It’s Friday evening apéro time and I’m trying to decide which beer to drink for my apéritif. Despite being in lockdown, or in fact strangely, thanks to being in lockdown, I have an unusually large and varied selection of craft beers from French Riviera independent breweries to choose from. This is because we’ve just taken delivery of a tasting box of 24 different beers put together in an effort to help local micro-breweries during these exceptional and difficult times.
Craft Beer from the French Riviera
While Provence is justifiably famous for its rosé wine, what is massively less well-known is its growing beer scene. The craze for craft beer has not passed this area by. In fact it’s well and truly thriving with plenty of micro-breweries popping up across the region. In 2020, in the Alpes-Maritimes alone, there are 21 (up from 10 in 2015) and across France as a whole, there are now more than 2000 independent craft brewers (up from 793 in 2015).
I am not a beer geek, I love a cold beer (or several) on a sunny day but I’m not very adventurous when it comes to fuller flavours. I’m a lager drinker (blonde in French) and also like white beer but ales, stout, dark beers and IPAs are not really my thing. However, thanks to this box of craft beers from the French Riviera I’m trying more and learning lots.
Craft Beer School
I have discovered that several of the local breweries welcome visitors and run workshops, tastings, activities and events. There’s even a beer school in Nice which has courses in both English and French. The school is the brainchild of Daniel and Julie, American longterm residents of the Côte d’Azur, passionate brewers at Brasserie Bleue. They run it out of their micro-brewery and shop Allez-Hops which, by the way, has a great selection of local, French and international craft beers.
When lockdown is over and life gets back to normal I’d love to take a course at l’Ecole de la Bière. Who knew I’d find a new (alcoholic) interest in this unusual time! Here’s what Daniel (seen 2 photos below) has to say about the school:
Participants in the École de la Bière beer school have proven to be amazingly diverse – men, women, young adults, retirees, locals and tourists alike. Some are true “beer geeks” while others are complete novices, intrigued by all the buzz surrounding craft beer.
We’ve hosted sommeliers, drinks distributors, restaurateurs, prospective brewers and a lot of people who wanted to gift an atypical experience to a special someone.
What makes them similar is a sense of curiosity and an exploratory spirit – and they finish the workshops, we trust, with a stronger understanding and appreciation of an ages-old drink that continues to evolve, today more than ever.
Going back to rosé again, I’m always advising guests in the gîte where to go wine tasting, which vineyards have tours, tastings etc. I also recommend some food tours in the area, but it’s never occurred to me to suggest beer tastings. However, thanks to this box, discovered through an article in the local paper about the association of independent brewers in the Alpes-Maritimes, I now have something new to suggest to my guests. And hopefully I’ll soon be able to recommend some workshops and courses on craft beer in the French Riviera from personal experience too.
And as for that apéro, I tried an organic beer flavoured with ginger from a brewery in the Mercantour National Park that uses pure mountain spring water and a white beer flavoured with lemons from Menton (made with “passion and sun” according to its label!) JF enjoyed a stout from the mountains, an IPA from Nice and an IPA from our backyard in Sophia Antipolis, quite literally called Backyard Brews! I had no idea that there was a brewery so close, in the middle of a town known for its hi-tech. And this particular beer is a gold medal winner at an international beer competition. Such a wealth of talent and flavour on our doorstep, it’ll be hard to drink supermarket beer again.
The selection box of craft beer from the French Riviera came from BIAM Boutique set up especially for the period of confinement in France, I don’t know if it will continue after lockdown (but I’ll update when I do). (Edited Sept 2020, still functioning!)
Allez-Hops beer shop (15 rue Défly, Nice) is open for collection and deliveries during lockdown, they also have selection boxes. Thanks to Daniel and Julie for extra information in this article, beer school photo and a selection of Brasserie Bleue beers.
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