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
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
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
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
Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre
Gavroche French Red Ale
Deep amber color. Aromas of apricot butter, nut brittle, water chestnut, tamari and fig bread with a supple, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a zesty ripe citrus, peach, apple, white chocolate and delicate peppery spice finish. A delicious food beer, try with chicken of salmon teriyakis.
Date Tasted: 5/25/2011 in our Chicago tasting lab
Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre
3 Monts Classic Golden Ale
Radiant golden yellow color with a superfine white mousse. Scintillating aromas and flavors of apple and pear jams and ciders, toasted bread crust, souffle, artichoke, and delicate anise and pepper with a silky, lightly fruity medium-to-full body and a tangy honeyed kiwi and melon finish. Delicious and super food friendly.
Date Tasted: 5/25/2011 in our Chicago tasting lab
Brasserie Duyck
Jenlain Blonde
Pale amber color. Complex aromas of spicy, yeasty orange cake, nut butter, and honeyed bread crust with a silky fruity medium-to-full body and a tangy, peach, clementine, and spice layered finish with earth hops keeping the fruit in check.
Date Tasted: 7/17/2012 in our Chicago tasting lab
Celt Thirsty Warrior
Hard Cider
Gold color. Lively, fruity, nutty aromas of baked apples and citrus and honeyed nuts with an even, bright, spritzy, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and an effortless, appealing, medium-length brown sugar, starfruit, chalk, and wintergreen finish. A pleasant cider for the table.
Date Tasted: 9/30/2015 in our Chicago tasting lab