The first thing I said when I moved to Paris was, “God, the coffee is terrible.”
The second thing I said was, “the beer is awful too.”
And so began the search for any drink that was even remotely craft related. France is a cafe country, but not a coffee country, and by the same token, it’s a brasserie country (which in French, actually means brewery) but it’s not a beer country. I’m happy to report that these things are (slowly) changing.
These days, in Paris there is a coffee culture, albeit not huge, and you can get your hands around a decent filter coffee when you want to. As for the beer? In a sea of industrial beers, there are very few craft beer brands, particularly in Paris. Pop into any average corner bar with an after-work craft beer in mind and you’ll most likely be depressingly disappointed.
Enter Café Lomi and Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or. Just like Café Lomi, Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or calls the 18th arrondissement home. In fact, Thierry Roche named his brewery after the diverse neighborhood that his beers call home; even the individual beer names are inspired by streets in the area. He’s a man devoted to everything that’s local, and is an artisan who believes in his craft. In a city where you can easily die of thirst if you’re looking for craft beer – there are a few good French craft labels, but you have to know where to go to get them, and often it’s at specialty stores and bars – that comes as a welcomed change.
At the forefront of a slowly changing industry, Roche’s attitude to beer is similar to Lomi’s attitude to coffee, so it should come as no surprise that when they met, a collaboration quickly transpired. The result is the 3ter beer, which made its debut just before Christmas, and in the time since has sold out of its first run of 2000 bottles.
Yes, this story is about a locally brewed Parisian beer made with craft-roasted coffee. If you think the Paris scene is behind the times, getting a bottle of this can make you feel a little better about things.
While for a coffee beer you may usually think of a strong stout or a darker brew, the 3ter is modeled after a Belgian tripel. “It’s kind of a winter beer, it’s stronger in alcohol, it’s sweet…. ça chauffe, it keeps you warm in winter,” says Café Lomi roaster Paul Arnephy. “We did something different than a classic coffee beer,” adds the brewer, Mr. Roche. “I didn’t want the coffee to be in competition with the malt… I wanted the coffee to express itself without being camouflaged.” And so they decided to see what could come of doing the beer in the tripel style, choosing coffees that would complement and contrast with the taste.
There are two coffees in the beer, a Kenya from cooperative Kiawamaruru and a Costa Rica from Finca Licho. Coffee is added first during the whirlpool process of the brewing, where the ground Kenyan beans are infused into the beer. As Mr. Arnephy puts it, essentially it’s like making “a giant French press.” Then just before the beer is bottled, in goes a cold brew of the Costa Rican coffee. “The type of beer [a tripel] is a quite of punchy sort of beer,” Mr. Arnephy told me, and “the Costa Rican really puts a kind of smoothing note on the beer.” Me. Roche agrees, noting that with this beer that’s full of contrasts it makes for a brew that has “un peu de touch.”
Ultimately, it’s not just about a coffee beer, it’s about a collaboration that’s helping to put two artisan producers on the map of craft culture. “We didn’t just go and buy Lomi coffee,” says Roche, pointing out that for him the important part about this beer has been the collaboration with Lomi. “It allowed us to exchange and learn, and that’s pretty cool.”
While the first round of 3ter was bottles-only, part of the next batch is making its way into kegs, meaning that 3ter will be available on tap at some of the bars that Roche already works with (here’s a Google Map if you’re interested). “It’s something local, something different,” says Roche, about what he calls the first “prototype” batch. “As a result, we weren’t wrong [about the beer] because people loved it.”
Is it the beer that people love or is it the coffee? As Lucie Leblin of Cafe Lomi puts it, people like the concept for the beer because ultimately it’s a “story of craft guys getting together.”
I think we can all raise a glass to more of that.
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is the founder of Foodie Underground, and has contributed most recently to Roads & Kingdoms and Slate.com. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist, with a cookbook due out Spring 2015 from Ten Speed Press. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.