Beer and Pretzels in Strasbourg

Meteor beer advertising sign, Strasbourg, France.

Beer has a greater prominence in Strasbourg than in any other French city we’ve visited, except perhaps Lille.

Well, that’s hard­ly a sur­prise,’ you might say, ‘giv­en that it was part of Ger­many until 1918.’ And, yes, though it is more com­pli­cat­ed than that, street signs are in Alsa­t­ian as well as French (Grand Rue is trans­lat­ed as Langstross, for exam­ple); and, along­side crois­sant and pain au choco­lat, all the bak­ers sell excel­lent pret­zels.

The beer cul­ture, though, does­n’t feel like a reminder of old Strass­berg, but as if it came as part of the pack­age with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. As in oth­er French cities, or Span­ish ones, for that mat­ter, there are local pil­sners of vary­ing degrees of bland­ness, lots of import­ed beer at high prices, sev­er­al brew­pubs, and a hand­ful of small ‘arti­sanal’ brew­ers mak­ing hazy, vague­ly sai­son-like bot­tled beers.

Though we were ini­tial­ly excit­ed at the sight of two branch­es of the Beer Acad­e­my and anoth­er spe­cial­ist Bel­gian beer bar, the fact that they weren’t sell­ing much we could­n’t buy in most UK super­mar­kets, and a gen­er­al sense of exploita­tive tack­i­ness, caused us to swerve away at the thresh­old. We did note, how­ev­er, the ready avail­abil­i­ty of a rare British beer: Brew­dog Punk IPA, which is con­quer­ing the world along­side Guin­ness and Leffe.

The most famous local brew­ery is Kro­nen­bourg, but most of the locals, as far as we could see, seemed to pre­fer Mete­or. Of their two flag­ship beers, Pils is the more char­ac­ter­ful (their web­site says 5% ABV; the cafe where we first tried it said 4.6%). A touch brassy in colour, it is hard­ly big or com­plex, but we found it a decent, tasty beer with just enough bit­ter­ness. It seemed gen­er­al­ly to be rea­son­ably priced, too, at around €5 for 500ml. (Com­pare that to €8+ for 330ml of Heineken in Paris.)

Lanterne beer label.La Lanterne (5 Rue de Lanterne) is a stu­dent pub (Jäeger bombs!) which just hap­pens to make its own beer, and sells it very cheap­ly by French stan­dards.

The blonde, an intend­ed Leffe clone at 6.4%, was just a tiny bit sour (oops!), Christ­mas spicy, and with a sol­id malt char­ac­ter – not at all soupy or yeasty despite the cus­tom­ary brew­pub haze. The wheat beer (we did­n’t note the ABV – sor­ry!) was sim­i­lar­ly pleas­ing, though it showed evi­dence of too much sweet orange peel, and it too was a lit­tle sour. Final­ly, we braved a 330ml bot­tle of a sea­son­al beer called sim­ply Lanterne (6.4%), which was on deep dis­count at €3.50. It tast­ed like scrumpy cider. Clear­ly, some­thing had gone wrong, and yet… we sort of enjoyed it. After all, aren’t sour, fruit-accent­ed hybrid beers all the rage in the UK right now?

Au Brasseur (22 Rue de Veaux) was an alto­geth­er hilar­i­ous expe­ri­ence. Over­worked and fran­tic wait­ers ignored us and every­one else, only stop­ping to take orders when phys­i­cal­ly arrest­ed by frus­trat­ed cus­tomers. The sea­son­al spe­cial was (sup­pos­ed­ly) an Eng­lish-style bit­ter at 6.8%, but, despite its strength and sticky-sweet trea­cly malti­ness, it was actu­al­ly rather bland. Both their Blonde (a weak­er, less spicy Leffe clone at 5%) and wheat beer (4.6%) were per­fect­ly decent – clean, at least, if not excit­ing.

We had to hunt a lit­tle hard­er for the local bières arti­sanales, but even­tu­al­ly found a few trendi­ly-designed bot­tles of beer from Uber­ach in a late night cake shop. (France, eh?) Juli­ette (4.8 %) was a farm­house beer flavoured with peach, gin­ger and rose. We found it hard going – brash and artif­i­cal-tast­ing, like fruit tea rather than beer. Hav­ing said that, with a lit­tle refine­ment, the under­ly­ing idea could go down well in the UK. La Klintz (also 4.8%), a wheaty-tast­ing hazy blonde Bel­gian-style beer from the same brew­ery, was just fine but seemed to be lack­ing a dimen­sion or two, and was ulti­mate­ly too sweet for us.

So, there is plen­ty of beer in Stras­bourg, but noth­ing worth going out of your way for, at least not that we had chance to try dur­ing our brief vis­it.

There’s a gallery with more pic­tures on our Face­book page.