06 August 2010

A la recherche du bières perdu

Session logoThe timing of this month's Session -- titled "A Special Beer, A Special Place" -- fortuitously has me writing it from the site of one of my earliest international beer-chasing locations. It was in the early days of the year 2000 that I happened across The Frog & Rosbif English-themed microbrewery in Paris. I recall being thoroughly delighted by the whole experience and was straight back again when we visited Paris next, two years later.

My opinions on beer have moved a long way since 2002, but the Frog & Rosbif has always remained there on a pedestal in my memory, despite my having no recollection whatsoever of how the beer tastes. But this week I'm in Paris, and it was time to find out if The Frog & Rosbif is still deserving of its special status.

It still looks the same: big-windowed and open-floored in the English style, with the brewery in the basement. The beer line-up remains as puntastic as ever, though gone (mostly) is the cartoon art in favour of more stylish fonts for the five keg beers, plus a very fancy swan-neck dispenser for the cask.

Maison Blanche wasn't here the last time. It's an orange witbier, served rather incongruously with a lemon slice wedged on the edge of the nonic. There's a lovely orange-pith nose, but that doesn't hang around in the flavour which is a little bit citric, but otherwise rather hollow and watery. Mrs Beer Nut liked it, but it just didn't do it for me. At the opposite end of the colour scale is Dark de Triomphe, definitely one I've had before. It's a decent attempt at a nitro stout -- thick ("oncteuse" proclaims the tasting notes) and roasty with overtones of damsons. Only a little bit of a vinegary bite on the finish compromises it.

I had much better luck with Inseine, from the cask: a pale orange bitter with a bit of cloud. A purist would immediately protest at the preposterously low temperature it was served at, but sod 'em: yesterday afternoon was a hot and sticky one in the City of Lights and this hit the spot beautifully. There was certainly no masking of the marmaladey hops (Goldings?), given only token support from the malt. It looked like the pub sold more of this than anything else, and I'm not really surprised. Ginger Twist looked very similar next to it, but is a different beast altogether. It was a sudden jolt back to fizzy keg, and while there's a pleasant ginger biscuit character to it, there's not a whole lot else. Easy drinking and refreshing is what they're going for, I suppose, but I can't help but apply another "watery" warning sticker.

Round three finishes the house beers. I had a Frog Natural Blonde -- the pub's answer to lager, though far cloudier than any Kronenbourg drinker would accept. It's crisp and fruity, and one of the few beers that can get away with lightness without seeming thin. I get mandarins and bubblegum, with a little bit of chalkiness on the end. I like it. Mrs Beer Nut put dibs on Paris Lytic, a nitro red ale weighing in at 5.2% ABV. Malt vinegar all the way, I'm afraid. She's welcome to it.

So, with a definite mixed bag of beers, is The Frog & Rosbif still a special place for me? I'm going to say yes. The atmosphere is properly pubby in a way that you generally just don't get in Paris. It comes at a high price -- €6.50 a pint normal hours, €5 early evening -- but for the novelty of an English pub it's worth it (unless you live in England, of course, in which case disregard all of the above). I'll be back for the Inseine and Natural Blonde on any subsequent trips to Paris, now that I have a record of how they taste.

7 comments:

  1. I'm sure Proust would be proud of your tasting notes! In the US, the Widmer wheat beer is often served with a lemon. I know it makes me a heathen, but I like it.

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  2. Less fiercely priced than I thought it might be. Given what you'd pay elsewhere in Gay Paree that is.

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  3. I have been to Paris a few times and never visited a brew pub. Or a proper beer bar come to think of it.
    I will have to rectify that if I ever go back.

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  4. Whenever Mrs Velkyal and I are in Paris, either on the way to or back from the Limousin visiting my parents, we stop in the Frog and British Library, just round the corner from the Biblioteque Nationale. We mainly stop by for the food, which is generally quite good.

    Admittedly our last visit was in 2008, but the Natural Blonde was, to quote the good lady wife, "rank beyond words", so much so she jokingly asked me if we could go for a Branik when we got home to Prague! My review of the place is here:

    http://www.fuggled.net/2009/01/dashed-hopes.html

    We also went to the Frog and Rosbif in Bordeaux, and it was much better than the one we experienced in Paris, actually Bordeaux should be on everyone's tour plans, a lovely town it is.

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  5. Impy, I'm well used to lemon floating in witbier, but perched on the edge of a dirty great hairy-legged nonic pint glass looked like some kind of unconvincing cocktail drag act.

    Tandleman, I'd been hanging around Rue Mouffetard a lot recently where, if you play the happy hours, you can get pints for €3 easily. Paris has changed, thought I. Then this afternoon I was only round the corner where the Kronenbourg is €8+ a demi. How?! Why!? Who?!

    Reuben, I've another Paris brewpub review to do. It'll be rather less cheery.

    Al, I guess that's microbreweries and consistency for you. Or my awful taste in beer. One of the two.

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  6. We'll go with the former, consistency across brewpub chains is rarer than a wine critic who understands beer.

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  7. Ah, but Kronenbourg is a *Premium Beer*....

    I found the Frog and Rosbif quite weird -- something a bit Euro Disney about the fake-Englishness -- although the bar staff were really friendly, which confounds a Parisian stereotype or two.

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