The pubs are a good place to start especially during happy hour although the range of beers is hopelessly limited. According to the landlord of the Yorkshireman in Bordeaux, the French have banned the import of real ales by the barrel as they claim they are unpasteurised and unsafe to drink. In the same way English ciders are more or less off limits. We are thus left with a fairly uniform choice of commercial barrel beers which are deemed to be within ‘French Standards’. Ironically, in the few pubs that do serve draught-pulled pints of Bitter, Ale or Stout, low consumption can mean that there is infrequent barrel turnaround and beer has gone off. It is not uncommon to shell out €7.50 or more for a sour undrinkable pint, then to be met with confusion, bewilderment and recrimination when you ask for a replacement jar. Then there is the matter of how to serve a beer properly.
A step by step guide on how to pour the perfect pint should be compulsory learning for all aspiring Bordeaux British pub bar staff as well as the John Smiths Youtube guide. ‘The Beer Advocate‘ gives the following advice :
The Campaign for Real Ale was formed in the 70’s by drinkers who were fed up with the shift away from traditional brewing to a uniform commercial drinks market. They have been making efforts ever since to prevent the age old craft of brewing from dying out completely and have an established worldwide following of around 150 000 members. Beer festivals are held throughout the year and throughout the world championing local brews from Ales and Bitters to Ciders and Perry to Stouts, Porters and Barley wine.
Next on the tour is V&B (Vin & Biére) which has shops in Bruges, Merignac and Bordeaux Lac. Half off licence, half bar this is a nationwide chain that stocks a couple of decent alternative brews amongst the larger range of Belgian beers. Brewdog from Scotland is worth a try as are the classic favourites of Newcastle Brown, O’Hara’s Stout and Hobgoblin. The real draw with this place is that it’s 50% licence and 50% bar. You can choose your ale (albeit a limited choice of English names) and drink it in the bar half of the shop. They are to be found in Bruges, Merignac and BDX Lac, have a beer garden for summer and plenty of cold tap beers.
If you don’t mind paying elevated French beer prices and crave an English/Irish pub atmosphere there are a few reasonable options around Bordeaux. Some also employ expat chefs who can rustle up a mean fish and chips, pie or Sunday roast. Here is a list of the main players for draught beers, apologies if I’ve missed a few out :
The Black Velvet : Guinness, Kilkenny, Magners
The Blarney Stone : Guinness, Kilkenny, Magners, Newcastle Brown
The Cambridge Arms, The Oxford, Molly Malones : Guinness, Kilkenny, Newcastle Brown, Strongbow, Cambridge Beer
The Cock and Bull : Guinness, Kilkenny, Strongbow
Connemara : Guinness, Kilkenny, Kilkenny Red
Dick Turpin’s : Guinness, Kilkenny, Newcastle Brown, Strongbow
The Frog and Rosbif : A microbrewery concept pub chain – stocks 6 types of homebrewed beer – ale, stout, wheatbeer, lager etc
The Golden Apple : Guinness, Youngs London Ale and Magners
The Houses of Parliment and HMS Victory : Guinness, Kilkenny, Magners, Newcastle Brown
The Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens : Guinness, Bombadier, Directors, Young’s Gold, Young’s Stout, John Bull Classic, Eden’s Promise Cider, Red Stripe
Sweeney Todd’s – Guinness, Magners, Sweeney AleO’Rowland’s : Guinness, Kilkenny, Strongbow
The Yorkshireman : Guinness, Strongbow, Newcastle Brown
There is a legend of an English beer festival which was once held in Bordeaux by a group of expats. With enough support and Bordeaux locals taking an interest in the miracle that is a pint, maybe this legend could once again become a reality. In the meantime, I’m off to Toulouse where two blokes called Bill and Jeff and the rest of their Airbus colleagues bring down tons of English beer barrels once a year for a giant beer fest lash up.