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A new Frog hops into France

The grape-loving French have just ceded a little territory to grain. A former wine warehouse in Paris has found a new function as a brewpub.

Village scene
A village would be incomplete without a pub. In trendy Bercy, the Frog even has a terrace.

It is in Bercy, a warehouse district on the north bank of the river Seine and on the east side of the city, amid the railroad tracks near Gare de Lyon. The whole area has been rehabbed in recent years, and has a new (driverless) subway, called the Météor (line 14 of the Paris metro system). Bercy's winey-sounding Cour St Emilion stop is ten minutes from a central Metro station such as Châtelet.

Among Bercy's attractions are a new public park, a sports complex, and a multi-screen movie theater. The park faces a street lined on both sides with very small warehouses. A disused railroad track runs down the middle. These buildings are gradually being restored as restaurants, bars and shops selling "gourmet" foods, kitchenware, etc. The neighborhood is now known as Bercy Village.

The new pub is called The Frog at Bercy Village (25 Cour Saint-Emilion). It has open beams, limestone walls, and four small bars on different levels, with a brewhouse open to view. Decor features Rugby Union jerseys, English soccer is shown on the television, and British newspapers are available.

This is the third in a family of frogs. Its older brothers, more central, are the Frog & Princess and the Frog & Rosbif. The royal-sounding one takes its name from its address (9 rue Princesse). Like its brothers, it is British in style and inspiration, and benefited from the popularity of Princess Diana in Paris. A year after the pub opened, she died in a road accident not far away. The owners wondered whether it would be tactful to change the name, but decided to stay with it.

The most central of the three (at 116 rue St-Denis) is the Frog and Rosbif. The British call the French "frogs" because of their fondness for eating the amphibians' legs. "Rosbif" is a Frenchified pronunciation of"roast beef", a dish that in happier days symbolised Great Britain. Under the Frog & Rosbif name, there are also branches in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulouse (of wine and sausage fame).

Founding partner Thor (left) was the first brewer. He is seen here with his successor Jan.

British sausages are apparently hard to find in Paris, so some excellent French ones are offered with mashed potatoes at Bercy. (Sausage and mash is a British staple). The truer diet of today's Brits is represented by an Indian dish or two on the menu. There is also excellent Stilton cheese, from the renowned shop at Neal's Yard, in London.

The same basic range of whimsically-named beers is available at all of the pubs.

In Seine is an English-style bitter: light, softly drinkable, and dryish, with a modest 4.2 per cent alcohol by volume. At Bercy, it seemed fractionally hoppier in both aroma and palate than the version I tasted in 1994, shortly after the Rosbif opened. In Seine has two additions of hops, the variety being Styrian Goldings.

Parislytic, at 5.2 per cent, is a ruby-colored ale, with a fruity aroma, a malty palate, and a hint of balancing roasty dryness in the finish. This brew is hopped with Styrians and Bramling Cross, in one addition.

Both of the ales are conditioned in cellar tanks, fined, and served under blanket pressure from a handpump. An in-line chiller has the beer emerging at just under 50F.

Dark de Triomphe, at 5.0 abv, is a light but smooth, dryish, stout, with notes of toasted nuts and black chocolate. The grist includes roasted and chocolate malts and flaked barley. The hop variety is Challenger, in one addition. This brew is served under mixed gas.

I was at Bercy just too early to taste the winter brew, Rosbif's Revenge, which is spiced with ginger, cinnamon and orange peel. In 1994, I found it medicinal and licorice-like. In summer, there is a wheat beer, which I have not tasted. Its name, Trente Wheat, is a pun on the price. Each of the pubs also occasionally has its own specials.

Brewer Jan French, despite his appropriate surname, turns out to be British. He is from the Wirral peninsula, between Liverpool and the English-Welsh border. One of the founding partners of the Frog family is a Londoner, Paul Chartler, who was formerly a sales manager in agro-chemicals. The other is London-born Thor Gudmundsson, who is of Icelandic parentage and was formerly a banker with Nomura. The two met at business school, where they were given a project to create a new business. The result was frogs, princesses and suchlike.

Published: NOV 29, 2000
In: Beer Hunter Online

Brew Travel - Brewery Review

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