The 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.