On Location: Paname Brewing Co. in Paris, France
At Paname Brewing Co., it’s easy to feel caught between two worlds.
You’re in Paris, with a magnificent view over Bassin de la Villette, the city’s biggest man-made lake, but then there’s that English-language description of what goes on here: not brasserie, but brewing company (Paname, meanwhile, is a nickname for the French capital).
Things are no clearer at the bar. Among the regulars is a special called Brexiteer, a New England-style IPA that conflates—as is common in France—the two major “Anglo-Saxon” nations, Great Britain and the United States.
Then there’s the clientele. As I sit down with a glass of Brexiteer, two young women walk away from the bar, pints in hands: one wears a New York Yankees T-shirt, the other a Breton shirt and huge hoop earrings. They’re still deciding what to order from the kitchen, whose offer is described on the wall thus: “Tous les jours nos chefs de monde entier vous concoctons le street food …” (Every day our chefs from around the world make street food for you). The street food includes pizzas and burgers, plus plates of cheese and charcuterie.
Opened in 2015, Paname is a place where the Anglo-Saxon brewing world meets Paris, where much has been borrowed but the totality is utterly unique. In a city where beer has for so long meant overpriced big brands, the occasional Belgian Trappist in a bar’s fridge or a chain of jokingly named British brewpubs (i.e. Frog and Rosbif), this is the first modern taproom.
It’s a big, faux-industrial place, with a bar along one bare-brick wall and the 500-liter brewing equipment at the back. A chalkboard in front of the kit lists what 30-year-old German brewer Benedikt Steger, who trained in his native land, is making that day (the day I visit, it’s saison). Much of the furniture has the lived-in look of something salvaged from local schools, while the toilets are accessed through a swinging saloon door. The brewing process, meanwhile, is explained in chalk on one wall (Fermentation: 7 jours. Maturation: 2 a 4 semaines).
It has been a day of dramatic downpours—including hailstones—but at 6 p.m. (aperitif time in Paris) the sun has broken through in style. As a result, most of the bar’s clientele are squeezed into a section of the bar surrounded by floor-length windows looking out onto the Bassin de la Villette. It’s a mixed crowd, with plenty of fashionably dressed young people (those fussy leather Herschel backpacks are popular) but there are families, too. The blander end of British pop music (Coldplay, Keane, Lily Allen) provides the soundtrack.
The Brexiteer is perhaps a touch too bitter for the style—such as it is—but it’s a very decent drop, with grapefruit-peel aroma and some just discernible baked-bread malt character. It is properly opaque. I finish it and return to the bar to sample one of the regular lineup. There are five options, taking in pale ale, saison, lager and IPAs pale and black. I choose Bête Noire, a black IPA that feels under-hopped after the New England-style IPA, yet still has plenty of satisfying dryness.
I take it outside, where two seating areas overlook the water: a floating pontoon, with seats still wet from the earlier rain, and a covered, heated area reserved for smokers. I don’t smoke, but this being France, plenty of the bar’s clientele do. It’s a great spot to watch Parisians walk their dogs and jog along the tree-lined, cobbled pathways beside the Bassin, and listen in to other people’s conversations.
One American man’s voice stands out above the others, for its content as much as its volume: “His parents are weird, too, though.” “Well, he grew up in a railway town.” He stops when a platter of charcuterie arrives. Given the transatlantic nature of Paname, it seems oddly appropriate.