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Paris Beer Week | Forget the pinot noir, now you can get a good pint in Paris

Paris Beer Week | Forget the pinot noir, now you can get a good pint in Paris
Kate Robinson

Tasteless? Unrefined? Too filling? Probably not how you’d describe the majority of the beer you’re used to drinking. After the all-too-common declaration “Oh, I don’t like it,” these are fairly standard reactions to beer in France, where wine still gets all the attention.

Although a spirit of creativity and experimentation permeates the French craft beer community, negative stereotypes about beer persist among the general public: it’s seen as uninteresting swill for a hot day or to accompany a football match. Many Parisians aren’t even aware that there are nearly a dozen craft breweries operating in their own backyard.

Outside of Europe, France’s reputation for beer isn’t much better: people tend to skip right over it on their way to Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic. But now there’s something to give them pause in France: in the last few years, hundreds of breweries have popped up all around the country, with no fewer than 11 in the Paris region alone. Naturally, this calls for a celebration. And so Paris Beer Week, the city’s first-ever craft beer festival, was born.

“We want to make a big impact and let people know that Paris finally has a craft beer movement,” says Romain Lebel, president of Bières et Papilles, the group overseeing organization of the festival. The city’s craft beer community, which counts a growing number of brewers, bottle shops, bars and restaurants, has put together a full week of events celebrating craft beer: tastings, conferences, a homebrew competition, films, tours, brewing demonstrations, brewer evenings and more. Over 30 brewers will be present at the week’s closing event, the Paris International Beer Celebration, a full day of workshops for professionals and the public that will end on a festive note with a late-night DJ session.

Paris Beer Week gives those of us who love craft beer an excuse to indulge for a week, and both home-brewers and professionals an extra incentive to brew. “We thought we’d have 30 submissions for the homebrew competition,” says Grégoire Gelineau, a local home-brewer who’s been organizing the contest. At last count, there were 62 entries and samples came from participants in France, across Europe and even the United States. On the pro- side, Paris’s 11 craft breweries got together in April to brew a special beer just for the festival: La 11 (The Eleven) is named for the eleven hops added (one by one) to the beer, each one a brewer’s symbolic signature. It will be available for purchase during the festival.

Paris Beer Week will certainly be a lot of fun, but there’s a serious desire on the part of all the Paris Beer Week participants to dispel misconceptions about beer in France and reach a new audience. “We want to get a lot of people to taste beer and hopefully change their perception of it,” says Jaclyn Gidel of Biérocratie, a bottle shop in the 13th arrondissement. “We’d like to show them that we can talk about beer the same way we talk about wine.”

So if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris at the end of May, be sure to get in on the action. If you miss out on Paris Beer Week, don’t worry—this is only the beginning!

Paris Beer Week will take place May 24 to June 1, 2014. Visit the website for a full event listing. 

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