Craft beer is booming in France. ‘Biére artisanale’ is experiencing a surge in popularity similar to that of the United Kingdom and the United States.
But why has craft beer become so popular in recent years, especially in a country recognised the world over for its fine wines? Many people may be surprised to know that France does have its own rich history of brewing. In fact, at the end of the 19th century, France was home to no less than 2,827 breweries. However, over the years, more and more breweries had to close, until just 23 remained by the mid 1970s.
The craft beer boom
Today, microbreweries are beginning to reappear across the country. This is in response to a new consumer demand – the desire for higher-end, quality products that offer a variety of tastes and flavours.
Craft beers are being brewed in microbreweries throughout France, including Brasserie Bourganel, Brasserie Castelain, and Brasserie La Choulette. Each one is known for its high quality beers, created to satisfy this new demand.
Additionally, France imports craft beers from neighbouring countries such as Belgium, where beer brewing is well established. In fact, one third of all Belgian beer exports in 2012 went to France. This importation of craft beers from around Europe and the United States has enabled this new and diverse market to thrive.
Bars and restaurants have started to offer complete beer menus that sit alongside the traditional wine menu and feature a diverse range of local and international speciality beers. And, in January this year, Paris’ first specialist craft beer bar opened its doors. La Fine Mousse, offers a selection of 20 craft beers on tap and nearly 150 bottled varieties as well as events such as brewery nights, brewing classes, and tastings – all to meet the ever-growing demand for all things beer-related.
Although there are far fewer craft beer festivals in France than the UK or Belgium, specialist beer events are also becoming more frequent. These festivals include Namur Capital of Beer, which showcases a wide selection of specialist and Trappist beers. The festival aims to facilitate the tasting of new beers and to educate the public about craft brewing techniques.
World Beer Mulhouse is a festival celebrating microbreweries and small-scale breweries, offering more than 500 beers for both old and new fans to sample. Another popular event is Oktoberfest Schiltigheim, which features craft and speciality beers, coupled with regional cuisines. Events like these are helping to support the spread of craft beers and their production by independent microbreweries and local brewers.
What does the craft beer boom mean for France?
The revival in ‘biére artisanale’ has brought quality brews to bars and restaurants across France, but particularly in Paris. It has also spurred the creation of microbreweries and home-brewing across the country. People are looking to explore a more diverse range of beers with new flavours and aromas. As long as the quality and consistency of craft beer is maintained, this beer renaissance will surely be here to stay.