names of all the beers produced there. Many of the names follow through to links with additional information.  The site is only in French. You may use Bing or Google translate apps, but it is hardly needed. To reach the site click here.

In France, even the ducks drink beer.
Beers, in France, are described by their color, and that includes lager beers. French breweries produce lager beers, but they are still grouped according to their color. A brewery is a brasserie in French, though many brasseries are not breweries.  For more about the restaurants called brasseries click here
Microbrasserie  - A microbrewery.

Bar à BièresA bar that only sells beer.

Restobiere - A restaurant that specializes in beer.
All the French you need to order beer in France:
Bière – Beer. In France, unless you specifically request a foreign beer you will be served French beer.  In a tabac or small restaurant, they may only have French beers.

Choose your beer in France.

Beer Sizes
Chope or Pinte – A large beer, 500cl. N.B. A pinte is not the same measure as a UK or USA pint.  (In France, beer does NOT come in pints. A French pinte has a history unrelated to American or UK pints. A pinte in France is today 500cl).
Demi (un) –. Half a chope. One-quarter of a liter, 250cl of beer.

Types of beer.
Bière Ambre   - A reddish amber beer
Bière Blanche – A white beer, like a German weissbier. A beer made with at least 50% wheat.

Bière Blonde – A light colored beer.
Bière Brune - A dark beer.  A brown beer that may be from brown mahogany to ebony black.

1664 beer.
Bière Panachée or Panachée – This is the French equivalent of a British shandy.  A mixture of beer with one of the local equivalents of 7-Up. You may buy it made up.

Bière Pression,  Bière à la Pression  or Bières au Fût – Draft beers.      
Bière sans Alcool – Alcohol-free beer
Bières Bouteilles - Bottled beers.
Bières du Monde – Beers from around the world.

Oysters and beer.

Salut - Cheers - L'Chaim – Skol
Photograph by Nicholas Tarling from

Most French beers have alcohol contents between 4-6%, at least that is what was written on the labels of the beers that I have tried. Since France has alcohol free, including one made by Coca-Cola, so I am sure there are some with less than 4%.

France also has quite a number of companies that produce bière sans alcool, alcohol-free beer, including Coca-Cola France. Coca-Cola itself is alcohol-free; however, that was not true when Coca-Cola began.

Coca-Cola’s French alcohol-free beer
Bière Belge - Belgian Beer.
Belgium is justifiably famous for its beer and its cuisine; some of my early introductions to a well-prepared table were in Ostende, Belgium.
My introduction to the wide variety of Belgian beers came after my introduction to Belgian cuisine.  After a wonderful introduction to Belgium’s French-accented cuisine, I am always ready to accept anything from Belgium with an open mind.   Within France, there are many successful Belgian chain restaurants selling their very popular moules frites, mussels and French fries; they also sell Belgian beers.  N.B. The standard beer sizes in the French-speaking part of Belgium are different to those in France.                

Moules frites, mussels and French fries with a beer.
Photograph courtesy of Med PhotoBlog
There are more than 650 Belgian Beers, more than all the registered cheeses in France, and Belgium has a much smaller population.  By my calculations, one out of every ten Belgian families must have a member involved in making beer, and the rest must be drinking it.

Belgian beer
The Belgian beer brewing tradition, like that of other countries, goes back centuries, however, the Belgians developed their beer in ways others never even considered.  I think the fruit-flavored beers of Belgium are quite unique, and Belgium also has beers they recommend as aperitifs, beers they drink with sugar, and others they serve in champagne flutes!
Those who are genuinely interested in Belgian beer, should visit Belgium for a couple of years and try them all.  This is the experience that I am told is of crucial importance for anyone who cares to understand the Belgium psyche.

Beer on sale in Belgium.

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
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