Wednesday, May 1, 2013

O'Neil Maitre Artisan Brasseur aka Brasserie O'Neil (Paris, France)

La chope of L' Ambree

Frog & Princess didn't open until 5:30 pm, so I wandered around to find Brasserie O'Neil. It's happy hour, which means 40 cents off per La Chope (big mug) of beer. Honestly, I'm not sure what sort of beer I'm going to find in France after a week in Brussels, so I'm hopeful in ordering a mug of L'Ambree. Amber ale is the only explanation on the menu.

L'Ambree is an amber ale that looks, not surprisingly, light in the glass, almost watery. Gentlemen beside me ordered the blonde, which looks very watery. However, the taste is more robust and has a decent mouthfeel. Caramel and fresh bread in the nose with a very light hop spice if you dig for it a little. Light caramel pervades the taste that's followed by a minor hop at the end. Not a beer to travel a long ways to drink, but a perfectly adequate amber ale that's cleanly brewed.

I assumed that if Belgians were nervous around hops that French would be terrified. But, part of the hopping in L'Ambree is from the fact that the area around Brasserie O'Neil and the Frog & Princess is an expat British neighborhood with a lot of dress shops and pizzerias. The bartender here is clearly French, but the person that helped me at the Frog & Princess was assuredly an expat working at a British styled pub.

Brew kettle is right in the front window of the bar with copper piping bringing the steam through the bar to the roof I suppose. From the piping, my guess is that the mash is a floor lower. The bar was empty when I showed up, but filling up with a Friday night, after-work crowd. Dark wood and brick bar, not dissimilar to many British or Irish pubs.

Not everyone in the bar seems to be drinking the amber, so I'm going to take the hint and try the La Brune. On a the back of the menu, I found more detailed descriptions. La Brune is listed as as an ebony ale; in the mug, it's more of a dark brown with ruby highlights from the evening light. Tan head drops quickly with no lace over a clean, mild roast and malt nose. Thin mouthfeel but enough substance for a brown ale rather than the description's stout label. A brown ale with stout-like qualities, again, is a perfectly fine ale, though it's not going to impress many beer geeks.

On the menu, flammekueches looked good, but the bartender was going off shift, so decided to eat my first crepe of the trip on the corner stand, a grand marnier soaked piece of heaven.  Brasserie O'Neil is an ok stop if you're desperate for a full pint, happen to be nearby or need a meal with English translations (more or less). In my case, I'm a glutton for punishment sometimes and just have to drink it myself. Today the beer is fine and I got to watch some heavyweight 100+ kg Olympic judo in the process. Oddly, the experience comes with some inner city rap and hip hop.

I returned later in the week with my wife and two nieces to try the Flammekeuches. But first, I ordered the La Blanche to drink this time. Fluffy white head over a hazy orange wheat beer. Head falls away quickly over a strong orange peel and spice nose. Not complex, but it has a pleasant aroma. Fruitiness continues in the taste with a slight carbonic bite. Again, not fabulous but brewed cleanly, a comment with which my wife agreed from a sip while she drank her draft of brune.

Flammekueches are a pastry dish from Alsace that means "baked in flames."  I had the Gratinee, which is the Classic (creme fraiche, onions and bacon) plus Gruyere cheese. Minus the bacon, of course, as I'm almost a vegetarian. Comes to the table looking like a thin omelet with burnt edges. Digging in, it is a light pastry crust with the sweet onions counterpointing the slightly sour taste, which I assume is the creme fraiche. Excellent and wish I had time to try this local cuisine again.

While completely eclipsed by Brewberry on our last day in Paris, Brasserie O'Neil served the purpose of a beer geek in need while touristing in Paris.  While no where near world class, some local flavor and an easy visit to a unique Parisian neighborhood makes it worth the effort.

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