It was a blustery and drizzly morning on our last full day in Paris. My wife, Kathy, niece, Jennifer and I decided it would be a good time for gift shopping and for visiting a museum or two. Figured I might as well try to find a beer store on BeerAdvocate.com near to where we planned to shop and do touristy things. And lo and behold! La Cave à Bulles (100 Beer Rating on BA) is right next to The Centre Pompidou! Only .7 km from our apartment!
We trudge merrily off into the drizzle towards La Cave.
45 rue Quincampoix is easy to miss. It rests on a small alley-like street, amongst similarly-styled, well-worn store fronts. Some beer bottle-type signage might help the casual beer buyer. Folks like us on a mission from Ninkasi or Ceres (choose your own Beer God) will find this Beer Mecca come hell or high water! You don’t believe the French are into great beer? It’s time to change your beliefs.
Upon stepping inside, I'm a bit dumbstruck because; 1. All the shelves and rows of different, foreign beers to choose from are, well, foreign 2. I don't speak French very well (but I do try). 3. I'm somewhat dyslexic. 4. So many beers, so few arms to carry them all. What's a soul to do?
We are greeted with a friendly, "Bonjour!" we reply, "Bonjour!" Before leaving for France, I try to arm myself with helpful phrases like, "Je voudrais acheter de la bière française" ("I'd like to purchase some French beer"), but instead will stammer out some statement like, "Je suis une bière française" ("I am a French Beer") It's usually at this point in the conversation when Kathy intervenes to assist/correct, but the clerk, perceptive to our present state begins by greeting us in perfect English...American-accented English, that is. Perhaps it was Kathy's Red Sox hat that tipped him off?
We are met by Brandon, an expat living in Germany but visiting and assisting at the store. He later explains that he helps owner, Simon on occasions and then travels back home with loads of beer in tow.
Once Kathy and Jennifer are assured I won't need to rely upon my own version of the French language and possibly insult someone, or worse, they depart for the Centre Pompidou. I am in my own little museum at the moment.
Standing in the center of the wood-floor store, you'll notice 5 separate sections, 3 are broken into various regions of France dedicated exclusively to French beer. These are all craft beers! (Artisanale Biere!) Off to the right, they've got quite the collection of Belgian beers, to the left, a nice assortment of beers from the US, Italy and elsewhere.
The beers are simply priced. As of March 25, 2014, € 3,85 for most of the 33cl bottles, all different styles, with just a few exceptions. This is less expensive than in Boston or Cambridge. Brandon helped me choose ten French beers and bubble-wrapped each bottle and even boxed them, complete with carrying handle!
The owner Simon Thillou welcomes beer trades with his visitors. But before you go carrying beer gifts from afar, you might want to contact him directly to see what he's interested in trying. http://www.caveabulles.fr/
La Cave à Bulles should be listed in all guide books of France. This is a MUST visit place! Even if you’re not a beer lover, you should stop in and purchase a bottle or two for friends and family. Haven’t any friends or family? J'aime votre bière !