How the wine-loving French are falling for the delights of beer

Beer for an aperitif is no longer taboo. France is a country far more typically known for its wines and liqueurs, but the French are turning their attention to beer, with sales of the frothy tipple booming.

How the wine-loving French are falling for the delights of beer
Photo: AFP

Forget the un verre de vin rouge, s’il vous plait, the new trend is to ask for une demi de biere instead.

Yes, the French have developed a strong thirst for the frothy stuff in recent years, bringing an end to the 36-year long decline in beer consumption. 

In fact, 2017 marked the fourth consecutive year of increases in beer sales across the country, with supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants reporting a 2.7 percent increase in the volume of beer sold. Larger retailers reported an increase of 8.1 percent. 

“The popularity growth of beer in France might seem astonishing to people from other countries that already have a strong beer culture, but you have to realise that beer has had a bad image in France for a long time,” Jacqueline Lariven, spokesperson at Brasseurs de France brewers' union, told The Local. 

She said that a large part of the change was thanks to the new breweries popping up left right and centre across the country.

“We’re expecting 300 to open in 2018, everything from the tiny breweries in markets to those that are backed by big investors,” she said, adding that over the past five years the numbers of breweries in France has doubled to 1,200 in total. 

And the typical customer is changing too, experts say. 

“There’s been a feminisation of consumption. We can’t say that women don’t drink beer anymore, it’s simply not the case,” Laviren added.

She put the change down to new packaging of beers that appear more feminine, plus a more diverse range of tastes. 

“This innovation has prompted a change in consumption, it’s more common now to drink beer as an aperitif, for example,” she added.

The new tastes of beer on the market are a huge factor in growth, in fact, not to mention the changes in alcohol content. 

Joao Abecasis, the president of the Kronenbourg-Carlsberg group, said the French were keen to deviate from the traditional light beers. 

“The growth is thanks to specialty beer, those that are a little more sophisticated,” he told Le Figaro newspaper

He pointed to non-alcoholic beers, aromatised beers, and artisanal beers, which have seen a growth of around 11 percent nationwide and currently represent around 27 percent of the beer bought in France. 

And the non-alcoholic beer sales could boom, if neighbouring countries are anything to go by.

“Alcohol-free beer makes up 2 percent of the market in France, and 4 percent of the Kronenbourg market,” Abecasis said, adding that it was closer to 10 percent in Germany and Spain. 

“We could double this in the coming years. For so long, alcohol-free beer had a negative image,” he said.

While beer consumption is certainly on the rise, France is still trailing the vast majority of Europe when it comes to beer drinking – in fact, only the Italians drink less beer. 

The typical French person takes in 32 litres of beer each year – two litres more than they did four years ago. 

And the biggest consumers of beer in France are those in Normandy, followed by those in the Grand Est and Brittany.

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If you're looking for the best pubs around your area in France to join in the beer-drinking trend, why not check out our interactive map here

READ ALSO: Interactive map: Where to find the best pubs around France


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Booze-loving France ‘complicit’ in alcohol deaths

France's love for fine wines and liqueurs means the government is closing its eyes to prevent 49,000 alcohol deaths a year, a new damning report will say.

Booze-loving France 'complicit' in alcohol deaths
Photo: AFP

Does France's love of all things Bordeaux and Burgundy and its pride in the likes of Champagne and Cognac mean it's turning a blind eye to deadly impact of alcohol on people's health?

France Court of Auditors – the Cour des Comptes – believes so and will make its firm views clear in a damning new report to be published on Wednesday.

The Cour des Comptes accuses the government of ignoring France’s alcohol problem because of the prestige and value of French wines and liqueurs.

After several months of investigations, the report will accuse the French government of “complicity” in the 49,000 alcohol-related deaths that occur each year and highlight the legal risk of its “passivity”.

It criticises the state’s lack of investment in medical research into the dangers of alcohol, which is considered a taboo subject because of the economic benefit and reputation of French wines.

With 755,000 hectares of vines in France, only Italy produces more wine in the world than France.

France is renowned for producing one of the highest quantities and highest quality wine in the world, as well as excellent beer, cider and liqueurs.

In a wine market worth €28.3 billion ($32 billion) in 2015, France remains by far the largest exporter in terms of market share value, with 29 percent, equivalent to €8.2 billion.

Despite this, the United States devotes 10 times more resources to investigating the effects of alcohol than France.

The French are the second-biggest wine drinkers after the US, representing 11 percent of the world’s wine drinkers compared to America’s 31 percent.

As of late whiskey has become increasingly popular in France, with the the average whiskey consumption by a French adult hitting 2.15 litres a year – and that’s on top of all the other types of alcohol they drink.

The Cour des Comptes report also draws attention to flaws in France's battle to prevent drink driving.

Although speed limits on the roads are very consistent, controls on alcohol consumption are much more changeable.

Almost one quarter of French drivers have admitted to drinking alcohol before driving, according to a survey published in April.

Some 23 percent of drivers said they had got behind the wheel of the car after drinking “two glasses” of an alcoholic drink, although it doesn’t specify whether those drinks were wine, beer or liqueur.

Alcohol is the second leading cause of road fatalities in France – the first one being speed – and is responsible for around 10 percent of road deaths in France, the total of which last year stood at 3,464.

The Cour des Comptes says the government must follow their own lead and take a stand with alcohol as they did with tobacco in May, when they introduced a law that demands all cigarette packets have neutral packaging.

A French government plan to include reinforced health warnings for wine on bottles was proposed in 2014, but was met with outcry from the the country's wine industry chiefs.

The new report criticising the government comes just a couple of weeks after the €81 million Cité du Vin, described as the biggest wine museum in the world, opened in Bordeaux.

Located in the home of France’s wine country, the museum aims “to bring wine to life” and was officially inaugurated by President François Hollande on June 1st.