Speaking of Fine Pubs, How ’Bout the Frogs of France?
In 1995, I visited a British pub. In Paris. At the edge of that city’s renowned red light district. They were brewing British-style cask ales near the red light district in Paris!
I had been dining at the semi-classic Chartier Restaurant, where the waiters threw the dishes about in a delightfully surly manner, and where the clientele was mostly British, salted with a few reprobate American tourists like myself. An English tourist folio was floating about and I noticed an ad for the “Paris Real Ale Brewery.” It was a place called Frog & Rosbif. Strange name that. The Brits call the French “Frogs” and the French call the Brits “Rosbif” (roast beef), hence the name. I had to go there.
Frog & Rosbif is a charming green-fronted pub with good beer, pleasing pub food, clean restrooms and a nice British brewery downstairs. For me it was a great, fun day. Good beer is not all that easy to find in Paris; it is far more expensive than the vin ordinaire available everywhere in that country. In 2005, I returned again to see how they had fared.
The beers are not world class, but they are good. Customers are mostly Brits visiting or living in Paris. The most popular beer is Inseine Best Bitter, OG 1040, 4.2% ABV, from British pale malt, with 4% crystal and about 3% wheat malt. This is very refreshing; a nice session beer, easy to down, with an enjoyable hoppiness at about 30-35 IBU, although the serving temperature was a bit warm, perhaps even above 60°F/15°C. This despite the fact that their cellar temperature is a relatively low 43-46°F/6-8°C; apparently the beer is warmed by its lengthy travel from cellar to draw.
Grains are from Munton & Fison, with hops from Morris Hambury, Kent Goldings and Challengers. Production takes about six hours all told, mash setup to fermenter, and starts with an infusion mash cycle, conversion in about an hour, at 147-151°F/64-66°C, another hour transfer to copper, and wort boil 1:00.
The original Frog & Rosbif is located on rue Saint-Denis in Arrondisement 2 (quarter 2) of Paris. That was in 1995, but recently I visited them again; especially since I heard that they had opened a new pub on the Left Bank. Well I was wrong about that: they had opened three new brewpubs in Paris, plus one each in Toulouse and Bordeaux.
This is no McMenamin operation, where each brewpub can supply at least one additional pub. French law requires that each such establishment brew its own beer. Each beer list is pretty much the same, although the names vary. Very little originality seems to be permitted between the pubs. In Paris, the staff appears pretty much bi-lingual.
Brewed in Paris
My favorite Rosbif brew was the stout: Dark de Triomphe (Darkiagnan, Darkitaineand Dark de Nacoes elsewhere), smooth and mellow, this is a fine sipping beer and my kind of stout, at OG 1048, 5% ABV, pale malt, roast barley, chocolate malt, flaked barley and Challenger hops. Another, Brew St. Denis, is 5% ABV, from pale malt with 5% wheat malt, OG 1048, FXB. Frog Extra Bitter, is an occasional offering at 4.6% ABV.
They presently brew four seasonals. The winter seasonal is Rosbif’s Revenge, a robust dark at OG 1058, 6.7% ABV, available from November through February. In the spring, there is Frog Natural Blonde, a pils at 5% ABV, probably warm fermented and cold lagered, at 1040 and 4.2%, with German Hallertau hops. The beer is matured one month and served unpasteurized and unfiltered.
Frog & Rosbif’s summer offering is An Ale of Two Cities: softer than the Inseine, at OG 1035, 3.6% ABV, but with a mash bill similar to that beer. The fall seasonal is Paris Lytic (Brew D’Aesome, Expo Extraand Brew de L’Indostril elsewhere), a dark ruby colored porter, at 5.2% and 1050.
The company’s wheat beer is Frogaarden, 1040, 4.2%, a Belgian wit with orange peel, Czech hops and coriander.
Actually, Frog & Rosbif has something for everyone. There’s hard liquor, (i.e., Jamison 4cl/1.35oz) and wine as well as cocktails (Tequila Sunrise!).
The restrooms are free, clean, neat, well lit and located downstairs next to the brewery, which is behind glass, where it can be viewed.
Owners Paul Chantler, 42, and Icelander Thor Gudmundsson, 44, opened the FRB on October 18, 1993. The two had been MBA students at Fontainebleau University in Paris, where they had put together a business plan as homework. They learned brewing at the Jolly Roger Brew Pub in Britain’s Worcester, following ideas from David Bruce’s quirky Firkin chain. The floor is bare planks and the windows high; it had been a French restaurant gone bankrupt. Financing was arranged through a French bank, after wading through multiple levels of frustrating French bureaucracy, but it was an immediate success.
There’s a beautifully built wood bar by Ian Thomas, a Bristol joiner. David Bruce (owner of a small chain of eccentric pubs) actually has a small share; and helped them assemble the first brewery. Darts and dice? Yep, plus a weekend D-J, televised British rugby football and soccer, and a good menu: cheese nachos, mozzarella sticks, deep fried calamari, quesadillas, potato wedges and chicken skewers. More substantial entrees are also found: lamb steak, rump steak, fish and chips and a club sandwich, as well as what could be a fine bacon-cheeseburger—just make sure you ask for well done—remember, this is Europe. Did I mention Stilton cheese, farmhouse cheddar, Heinz Baked Beans (a British love) and bangers? Of course.
There’s more information on their English language website: www.frogpubs.com.
Fred Eckhardt lives in Portland, OR. He doesn’t get to Paris nearly often enough.