Beer tour in Nord-Pas-de-Calais

© T. Joly
More and more craft breweries pop up in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. Some of them are open to the public and brewers explain you the production methods before offering you tastings of their excellent medium bodied ales, IPA and stouts.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
230 km de Paris to Lille on autoroute A1, 200 km till Lens on autoroutes A1 and A21, 185 km till Arras on autoroute A1.
- By train
TGV from Paris Gare du Nord to Arras, Lens and Lille. The journey takes 50 mn to Arras, 1 h 15 mn to Lens and 1 hour to Lille.
- Htels
Hôtel de l’Univers, in Arras
Lenshotel, in Lens
Domaine de la Chartreuse, in Gosnay
Hermitage Gantois, in Lille
Hôtel Bellevue, in Lille
- Bed and Breakfast
L’Oreiller de Houblon, in Esquelbecq
Al Fosse 7, in Avion
Brasserie du Cateau, in Cateau-Cambrésis
A Ch’Carrefour Gourmand, in Armentières
La Part des Anges, in Arras
Le Bouchot, in Lens
Domaine de la Chartreuse, in Gosnay
La Laiterie, in Lambersart
L’Atelier Gourmand, in Lille
Getting around
It is necessary to have a car to get to the breweries
L’Échappées Bière
Tel : 0622063838
- Brasserie Saint-Germain
Tel : 0321722424
- Brasserie Castelain
Tel : 0321086868
- Brasserie du Cateau
Tel : 0327071919
- Brasserie La Choulette
Tel : 0327357244
- Brasserie des 2 Caps
Tel : 0321105653
- Brasserie Thiriez
Tel : 0328628844
- Brasserie Dreum
Tel : 0609103125
Nord – Pas de Calais Tourist Office
Tel : 0320145757
Page 24, La Rouge Flamande, L’Escreboise, L’Etoile du Nord.... These beer names probably don’t ring a bell to you except if you are a connoisseur. But even in this case it is not sure you tasted them because they are difficult to find outside the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region where they are produced.
They illustrate the revival of brewing activity in Northern France where it is a tradition as old than in Belgium.

© T. Joly
 More and more breweries
Having declined sharply during the interwar period and after the Second World War, the number of breweries is on the rise again since about twenty years and there are now forty or so operating beer-makers. They are mostly microbreweries and small craft breweries recently created that produce medium bodied ales typical of the region and called bières de garde but also lager, white, stout and IPA ones. There are also a few older and larger breweries whose bières de garde are better known and have a stronger presence throughout France. Let’s name the Jeanlain from the Duyck brewery, the largest of all, the Goudale from Les Brasseurs de Gayant, largest family-owned brewery in France, and the Ch'ti, from the Castelain brewery. However, during the last few years they have widen their range of beers to lager, white and IPA and Castellain has now an organic beer called Jade. Founded in 1926, the latter was took over by the present owners in 1978 and is located in Bénifontaine, near Lens. It is one of the few ones easy to visit.

Castelain brewery © T.Joly
 Gravity brewery
Open to the public every day except Sunday, it boasts a small museum explaining how beer is made and containing a fine collection of old equipments, advertising posters and promotional items. It ends with a tasting of some beers from the brewery. However, it is impossible to go through the area where the production takes place.
Situated in Cateau-Cambrésis, near Cambrai, the craft brewery of the Abbaye du Cateau is one of the few remaining gravity breweries in Europe. Only closed on Monday, boasting a restaurant, it is installed in a former Benedictine abbey listed as an historic monument and its origin dates back to the 18th century. However, it had ceased operations between 1926 and 2004.
About 30 km away, in Hordain, near Valenciennes, the Choulette craft brewery still uses traditional methods and copper vats from the 20s. Its origin goes back to 1895 and it reopened in 1977, twenty-six years after closing.

Saint-Germain brewery © T.Joly
 Page 24, a rising star
The shop is open on weekdays and Saturday when take place the visits to individuals. and its basement has been turned into a museum displaying ancient equipment as well as documents about brewery history in Nord Pas-de-Calais region.
In Escquelbecq, near Dunkirk, the Thiriez microbrewery Thiriez welcomes visitors on weekdays, but only by appointment.
All the other ones are seldom open to the public. Near Lens, in Aix-la-Noulette, the Saint-Germain brewery only offers one visit per week, on Saturday at 10am. However, its store is open on the afternoon from Wednesday to Friday as well as Saturday morning. It can be described as a big craft brewery and it is the rising star of the brewing industry from Northern France thanks to its Page 24 beers highly valued by connoisseurs and more and more available in other regions. As everywhere, the visit ends wit the tasting of various beers of the brand. At Neuville-en-Avesnois, near Quesnoy, the microbrewery Dreum is also open on Saturdays and only operates on weekends because its founder Jerome Dreumont works as publicist during the week. As for the Brasserie des 2 Caps, near Calais, it organizes one visit per week in July and August, on Friday at 3pm.

Castelain brewery © T.Joly
 Organized tours
If you wish to discover other breweries, ask to the tourist offices that are happy to promote local products and sometimes organize visits. For instance, the last Saturday of each month, the one of Armentières offers a tour of the Lepers brewery that still uses traditional copper vats.
Alternatively, get in touch with Echappée Bière, a company specialized in beer tours founded in 2013. One Saturday per month, it offers a day trip comprising the discovery of three breweries in the course of which your guide will explain in detail the entire beer making process, how to produce a blond, amber or brown ale, what gives beer its bitterness and so on. Starting from one of the main towns of the region (Lille, Valenciennes, Lens, Arras, Cambrai, Calais), it of course includes a beer tasting at the end of each visit as well as a lunch taking place in an estaminet.

© L'Echappée Bière
 Beer and food pairing
This is the name given to the typical restaurants of Nord-Pas-de-Calais where are served local beers and dishes.
L’Echappée Bière also has half day tours, tours combining visits of breweries and historical sites, museums or local specialties manufacturers (chocolates, cheeses, sweets, ..). Beer tasting courses are also available. If you are a group of at least nine people, all these activities can also be arranged on the day of your choice as well as beer and food pairing workshops and gastronomic meals whose each dish is paired with a different beer.
Lastly, two events also give the chance to discover most or a few breweries from this region. Terre de Brasseurs that takes place in Arras and gathers together a large number of brewers from Northern France. Planète Bière, held in Paris, that brings together some of the best French and European craft breweries.

April 21, 2016
Thierry Joly