Beer Warrior hops the Channel

Fizzy French Lager beer, well that’s what we call it in our house. French bottled bieres, you either love them but either way they’re here and looks like they’re here to stay.

Even before the trade barriers were swept away in 1992 the duty free allowance for beers and ciders was fifty litres encouraging Channel hopping instead of popping to the offie.

Since these restrictions were lifted, hiring a van and nipping over to the hypermarkets of Calais and Boulogne seems to have become something of a national pastime. Even the local supermarkets appear to be full of crate upon crate of the stuff. In among the endless lists of labels some are worth looking out for. These can be divided into three types:-

First up there is biere blonde, the classic fizzy French lager beer. It is light, crisp, golden and very fizzy. ABV is normally about 5%. The best biere blondes come from the Alsace region on the France-German border. The Kronenburg brewery in Strasbourg produces many of them, not all of them under their own name, so a supermarket own-brand from Strasbourg is most likely to be Kronenburg.

Next comes my personal favourite, biere brune, older than the more popular fizzy French lager beer and stronger with an average ABV of about 6.5%. Biere brune has a lot in common with German altbeer with its darker colour and heavier flavour. Our closest equivalent would be a nut brown. Most popular and with good reason is Pelforth Brune, well worth a try.

Last, but not least, is biere rouge, more a barley wine than a beer and increasingly hard to find in what appears to be an internationally led lager conspiracy.

So, if you are thinking of hopping over The Channel for your Christmas booze, remember that while you are saving yourself a few quid, you’re not doing a great deal for the British brewing industry. Mine’s a pint of bitter.

Beer Warrior in France was Andy McIntosh

December ’95