Keeping it real … Real Ale
In a country dominated by wine is there room for beer to shine? Bordeaux is famous for their wines but what does the city have for the beer lover? I had a chance to explore Bordeaux for a little while working there over a weekend. I wanted to find out what kind of beer scene there is in the mist of a French community big on wine.
Bordeaux is quite a nice city and there are many sights to be seen around the city centre, in all honesty I didn’t enjoy Paris (possibly due to terrible weather, late eurostar and lack of organisation) but I did really like Bordeaux and it has restored my faith in France! Surprisingly there is a handful of good quality beer cafés and shops to keep any beer traveller busy. There are other places to visit that I wasn’t able to see I’m sure but below are some of the decent places I had a chance to spend some time in.
I found L’amirale Biere completely by chance, while aimlessly walking along some streets. When I stumbled upon the shop I was greeted by this huge glimmering window with a large white logo on it.
As you walk into the shop you have shelves to your left with rows if beer on them, mainly English craft beer, South American beers, Australian beers and more. Directly in front of you is the till area where you can buy the beers with a fridge behind them for a cold brew for those who want to drink their beers cold.
After your first few steps inside the building you will see another area to your right which has a few more different beers from Italy, Scandinavian countries, America and even a few beers brewed in France.
Stepping down into this area there are three high tables all with beer books on them for customers to read (including the brilliant “Let’s Talk About Beer” by our very own Melissa Cole), although the tables would be perfect to sit and drink at unfortunately at present you cannot drink the beers in the shop, I wonder if this may change as I noticed a keg tap behind the bar.
L’amirale Biere is a slick modern tidy beer shop which reminds me very much of an expensive clothes shop in its layout, apposed to a beer shop crammed full of 100’s of different beers L’amirale Biere is quality over quantity. Big names in the craft beer world are well represented here, Mikkeller, To Øl , Brouwerij ‘t IJ and Anchor Brewing Co can all be found here.
It’s a shame you can’t drink in there as I would have happily spent some time in here exploring the beers they had in store, however I did buy a bottle to enjoy in the sun in the square next to the shop. Of course it had to be a French Craft Beer and I chose a bottle of HopHopHop! Equinox from Brasserie Corrézienne, a beer from their single hop range. Equinox is a big, fruity, bitter hop that we are going to see a lot of this year. Brasserie Corrézienne perfectly displayed it’s flavours, in fact it was a very good beer and would happily sit along side one of the popular beers in London that has a similar feel and taste.
The Frog and Rasbif
Part of the French beer chain Frog Beer from Paris, The Frog and Rasbif is a large pub where you can sample all the Frog Beers.
The pub is a few minutes walk from the Garonne river and just round the corner from Sweeney Todd’s which is another popular pub in Bordauex. Very much like a large English pub in a typical stone French building. As you enter the building you are greeted by a large, long wooden bar to your left and lots of tables, chairs, stalls etc to your right with another hall for drinking at the back where you can also find some fermentation tanks, which I think are actually in operation and they do brew beers on site, could be wrong here though.
Although maybe brewing beer slightly leaning towards the masses, Frog beer have a good range of different beers and I had a chance to try a few while eating dinner here. Their Burton Pale Ale is very good and was very popular with the locals, I would give or take on their blonde beer I found it a little soapy, however their two offerings from their superhero range (beers named after some of the sounds you would find in an old episode of Batman, tha..whack, ker..splazz etc) the wheat beer and Black IPA were both fairly good too.
There’s a good food menu here which is reasonably priced. The burger I had was lovely and the home made coleslaw was incredible I love coriander and this coleslaw had the perfect amount added to it.
While I was here sitting happily alone at the bar just me and the WiFi there was a pub quiz running and I didn’t have a clue what was going on but they were certainly enjoying themselves, the quiz master at one point was standing on the bar while people were screaming animal noises! It is clearly a popular pub around Bordeaux. The food is good and the beers are interesting enough to make the visit.
In the square next to L’amirale Biere you will find a gathering of cool looking cafes and restaurants. One of the cafe’s here is L’Apollo, this may not be on the list of a beer geek from Bordeaux but for me walking into a bar with this selection on draught is enough to get me excited!
A large round open bar is the centerpiece in L’Apollo with some pool tables, sofas and chairs behind it. It kind of reminds me of a student bar which it might in fact have been but either way it looked like a cool place to hang out. If you are lucky you may even see live music here too as it is well known and popular for live gigs.
The beer selection was good with Belgium taking the main event, Filou, Kasteel, Faro, alongside German beer offerings and also La Trappe from The Netherlands. On the day when I visited it was lovely and calm and perfect to relax with a slow beer but I feel by the looks from their Facebook page that it really comes to life at night!
With a name like Titi Twister I forgive you to think that I might have walked into one of the many strip clubs around Bordeaux train station! But I can assure you it is far from.
Titi twitter is a cracker of a Belgian beer bar, you could have been mistaken into thinking you had actually been transported straight to the neighbouring country of Belgium and not actually be in France. 8 beers on draught and a decent size bottle selection, Blanch De Bruxelles, Kwak, Westmalle, Urthel Saisonnièr, SAS pils, Curvée des Trolls, Kasteel Rouge, La Chouffe, Delirium and Averbode all blessed the taps at the bar on my visit.
Green leather chairs, stalls and benches gather around the bar and surrounding areas and many Belgian beer signs decorate the walls. Much to my delight there is a dart board also hanging at the end of the bar, if I had more time in here I would have loved to thrown a few arra’s!
Look up and you’ll see beer mats curving around the ceiling and depending on where you are sitting if you look up you will see local artwork scribbled on the back of beer mats on display. I figured it would be rude not to add a little something to the collection before I leave.
As I sit at the bar sipping the Urthel Saisonnièr listening to the blues music flooding the bar I think to myself how much I would love a bar like this local to me. So relaxing, so classic, so Belgian… But in France.
Bordeaux Beer Shop
When I first found out I was going to Bordeaux I got straight in Google and searched for craft beer in Bordeaux, which led me to the website and twitter page of the Bordeaux Beer Shop. I tweeted them for advice on where to go while in Bordeaux and they helped me with a bit of info.
When I first went to find the shop I was gutted to find it was shut but good things come to those that wait! I feel that my time in the Bordeaux Beer Shop deserves a post of its own… Which you can read here.
Shari the owner of this beautiful shop kindly gave me a quick lesson in local French beers and she really knows her stuff, if you are in Bordeaux then you MUST visit The Bordeaux Beer Shop as its selection is excellent and I am sure Shari will also give you an introduction to the local beers like she did with me.
Café de moins
Right around the corner from Bordeaux Beer Shop is Café De Moins, a popular bar with a hip/student hang out feel to it.
Stone walls are filled with lots of beer memorabilia and huge beer menus. The beer selection here is very good with Belgian beers alongside new French breweries, there is enough on selection to keep any beer geek interested.
There is a foosball table at the front of the bar and downstairs you also have a basement room with pool tables. The bar is to your right as you enter and it has this weird roof to it, so it’s almost like a hut bar that you would find on a sunny holiday! There are plenty of bar stalls with coat hooks around the bar and at the back of the room there are tables and benches. Word of warning, the toilet is not for the faint hearted ladies!
The staff are friendly and can speak a little English too so don’t worry about having to practise up on your French. Something I find Europe does so much better than us is providing beer snacks with our beers, it’s the simple extras that does it for me, so I was happy that with our beers we also got a bowl of nuts. The beer menu and surroundings has the making of a great craft beer bar that could push Bordeaux’s beer scene forward and I would be interested in seeing how Café De Moins helps develop the Bordeaux Beer scene in the future.
The Black Sheep
A short walk from Pont de Pierre bridge on the river bank you can find The Black Sheep pub, a dark late night hang out. Seats outside are sheltered from the rain by a huge canopy.
A one room bar which you may have to adjust your vision as you enter as only dim lights will aid your walk to the bar.
A small draught selection can be seen on the large metal pipe. La Chouffe, Maredsous, Blonde Sheep, Verdett and Brooklyn Lager share the tapes with a few more less exciting beers. A small bottle collection is also available with beers such as La Trappe and Kapittel Watou featuring.
Innus and Gun have obviously done a big promotional push in Bordauex as there is a selection of their beers with matching glasses on display behind the bar, I also noticed this in the Rambling Man which is close to the Black Sheep.
Another pub with a dart board on the wall makes me happy, there is also a large telly for entertainment.
Sausages and onions hang from the wall to fill bagels served at the bar.
If you like your whiskies you are also in for a treat as the back walls are full of different bottles of whisky.
Although not the biggest beer selection in town The Black Sheep is popular amongst locals and if you’re in the area late at night then it’s worth pulling up at the bar and joining the huge La Chouffe statue for a quick drink.
Bordeaux’s beer scene surprised me, a place so famous for its wines made me doubt it had much beer to offer before I had visited, however it does and my first doubts have gone. One place I wanted to visit but didn’t have time to was Lucifer, which is possibly the best beer bar in town!
Although France maybe behind the rest of the beer world and the scene is still very young it does have a lot of promise and it is growing rapidly. With many small breweries close to Bordeaux it is great to hear that soon there will be a microbrewery opening up in Bordauex itself, which will strengthen the scene even more. So although it maybe happening slowly it seems that the wine country is finally starting to stop turning it’s nose up at beer!