Sunday, June 17, 2012

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

                                          Ordering beer in France
Towards the end of this short post on French beer, there is a short introduction to Belgian beer.    
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman   
Draft beer.
Photograph by Ahmet Guler from
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.
Chope – A large beer
Demi (un) -A half liter of beer.
Bière Blonde – A lager beer.
Bières Bouteilles - Bottled beers.
Bière Brune - A dark beer.
Bières du Monde – Beers from around the world.
Bière Panachée or Panachée – This is the French equivalent of a British shandy. This is a mixture of beer with one of the local equivalents of 7-Up. You may buy it made up, or mix it yourself.

Bière Pression or Bière à la Pression - Draft beer
Bière sans Alcool – Alcohol-free beer

Salut - Cheers - L'Chaim - Skol
Photograph by Nicholas Tarling from
Well-known French beers include Kanterbraü, it is owned by Danone and produces more than 7 different beers. Then there is Gayant, an independent that produces over 11 different beers.  Castelain, another independent produces over 7 different beers and  last but not least is Kronenbourg, owned by Carlsberg and producing, in France, over 8 different beers. I will have missed some producers out, and I apologize, but they will be among the smaller independents. I am no beer maven but I have enjoyed some of these French beers; that being said I have also enjoyed Australian, British, Belgian American, Russian, Italian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Spanish, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese and Chinese beers.

Choose your beer in France.
Photograph courtesy of  Blanc23.
From what I have been told, in France, the big four noted above have close to 75% of the market between themselves.   The other brewers are smaller and most are independents; these independents together with imports, and a growing number of micro-breweries hold the rest.
Advert for 1664 Beer.
Photograph courtesy of jpearl.
 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; despite that I am sure there are some with less.  France also has quite a number of companies that produce bière sans alcool, alcohol-free beer, including Coca-Cola France. I believe that Coca-Cola itself is also alcohol-free; however, that was not true when Coca-Cola began.

Coca-Cola’s French alchol 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 was 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 they also sell Belgian beers. A separate post  covers write France's love affair with mussels as well as mussels with  French fries.

Moules frites, mussels and French fries with 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 beers on sale.
Photograph courtesy of tarchamps.
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 truly 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.

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