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 June 2019.
Bière Pression,  Bière à la Pression  or Bières au Fût 
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 drinks a lot of beer and 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 department and find the names of all the beers produced there along with the type of beer and alcohol content. Many of the names follow through to links with additional information.  The site is only in French and you can, of course, use the Bing or Google translate apps, but it is hardly needed. To reach the site click here.

The translation of beer types such as amber, blonde, and porter etc, are noted below.
In France, even the ducks drink beer.
Photograph courtesy of Pierre
Beers, in France, are described by their color, and that includes lager beers. French breweries produce lager beers grouped according to their color. A brewery is a brasserie in French, though most 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.
Now, all the French you need to order a 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.
Photograph courtesy of Stefan

Beer Sizes

To order a beer just say “Une bière s’il vous plait, “ pronounced oon beer sil voo play.
Galopin or Bock – The smallest measure of beer you can order,125 ml. A galopin may be on a menu listing when offered as an alternative to a glass of wine included in the price of a meal..
Chope or Pinte – A large beer, half a liter, 500ml.  N.B. The French pinte is not the same measure as a UK or USA pint.  (Despite what some guide-books would have you believe French beers do NOT come in UK or USA pints). The French pinte is an old measure whose use ended with Napoleon's introduction of the metric system. Today, a French pinte, when it is used to order a beer is 500ml.
Demi (Un) – Half a chope. One-quarter of a liter, 250ml of beer.

Parfait, Formidable or Double Pinte –  1000ml, one liter.
Verre de Bière (Un) - A glass of beer, usually 330ml; the size of many bottled beers. (N.B. France's bottled beers come in sizes of 250ml, 330ml, 500ml, and 750ml with a few even larger).

Types of beer.
This list covers the most conventional beers.  There are many other beers that like some Belgian beers are made with fruits, herbs, and additions such a whisky, whiskey, or Champagne.
Bière Ambrée - Amber colored beer. The taste and color are affected by the percentage of roasted malt included in the brew.
Bière Blanche – A white beer; like German weissbiers made with at least 50% wheat.
Bière Blonde – Light colored beers that are often translated as lager beers.  However, occasionally confusion reigns as other beers with the same color may be Trappist’s ale or Lambic beers.
Bière Brune - A dark beer.  A brown beer with a color anywhere from brown mahogany to ebony black.
Bière Dunkelweizen – A French take on the Munich and chocolate malt beers combined to create a dark amber-brown maltier version of the lighter Hefeweizen beer.

Bière Porter – A brown malt beer; the same as some UK porters.
Bière Rouse – A red colored malt beer.
1664 beer.
Beer on menus:
Bières Bouteilles - Bottled beers.
Bières du Monde – Beers from around the world.
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. Make your own or buy it made up.
Bière Pression,  Bière à la Pression  or Bières au Fût – Draft beers.      
Bière sans Alcool – Alcohol-free beer.
Canette de Bière - A can of beer.  Mostly sold in sizes from 330ml  to 500ml.
Oysters and beer.
Photograph courtesy of Wil
À votre santé - Salut -  Cheers - L'Chaim – Skol
Photograph by Nicholas Tarling from

Most French beers have alcohol contents between 4-9%, the percentage is on the label. France also has alcohol free beers, including one made by Coca-Cola.
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 and Belgian beer were in Ostende, Belgium.
My introduction to the wide variety of Belgian beers came after my introduction to Belgian cuisine.  Belgium’s French-accented cuisine is so good that 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 and, of course, they also sell Belgian beers.  N.B. The standard beer sizes in the French-speaking part of Belgium are different from 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
Photograph courtesy of Bernt Rostad
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.
Photograph courtesy of ERIC FORGET


Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2012, 2018, 2019.

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1 comment:

  1. all beermaking goes back centuries...not only Belgian. The question here was how to correctly (or "in accord with local normalcy") order a beer in France. It's no point asking for 'un biere" when the place doesn't sell it....if tap beer, simply ask for un pression or un demi... "un pression" if you forget.If you want a specific beer it is unlikely you'll find it in the alps or deep country unless they happen just to have it....and some do have a small range. Voila