Top 10 Best French Beers
Despite being revered for their excellent wine, French beer usually gets a bad rap abroad. And to be fair, almost 90% of beer consumed in France is mass-produced from a huge conglomerate like Heineken or 1664.
But that remaining ten percent still leaves room for hope, especially when you consider that beer making is an age-old tradition in many parts of France! And thanks to a crop up of microbreweries throughout France, there are a lot more options to choose from nowadays.
Read on to discover some French brewing traditions and the top 10 French beers.
1. La Bière des sans Culottes – Nord Pas de Calais
The first up on my top 10 French beers is a strong one. And with 9%ABV they’re not kidding around at La Choulette Brewery either. Pardon my French, but the bière des sans culottes roughly translates to: the panty dropper beer.
The North of France is known for its interesting accents and strong beer, this one is no exception. La Choulette brewery created la bière sans culottes back in 1983, and there are several varieties today. The most popular by far is the amber rendition, a deeply flavorful beer with plenty of malty notes.
2. La Cagole – Marseille
Hailing from Marseille in the south of France, La Cagole is a well-known microbrewery making three varieties of beer. Their most popular is the blonde ale which is refreshing and crisp. You an find La Cagole easily in supermarkets in the south, and many bars have it on tap as well. And a little history: a cagole is a brazen, fiesty woman in Marseillaise slang – you can’t miss the bright yellow label with a Marseillaise girl on it!
3. Bière des Trois Monts – Nord Pas de Calais
Easily one of the top 10 French beers is the hearty Trois Monts. This specific type of beer is called a bière de garde and was designed to be aged once bottled. Bière de garde dates back centuries. And hailing from the cooler northern region of France, they were usually corked and kept in cellars to age during the winter.
This special aging process results in a higher alcohol content and a noticeable malty flavor. Today the Bière des Trois Monts is one of the most popular bières de garde in France! You’ll find it in just about any supermarket. But beware, this one packs a punch at 8% ABV.
4. Licorne Black Beer – Alsace
One of the more original ones on my top 10 French beers is actually a black beer. Picture a Guinness in color, and add a subtle smokiness to the flavor and you’ve got Licorne Black Beer. And at 6%ABV it’s not so light either. But the very unique color and taste have gained Licorne somewhat of a cult following. Actually, this beer is made by Licorne Brasserie, and is one of the most famous in the Alsace region.
5. Barge du Canal – Paris
Born from Paname Brewing Company in Paris, the Barge du Canal is their signature beer. This is an IPA well-deserving of the title at 69 IBU. They use Citra and Cascade hops to get just the right amount of bitterness. Overall, the result is refreshing and hoppy with a light citrus taste; the perfect IPA.
While easily one of the best French beers, this one isn’t all too easy to find outside Paris. My recommendation is to enjoy a cold one on site at Paname Brewing Co. They’ve got a great microbrewery set up right on the banks of the Bassin de la Vilette. If you’re not able to make it to Paris, you can order their beers online, and usually find them in specialty beer shops.
6. Triple Grain Blonde – Lyon
A triple style beer is actually a Belgian brewing method. Usually heavy, malty and almost caramel like in flavor, this style of beer was invented by Belgian monks centuries ago. Since then, the traditions have been passed down, and triple style beers are popular all over France.
This particular Triple Grain Blonde comes from Brasserie Dulion, in Lyon. The triple style still makes it a strong beer at 9% ABV, but the taste is anything but overpowering and heavy. Dulion makes all organic beer, with certified regional products, and without malt. This gives their beers a true sense of terroir, you can taste where they come from! Some of their beers are gluten free, too.
7. Originale – Paris
Originale is the shining star of Maison BAPBAP, a Parisian microbrewery. This beer was one of their first, and it’s been a steadfast favorite with locals over the years. This simple pale ale is a self-described combination of smooth Belgian ales and the hoppier, almost spicy American beers. The result is a light and crisp pale ale, not too hoppy, not too bitter and not too strong at 5.9%ABV.
Most Parisian supermarkets now stock Maison BAPBAP, but you can find them in any craft beer shop. Better yet, stop into their microbrewery and see for yourself.
8. Gallia Lager – Paris
Paris used to be home to many a brewery, and for many years you could get a decent beer at your corner cafe. Or so I’m told. Gallia is one of the places from the good old days dating back to 1890! The Parisian microbrewery started making beer again in 2009, and Gallia has been one of the top 10 French beers ever since.
Their lager in particular can be found just about anywhere, and satisfies a craving for a tasty craft beer. Balanced and with a crisp finish, this lager is the perfect companion for a Parisian picnic.
9. Britt Blanche – Brittany
Britt Blanche is a classic white beer hailing from Brittany, one of France’s westernmost regions. This is a classic wheat beer made with buckwheat malt, which gives it a more unique taste. Actually, Britt Blanche is one of the most popular beers in Brittany, and you’ll find it on tap in just about any pub there. At 4.7%, this is a popular lunchtime beer. You can also find it in supermarkets, there’s an adorable puffin on the label which makes it hard to miss.
10. Bière Blonde Extra Bellerose – Nord Pas de Calais
No surprise that another one of our top 10 French beers hails from the North of the country. As I mentioned before, this region is very close to Belgium, and is reputed for their expert beer brewing abilities.
The Bière blonde extra from Bellerose brewery illustrates the local techniques perfectly. This is a classic Belgian style blond beer which is slightly malty but still refreshing. If you’re a fan of IPA and want to try Belgian beers, this may be a good place to start.