American brewers have been rediscovering and remixing long-forgotten traditional French beer recipes since the 1980s. Some of these American beer artisans have even moved to France, and today are playing a role in the “craft beer revolution.” A sign of this evolution, the Mondial de la Bière international craft beer festival — which was created in Montreal in 1994 — will take place in Paris for the first time this year.
Craft beers are booming in the United States. Americans first discovered them when the Belgian Dupont brewery began exporting its products to North America in the 1980s. “You used to be able to count the number of French and Belgian beers available in the U.S.A. on one hand,” says Charlie Papazian, founder of the Brewers Association. “Beers brewed in the United States were indistinguishable — light lagers with the same neutral taste, from New York to San Francisco!”
Amateur American brewers have started drawing on ancient French and Belgian recipes, and have even opened their own breweries and begun locally distributing their products. The number of independent breweries in the United States jumped from 89 in 1978 to 5,301 in 2016, and no less than 800 new microbreweries were founded in the U.S.A. last year! The trend moved to France, where the Syndicat National des Brasseurs Indépendants counted more than 1,000 breweries. Less than 150 existed ten years ago.
By moving to France, American brewers have brought the “craft beer revolution” with them. Philadelphia-born Anthony Baraff is one such pioneer, and has partnered up with Breton brewer Fabrice Le Goff. The duo has been brewing in the Parisian region since 2011, and just opened their own brewery in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. Another U.S. figure in the beer world, Mike Gilmore, is a former master brewer for the Parisian FrogPubs chain. He was trained in Colorado and has just opened the French capital’s first brewing room, Brew Unique, in the second arrondissement. Thirsty amateurs can brew 5 gallons of their own beer for 170 euros. Moving south of Paris, Boston native Shari Zigelbaum-Cau opened the Bordeaux Beer Shop three years ago. She now sells between 250 and 300 different products, including a majority of French craft beers.
Originally from Philadelphia, Mike Donohue has lived in Paris for three years, and runs the Deck & Donohue brewery with his former university classmate, Strasbourg-born Thomas Deck. “The hops, barley and malt used to make beer were historically grown in Europe,” says Mike Donohue. “Opening a craft brewery in France was therefore a logical step for a lot of American brewers.” The Franco-American duo set up shop in Montreuil, in the northeast of Paris, in 2014. That year also saw the very first Parisian Beer Week, dedicated to craft beer.
Faced with its growing success, the Deck & Donohue brewery expanded last September. The second site in the southeast of Paris will allow the two brewers to increase their annual production from 18,500 gallons to 80,000 gallons by next year. Thomas Deck and Mike Donohue personally take care of all the deliveries, loading up their Renault vans three or four times a week before setting off across the Parisian region. From Vincennes and Saint-Ouen to Ménilmontant, Les Halles and Trocadéro, almost 150 bars, restaurants and stores stock Deck & Donohue beers.
The American-inspired Mission Pale Ale is their flagship product. This light lager offers aromas of mango, orange and pineapple, and commemorates the first time the pair brewed together – in an apartment kitchen in San Francisco in 2005. “We brew French beer in an American style, but we have no intention of exporting our beers to the United States,” says Mike Donohue. “Our roots are here in France!”