The last thing the world needs is another blog post about Paris.
Nobody generously spending their time to read these opening sentences needs me to tell them what to see in Paris or rehash the same advice that exists all over the internet. But I am not here to talk about Paris. I am here to talk about Dionysian Paris, that hidden part of Paris little regarded when it comes to itinerary planning. That side of Paris where Dionysus roams and inspires divine madness.
Dionysus was (is?) the Greek God of wine, and this also seems to include all intoxicating beverages depending on how loosely you regard his Godly powers. If you research the Greek God of Beer, however, you will find an assortment of somewhat vague references. Silenus, the tutor of Dionysus, is credited as being the Greek God of Beer by some other beer blogs. I haven’t really found an academic resource which clearly states that, although Silenus is characterized by his persistent drunkenness. It seems that it is more a matter of interpretation or perhaps preference who the Greek God of Beer is, but the Greek God of Wine is without a doubt Dionysus.
Paris is probably the last city on Earth one would consider as a beer pilgrimage. For a tourist thirsty for a beer but sticking to the beaten path, the selection will mainly be Kronenbourg, Pelforth, and Grimbergen. Not exactly exciting for the average beer pilgrim. Why, anyway, would one visit Paris for beer?
Paris to me is a bit like Venice in that what interests me about it is not so much the sites themselves (although they are spectacular) but how you experience those sites. The Eiffel Tower, for example, is not a site existing for the benefit of a selfie. It is a place that I want to trigger an emotional response. What were the circumstances of my visit? Was I with someone? What was going on in my life at the time? And of course one of my favorite emotional responses is appreciation.
I am fortunate to live within a high-speed train ride of just over two hours. So Paris is a city that I can choose to see more or less whenever I want. Just like most places in our backyard, we tend not to take advantage of such privileges, but I seem to manage a visit every 1-2 years. Paris is everything you imagine it is and more, but the one thing it is definitely NOT is a great beer city.
Back in July, I had the opportunity to spend the weekend in Paris at the tail end of a business trip and I used that opportunity to focus on exploring the beer culture of Paris rather than the usual site-seeing. As with any big tourist destination these days, craft beer bars are springing up everywhere and Paris is no exception. While there is still no signature Parisian brewery, one you associate with the city like Carlsberg and Mikkeller are for Copenhagen or Heineken for Amsterdam, there are actually a few breweries to be found. Paris is not going to become a sacred Beer Pilgrimage, but there is definitely enough to keep a beer pilgrim buzzed and distracted from all the tourist hype.
- Black Mug: Visited breweries
- Red Mug: Great places to drink beer
- Yellow Mug: Beer bottle shops
- Grey Mug: Intriguing pilgrimages but haven’t visited yet
Paname Brewing Company
PBC is an artisenal beer restaurant sitting along the Bassin de la Villette canal in the northeast part of Paris. It is a lovely walk from the Jaurès Metro stop. Lots of people lounging along the canal doing what people do when they lounge along water. Picnicking, drinking, playing music, frolicking, etc. You also get the feeling that most of the people are locals content to stay in their hoppy corner (foreshadow) of the city away from the tourist mobs. If you want to have a beer in a festive location a la the Feast of Bacchus/Dionysus and with a good view, then PBC is a must pilgrimage. I didn’t eat the food there, but it claims to have street food style pizzas, burgers, and so on.
This brewery sits along the Boulevard de Ménilmontant and is easy to get to from either the Ménilmontant or Père Lachaise metro stops. The latter is also the stop for the cemetery where Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Honoré de Balzac are buried. This is another vibrant area with a lot of restaurants and people watching. Le Fine Mousse, a beer bar featured below, is also just a short walk away.
There are a few other breweries that I missed or were not open to visitors at the time of my visit. Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or, WAB: We Are Brewers, and Maison BAPBAP.
Parisian Beer Bars
Neither a gambling hall nor a laundromat, Le Supercoin seems to always be high on the list of best beer bars in Paris on the internet. This is not a high-end craft beer bar, however. This is a small hole-in-the-wall kind of place with a modest selection. It is also located in a very culturally diverse neighborhood which makes it feel a little out of place but makes the trek to find it a vibrant experience.
Just a few blocks from Le Supercoin, Le Barbylone has a bit more of the atmosphere you expect from a craft beer bar. It didn’t hurt that they had a porter on tap with the word donuts in it. This was the best beer of the weekend!
La Fine Mousse
La Fine Mousse is arguably my favorite of the Parisian craft beer bars. It sits on a cozy corner, has a good atmosphere inside and out, and a very good selection of beers, highlighted by beers from the wonderful Swedish craft brewery Omnipollo.
This is the first of a series of craft beer bars north of the Louvre area that I visited after abandoning the idea of waiting in a huge line for the Louvre’s free Saturday evening entry (1st Saturday of every month). If you can manage to spot this bar with its optical illusion name on an otherwise unassuming storefront on the tiny Rue des Petits Carreaux, you will find a decent craft beer bar.
I.B.U. sits on an L-shaped street called Cour des Petites Ecuries which used to be the location of King Louis XVI’s stables. This street is another area with a lot of interesting restaurants. I.B.U., however, feels a little too bland in its presentation.
Just a short walk from I.B.U. is Tony, a taproom for the Gallia Brewery. It would be great if it had some street-side seating as the neighborhood is quite bustling, but the inside is cozy and friendly.
Hall’s Beer Tavern
Hall’s has a mixture of commercial and craft beers and is located in the busy area between Le Centre Pompidou and the Chatelet – Les Halles train station. Great people watching spot.
The Great Canadian Pub
Listed here because it is a pretty cool English-style pub with its own house beer, TGC Blonde. It is also on the left bank of the Seine which is not well-represented with good beer bars. This one is near the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Parisian Bottle Shops
Caves A Bieres
Caves A Bieres is a combination pub, restaurant, and bottle shop. This is on the busy and touristy Rue de Buci and the only bottle shop featured which is on the left bank of the Seine.
A La Biere Comme A La Biere
This was probably the best bottle shop that I visited and can easily be combined with visits to Le Supercoin and Le Barbylone.
The beer pictures in this post cover a period of a day and a half in Paris, and they were not the only ones. Clearly there was no shortage of beer pilgrimages in Paris, but they do seem to lack a certain continuity with the environment, that Parisian experience, as if Dionysus pays little attention to his beer-drinking followers in Paris. Maybe the hierarchy of wine over beer in the divine realm is paralleled in Paris. Think about it. Beer is more likely to be drank by guys in baseball caps and cargo shorts and not Italian sportcoats. Nowadays beer tries to be sophisticated like wine, with complex aromas, colors, and ingredients, but wine will always be associated with elegance and romance, which is exactly what Paris represents. Paris is about emotion, wonder, and sophisticated beauty. Perhaps Paris is the most Dionysian of all cities in the truest sense of the word. It is a city which feels more natural in a dress shirt sipping a glass of wine than in a pair of lederhosen chugging a liter of beer. But that’s ok, my friends. We’ll always have Munich and Prague. And they can rest easy on their beer thrones for now. Somehow, I think the God of Wine prefers it that way anyway.