Showing posts with label paris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paris. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Pub

Pubs. It is fair to say that I love the places.

There are few places in the world I would rather spend an entire day in, tucked up in a dark corner, or sat at the end of the bar, preferably with my back to a wall so I can glance up from my book or newspaper from time to time and simply people watch. My mind wanders back to Mrs V and I's trip to Oxford in 2008, I spent inordinate amounts of time in the city's pubs while she was at a conference. In one day sat in Far From the Madding Crowd (a more perfect name for my kind of pub simply doesn't exist) I read about 80% of the Iain Banks book I had bought in a bookstore just minutes before opening time.

A few months later and Mrs V and I were again on our travels, this time to Ireland to visit Tale of the Ale's Reuben and wife, though in his pre-Tale days. Sadly the pub in which we sat and watched Ireland play New Zealand in the rugby is no longer in business as far as I know. Sheridan's On The Docks was everything you could possibly want from an Irish pub, a peat fire, an excellent selection of beer, including the delightful Galway Hooker, and it was there that I had my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In many ways it was like being in your own living room, with the benefit of a bar.

On our various travels, whether it be Berlin, Paris, Columbia or Charlottesville, Mrs V and I have found pubs in which to spend time and just relax over pints. I am convinced that regardless of whether a country has a vibrant, overwhelming beer culture or just a few major brands doing nothing weird and wonderful, pubs are almost universally the kind of places I like to be in.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is It Worth It?

Over the weekend the landlord of the Gunmakers in London tweeted about a female CAMRA member (yes, really, a female member of CAMRA - do they get issued with beardy wigs?) requesting her 20p discount for the pint she had just ordered and then being horrified at the price. The pint in question cost £3.90, which at current market rates is €4.67 or $6.14, and no CAMRA discount was forthcoming.


This got me thinking about the price of beer in a pub, because to be perfectly honest, it wouldn't bother me all that much paying £3.90 for a pint of cask ale right in the heart of London. When I was in Paris over the Christmas holiday, I was paying €8 (£6.68/$10.60) a pint at the various Frog and Rosbif pubs we went to. Even here in small town Virginia, Charlottesville is about three-quarters the size of Inverness, I regularly pay $6 (£3.78/€4.51) for a proper pint, as in an Imperial pint or 20oz, in the few places that serve them. The usual price for a 16oz American pint is about $5, which equates to £3.15 or €3.77.


I am deliberately not including the price of drinking the best lager in the world in Europe's most beautiful city, because the economics of beer are completely different in Prague - the most expensive beer is Pilsner Uruqell, while the phenomenal Kout na ?umavě 12° is usually about two-thirds of the price.

So, what am I getting when I pull up a stool at the bar and hand over my 6 dollars, 4 quid, or 4 Euro 50? Obviously I am presented with a pint of beer, hopefully with a nice head sitting atop the beer itself - I am not bothered about losing half an inch of beer in the glass to head, though I can imagine those asking for a 20p discount would quibble about that as well. A portion of the money, which having just changed hands is no longer mine, goes to the pleasure of having my beer handed to me by a member of staff. If I wanted to pay for the pleasure of getting my own beer, I'd install a coin slot on the fridge door. Assuming that the Gunmakers has electric lighting and some form of heating, a portion of the money will go to paying the bills, and of course the tax man wants his cut. Also, let's not forget that the landlord needs to make a living or there won't a pub for me to drink in.

It would be an interesting pie chart to see exactly where this £3.90 actually goes, and I would guess that the profit on a pint of cask ale in central London is fairly small. I also wonder if this is the main reason for the many pubs shutting across the UK these days, there simply isn't a decent living to be made.

The question then is, how much do you pay for your pint when you go to your local, and do you feel as though you are getting value?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Parisian Blonde

Tucked away on the Rue des Cannettes in Paris is a brewpub that goes by the name . It is a place that I have been aware of pretty much ever since my parents moved to the Limousin area of France and going to visit entailed a couple of hours in Paris waiting for a train. The main reason Mrs V and I had never visited was because we were either waiting for said train early in the morning, or we only had a very short amount of time and needed to eat and drink somewhere close to Gare d'Austerlitz.


As I mentioned last week though, just before Hogmanay we spent a couple of days in the city, with The Tale of the Ale author Reuben and his wife. Finally we had time, and it is never a bad thing to have exemplary company to go to a pub with.

From the outside it kind of looks like many an ethnopub in the great cities of the world, dark wood, lights that are perhaps a tad garish, you know the kind of places, often they go by the name "The Dubliner", "The Rose and Crown" and so on.

The first thing I noticed as we were being led to our table (never sure how I feel about that in a pub, but that's a different story) was the taps*. No fancy set ups, no labels telling drinkers what was coming out of each one, brass, chrome and wood, industrial, suggesting a confidence in their product. This was clearly a beer place, and beer places are my kind of places - I am starting to believe that the pub is a transnational institution.

They had four beers available the night we visited, a Blanche, Blonde, Ambrée and Brune. Did I mention yet that the place was packed? Absolutely to the rafters packed and so in fear that there may be too long of a downtime between pints, Reuben and I ordered two pints each while the ladies had a bottle of wine. A quick side note, did you know that Virginia law stipulates that a person can only have 1 alcoholic beverage at a time? It was nice not having to think about such stupidity.

I ordered the Blonde, described as a "Lager Ale", and the Brune, described as a "Stout". I was fairly sure that the Blonde would be something along the lines of a K?lsch and I wasn't disappointed. Clean, crisp and with a fruitiness that balanced the hop bite very nicely, it was just what the doctor ordered after strolling the streets of Paris in the rain. The Brune was nice too, not really a Stout as we would understand them, but then the style is less important than how good it tastes, and taste good it did. Admittedly I stuck with the Blonde from there on out, served as they were in hefty mugs that made a satisfying clunk as Reuben and I cheersed each fresh pint.

Good company, good beer and a pub with a good atmosphere, what more could anyone want from a night out drinking?

* For some pictures of the night and the taps, see .

Monday, January 2, 2012

When Things Get Better

It was nearly 7pm when our little Dash 8 swooped into . It was Hogmanay, though for Reuben of Tale of the Ale fame it was already 2012. Mrs Velkyal and I had finally finished crossing the Atlantic, having spent 2 weeks in France, the last 2 days of which were spent in Paris with Reuben and his wife.  I am not much of one for flying, or at least the taking off and landing bits, I don't mind the middle bit as long as there is an absence of turbulence. I also find that being 6'4" makes flying an exercise in feeling the pain of the sardine.

From a beer point of view, France was something of a . Much of the beer was distinctly meh, some entirely undrinkable, some reassuringly as good as usual and some a lot better than expected.


If you have been following Fuggled for a few years, you may well recall that the last time I went to Paris was in January 2009, and that I was somewhat scathing about a British themed brewpub near Gare d'Austerlitz, The Frog and British Library. The beer was thin, the mouthfeel overwhelmingly watery and in the case of the stout, simply unfinishable, but the food was good. We found ourselves there again on Thursday night as, out of necessity, we were in the area and needed feeding. The food is still good, and happily the beer is much improved. The In Seine no longer left me wishing that was exactly where it was, indeed I had a second pint as I revelled in the flavours and aromas of Styrian Goldings - a hop that I like very much. The Dark de Triomphe actually got finished this time. I am not saying they are wonderful beers, but they are drinkable and repeatedly so.

Thus on Friday, having walked from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, via the Champs Elysee and my first ever hot beer (won't be doing that again, I am sure I can still feel the fur in my veins from the sugar), we jumped on the Metro to head for the original Frog brewpub, The Frog and Rosbif. Part of me wonders if having a British themed pub on Rue de Saint Denis is irony, coincidence or the 20th Century equivalent of hoisting your bow drawing fingers at the vanquished French?

Whatever the truth may be, one thing is certain, Le Frog and Rosbif would be a regular haunt for me if I lived in Paris, simply because they have the In Seine on cask (or at least they did on our visit, maybe they rotate). Not only do they have it on cask, the waitress wasn't utterly baffled by me asking if it was sparkled (it was) and happy to give me an unsparkled pint so I could compare. I won't get into the ins and outs of the sparkler debate but I prefer sparkled beer and this test did nothing to challenge that.

Discovering that the beer at the Frog brewpubs had improved was probably one of my beer highlights of the trip. I am one of those people who thinks that it is better for the beer industry as a whole for existing breweries to get better rather than go under; it keeps people in jobs for a start. Some might moan that the beer styles being brewing by The Frog guys are uninteresting. However, as I have said many, many times, if a brewer can't make a sub 4.5% abv beer that I want to drink several off, then I wonder to myself how good a brewer is he or she in reality?

* The picture is from the 2009 trip, the In Seine I had last week was darker, so I guess they may have messed with the recipe as well.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dashed Hopes

On our way back to Prague after the Christmas holidays we had several hours to kill in Paris before getting our afternoon flight. We knew fine well what we would do come midday, a trip to the Frog and British Library pub just round the corner from the Bibliothèque nationale de France was in order. For the few hours before that we wandered around the Natural History Museum, mainly to escape the biting cold and because they had an exhibition of whales.

We first went to the Frog and British Library in December 2007, again on our way back from France to Prague, having been to the Frog and Rosbif in Bordeaux a week earlier. The Bordeaux version of the chain had made a good impression on us, decent beer, nice food and excellent staff. I recalled the Frog and British Library being ok, again decent beer, good food and friendly staff, the only bum note had been their lager, which would give Budweiser a run for its money in the bland beer stakes.

What a difference then a year makes, a year in which I have learnt a lot about beer, thanks largely to the input of people such as Evan Rail, and the fact that I am a voracious reader and have a head full of things I didn't know back in 2007. I am assuming here that the Frog and Rosbif chain didn't tamper with its recipes over the course of the year.

First up was the chain's oldest brand, In Seine, which they describe as a "clean, hoppy bitter". It is certainly hoppy, with very noitceable citrus notes, and I guess it is refreshing, but it is very thin bodied and not at all "more-ish" as they claim. It certainly looks nice, a golden amber with a rich foamy head, although served somewhat cold, but looks are deceptive. One pint of this was more than enough, and the name of the beer is probably the best place to put this.


Suitably disappointed, I decided to change tack and have something on the dark side to go with my fish and chips. I choose their Dark de Triomphe, a Guinness clone which while dark does have touches of ruby around the edges, and was topped off with a loose head, and once again it was too damned cold - why? I have drunk a fair amount of stout this year, and what a disappointment it was to stick my nose into the glass and smell virtually nothing. No, I didn't have a cold, I could smell virtually nada - perhaps a hint of Tesco Value instant coffee, but nothing else. Again the body was thin and insipid, although there were some roasted malt flavours, but this was basically dull and lifeless, and I refused point blank to finish the pint.


Thom over at the Black Cat Brewery also visited one of the Frog pubs in Paris when there on honeymoon, his comments are in the same ball park as mine.


In fairness though, the fish and chips was good - but that is not enough to make me want to go back next time I am in Paris, whenever that will be.

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