About French Beer

France: Beers to Keep

Although France is not one of Europe’s major brewing nations, brewing is still an important activity in some regions of the country. Most of the pale, pilsner-like beers that are widely consumed in French cafés are from the Alscae region, located along the German border in the northeastern part of the country. As a result, many French beers are brewed with a strong German influence. Fischer and Kronenbourg are the most popular “bière d’Alsace” brands that consumers could encounter in the United States.

Northern France—including French Flanders, Picardy and the Pas de Calais—is home to a style of beer known as “bière de garde” (“beer for keeping”) that is treasured by beer connoisseurs. Once an endangered style, bière de garde underwent a revival in the latter half of the 20th century and is among France’s greatest and most distinctive beer styles. Spicy, strong, malt-accented and packaged in 750ml bottles with a wire-caged cork stopper, these beers can cosmetically pass as Belgian ales. At least half a dozen of the 20 or so producers of biere de garde export to the United States.
Top Picks for France
Brasserie Pietra
Colomba Blanche
Hazy golden straw color. Startling aromas of salami sandwich with a supple, dryish medium-to-full body and a savory, complex finish with layers of salty baguette, spice, herb, grassy. Amazing and unique. An incredible food beer.
Date Tasted: 7/11/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
Le Brun
French Brut Cidre de Bretagne
Minutely hazy light gold color. Bright, musty aromas and flavors of baked apples, apples on the tree, root cellar, and suede with a silky, vibrant, effervescent, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a tingling, intriguing, medium-long birch bark, lemon grass, chalk, and marinated golden beets finish. A complex, savory cider that will triumph at the table.
Date Tasted: 4/20/2016 in our Chicago tasting lab
Manoir de Grandouet
Cidre Pays d'Auge AOP
Minutely hazy golden amber color. Complex aromas and flavors of overripe apple, warm leather and Band-Aid, haystack in a field, and lemon basil vinegar with a soft, bright, bubbly, fruity sweet medium-to-full body and a tingling, complex, medium-length grass, honeyed mashed apple, and nutskin finish. A rich, complex French cider with great depth and table appeal.
Date Tasted: 5/2/2016 in our Chicago tasting lab
Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre
3 Monts Grande Réserve Amber Ale
Minutely hazy golden amber color. Aromas of homemade apple sauce, banana souffle, and delicate nutmeg with a frothy, supple fruity-yet-dry medium-to-full body and a long, snappy toffee, honey, lettuce, grass, and lemon curd and pepper finish. Fantastic.
Date Tasted: 5/25/2011 in our Chicago tasting lab
Louis Raison
"Rouge Délice" French Cidre
Copper color. Mild, fruity aromas and flavors of baked apples, fruit leather, spiced cashews, and hint of cider vinegar with a velvety, vibrant, finely carbonated, moderately sweet medium-to-full body and a smooth, amusing, medium-long orange blossom honey, pecan pie, and caramel apple finish. Rich, tangy, nicely concentrated off-dry rose cider that is a delight to drink.
Date Tasted: 5/13/2016 in our Chicago tasting lab
Manoir de Grandouet
Cidre Fermier Brut
Minutely hazy old gold color. Bright aromas and flavors of leather-bound book in an attic, barnyard hay bandage, lemon spritzed apple, and cashew fruit with a satiny, crisp, bubbly, dryish light-to-medium body and a seamless, engaging, long kiwi-apple vinaigrette on arugula, mossy stones, blood orange zest, and nut skin finish. A savory, elegantly balanced cider with a long finesseful finish.
Date Tasted: 5/2/2016 in our Chicago tasting lab
Clos Normand Hard Cider
Golden amber color. Aromas of dark caramelized apples, golden raisins, honeycomb, and creme brulee crust with a supple, moderately carbonated, fruity-yet-dry medium body and a tangy, earthy, praline and limestone accented finish. A nicely composed cider for the table.
Date Tasted: 10/9/2013 in our Chicago tasting lab
Cidre Rosé
Bright medium copper red color. Rich, complex, attractive aromas of honeyed roasted apples and nuts, wild strawberry puree, golden raisin, and peach with an racy, fizzy, very sweet medium-to-full body and a polished, complex, long sour cherry compote, green apple skin, and Meyer lemon marmalade finish. An amazingly rich and vibrant red cider with great mouthwatering acidity and length.
Date Tasted: 5/2/2016 in our Chicago tasting lab
Le Brun
Organic Cidre
Brilliant golden amber color. Bright, attractive, fruity aromas and flavors of tart tartin and buttercream with a silky, crisp, finely carbonated, fruity medium body and a smooth, charming, medium-length honeyed kiwi and nuts, melon and quince, grassy earth, and herbal tea finish. A complex, nuanced cider with a solid core of fruit.
Date Tasted: 4/20/2016 in our Chicago tasting lab
Brasserie Castelain
Castelain Grand Cru Blonde Biere de Garde
Bright amber gem color. Lovely aromas of toasted fruit custard pastry and delicate peppery spice with a supple, fruity-yet-dry medium-to-full body and long, mouthwatering citrus soufflé, pepper, and grassy hop flourish. A delicious seamless sipper or table Old World beer.
Date Tasted: 5/16/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab