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Paris has one very well-known set of brew-pubs, the Frogpubs chain. It appears from their website that they are very much aimed at serving British-style beers to visiting Brits. Since I would no more want to visit a British pub in Paris than I would an ’Irish’ pub in London, I avoided this chain completely. I did, however, visit two other brewpubs. The first, La Fabrique (53 rue Faubourg-St-Antonine, Bastille Metro) is a dark, bare-boards bar with very loud modern disco music making conversation difficult. I sampled their Blanche (1/4l, €4) which is a cloudy wheat beer that was refreshing but bland. Whether the flavour was helped or hindered by the slice of lemon put in it is uncertain. Probably worth a visit if you’re into the ’yoof’ scene and don’t value your eardrums, otherwise not really of interest.
Update I have since been informed that this bar no longer brews on the premises.
Finally, I visited a bar whose name might have led me to think it was a ’plastic paddy’. O’Neil (20 rue des Canettes, St Germain des Prés Metro) is part of the 3 Brasseurs group, which also has brewpubs in Strasbourg, Lille and Lomme. The brewing vessels sit in a tiled area immediately behind the window, so a good view of the brewing process can be had if you visit at the right time. This is another fairly dark place (although nowhere near as dark as La Fabrique) with a lot of wood-panelling. It looks in parts a bit like you might imagine a Dutch Brown Café to have looked before it got covered with a century’s worth of nicotine. Four regular beers are brewed, as well as two occasional ones (spéciale and bock.) The beers are un-pasteurised, but give the impression of being kept under pressure, albeit not so much as to make them excessively gassy. They are served in two sizes, Le demi being 25cl and La chope 40cl. You can also buy une Palette of three or four different beers in 15cl sample glasses. It’s worth noting that the price here goes up after 9PM (although the menu says 8) so that une chope of a middle-priced beer would go from €3.96 to €4.88. I enjoyed the beers (and the relatively low - by Paris standards - prices) enough to come back, so I got to try all four available beers. La Blonde is a very light beer rather like Oakham JHB with la lower hop rate. La Blanche is an enjoyable cloudy wheat beer which happily doesn’t come with a slice of lemon. L’ambrée is, as its name suggests, a deep amber beer with a lot of maltiness in the flavour. Finally La Brune, described in the menu as having Irish influences (we’re getting worryingly near to plastic paddy territory here) actually tasted to me more like a strong mild than the stout the menu implies. This was my outright favourite and the last night of my holiday was spent emptying chope after chope of the stuff. Lovely !
In conclusion, while Paris can’t compete with such great beer cities as Brussels or Antwerp, it certainly has enough bars worth visiting to keep the discerning beer-lover happy. It’s a shame there aren’t more beers from France’s craft brewers available, but that’s not really a situation much different to most other European capitals. The Metro system is excellent for getting about, with no point in the city more than 500 metres from a station and trains running at intervals of little more than a minute. Every metro station has very clear maps of the area, so there’s no difficulty navigating. Paris has a reputation as a place where the service tends to be surly, but I found the opposite to be the case in nearly all the bars I visited. It’s certainly very expensive, but for my part it was nice to finally get the chance to spend some Euros and has reinforced my view that the sooner Britain adopts this excellent idea, the better.