France is best known for its wines. But what about French beers? “La bière” is also a popular drink in France… Let’s go over the French beer vocabulary, and how to order a beer in France.
So you are more of a beer drinker than a French wine drinker? No problem, you’ll find beer everywhere in France. There are a lot of regional beer microbreweries, and larger popular French beer brands (although we do also drink all kinds of foreign beers).
1 – French Beer Vocabulary
In French, we use a lot of English words to describe beer… So I listed here some of the words that can be different. For more, I suggest your check out Wikipedia.
- La bière – beer
- Une bière – a beer, either by the glass or the bottle
- Le verre – a glass
- La bouteille – a bottle
- Une canette – a beer can
- Une chope the bière – a beer mug
- Une bière pression – on tap beer
- Une pinte – a pint – note the French pronunciation: p-in nasal-t.
- Un demi – half pint
- Une bière brune – a stout
- Une bière blonde – a lager
- Une bière blanche – white beer, wheat/belgium style beer
- Une bière ambrée (we also say “rousse”) – reddish in color, it has different English translation: Amber beer, red beer (but it’s not necessarily fruity)
- Une bière anglaise – an ale
- Une triple – golden, spicy, higher alcohol content
- Une gueuze – no idea how to describe that, you’ll have to try it for yourself! It’s a light but spicy beer, with a complex taste. The most famous one is called “mort subite” (sudden death)
- Un panaché – a shandy – a mix of beer and carbonated lemonade… It’s a very common drink in France! Add some red fruit sirop and you’ll get “un Monaco”!
- Un arôme – aroma
- Un parfum – flavor/smell/a taste (based on context)
- Une épice – a spice
- Un fruit – fruit
- Fruité – fruity
- Une couleur – color
- Une touche de – a touch of
- Un goût – a taste
- Cette bière a un goût de… – this beer tastes like…
- La mousse – foam
- Les bulles (f) – bubbles
- Le houblon – Hops
- Le blé – wheat
- Le froment – common wheat, cake wheat
- La brasserie – Brewery
- Un brasseur – a brewer
2 – How To Order a Beer in French
I’ll do it in the form of a typical dialogue in a French bar.
- Bonjour Monsieur. Je voudrais une bière s’il vous plaît. Qu’est-ce que vous avez ?
Hi Sir. I’d like a beer please. What do you have?
- Nous avons des bières pression, des canettes et des bouteilles.
We have beer on tap, cans and bottles.
- Je préfère une bière pression.
I prefer on tap.
- Alors nous avons de la Kronenbourg, de la 1664, une bière blonde locale: La Philomenn, ou de la Leffe.
So we have Kronenbourg, 1664 (see below for explanations), a local lager: The Philomenn, or Leffe (a popular beer from Belgium).
- D’accord. Euh… Vous n’avez pas de bière brune ?
Ok. Hum… You don’t have any stout?
- Si, mais en bouteille: de la Guinness ou de la Dremmwel, une autre bière régionale.
Yes we do, but in bottles: Guinness or Dremmwel, another regional beer.
- Ah, et bien je vais essayer la Dremmwel brune. Un demi s’il vous plaît.
Ah, well then I’ll try the Dremmwel stout. Half a pint, please.
- C’est en bouteille. Mais je vous la sers dans une chope glacée ?
It’s a bottle. But may I pour it in a frozen mug for you?
- Ah oui ! Bien sûr. Pas de problème. Pas trop de mousse s’il vous plaît.
Oh yes. Right. No problem. Not too much foam please.
- Ça marche.
3 – Popular French Beers
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The most famous French beer brand is “Kronenbourg” (cro-nan(nasal)-bour. Note the final G is silent).
This Alsacian French brewery produces the very famous eponym beer “La Kronenbourg” and also the beer called “1664” and usually pronounced “seize-cent-soixante-quatre”.
You’ll find these two beers everywhere in France, in all supermarkets etc…
Another very famous Alsatian beer is “Fischer” – one of my favorites.
Main picture of French beers credit wikipedia.
4 – French Micro Brewery
There are many more French beers produced in French microbreweries: they can be really local, produced on a farm and sold only in local stores, or artisanal and found mostly locally but also in specialty beer stores. Here is a list per geographic area, again on wikipedia.
5 – Drinking Beer is Popular in France
Foreigners are often surprised to find out that drinking beer is very popular in France. Actually, lots of French people drink beer, especially with lunch, or as a before meal drink.
Drinking beer in a fancy restaurant or with a gourmet meal would be kind of a faux-pas though: beer drinking in France is more of a relaxed, casual thing.
Actually, drinking beer used to be more of a working-class thing when I was younger, but now it’s become quite trendy. Many specialty beer stores have opened, and going to an English or Irish pub in France is quite stylish!
I remember laughing so hard when one of my snobby Parisian friends told me her favorite beer was Bud Light… She thought it what quite fancy to drink American beer and was trying to impress me. Failed!!
Saint Patrick’s Day in France
It’s not typical to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day in France.
Although, hey, just like Halloween in France, it’s another reason to party! So in larger cities, you will find many special events for Saint Patrick’s day. In Paris, famous monuments even dress in green lights :-)
In other French regions, supermarkets and wine/ beer stores will surely grasp the opportunity to try to sell us some beer. And of course, if there is a beer store or a pub around, they will surely organize a tasting or special event.
So you may want to ask around: “est-ce que vous organisez quelque chose de spéciale pour la Saint Patrick ?”- Are you putting together something special for Saint Patrick’s day? (the “la” in French refers to “la fête de Saint Patrick”… We just don’t say the “fête de”).
So, next time you go to France, give French beers a try!