One of my biggest fears moving to France for a year was that I would be almost 5,000 miles from all of the kick-ass beer being brewed daily in Colorado, and the rest of the United States. The names of breweries I would miss seasonal releases from fell from my lips like lost friends. Having to go a winter with out a bottle or two of Montanya from Elevation Beer Company would be painful. Not getting to crack open a can of Avery IPA seems almost criminal, and don’t even get me started lamenting my loss of sours.
Sure wine is nice, but beer is better, and lets face it…the Europeans might have once been the leaders in brewing, but the rebels and misfits of the craft beer movement in America are the undisputed kings now.
All of these thoughts were going through my head as I frantically packed my belongings in early August ahead of my exodus to the continent. My first impressions upon arrival did nothing to ease my fears. The people we are trading houses with for the year thoughtfully stocked the fridge with beer for me. It was Carlsberg, a flavorless brew that would be hard to distinguish from Budweiser in a blind taste test. Stopping in for a beer at our local brasserie was equally distressing. Three beers were on tap—Pelican, Heineken, and Stella Artois. Pretty thin selection.
But, then something happened. One of my neighbors asked me if I had the local beer, the one produced one village away. He pulled a flavorful bomber of saison out of his fridge and cracked the crown. Golden hued, excellent nose, and full flavored it was a brew that many brewers in Colorado would have been proud of. The brewery Chiniacum had only been in operation for less than a year.
I dug deeper, maybe there was something going on here.
Over the next month I discovered that there are almost 600 small microbreweries operating in France alone. Most are still in the infancy stages, just starting to play with full-bodied IPA’s and I have yet to find one barrel aged beer yet, but it seems that craft beer is making inroads. The road to success is a steep one here. Large brewing conglomerates control most bars and restaurants, the Belgian beers dominate the grocery stores, and honestly most French have yet to embrace beer. It seems undignified one of my newfound friends told me.
That does not seem to be stopping the pioneers of craft beer here though. Much like the trailblazers in America during the late 70’s and early 80’s they are making good beer for the love of it. Pure and simple. With passion like that they can’t fail.
So over this next year I will be writing about my search for great beer in France, and the rest of Europe as I traipse around. Hopefully I will be able to pass along some valuable beta to you on the way.