History of beer in the region
The first known writings about beer go back more than 5 000 years BC, to Mesopotamy. We know that beer arrived in Europe in 5 000 – 4 800 BC, following two geographical currents: along the Danube (Eastern Europe) and along the meditteranean coast (Southern France).
Contrary to what is widely believed, beer was produced and consumed very early on in Greece and in the Roman empire, before being partially replaced by wine. The Romans had indeed created brewery all along the meditteranean coast line, as proven by the archeological remains found in Roquepertuse, close to Aix en Provence.
At the turn of this century, the region still counted 18 breweries: 3 in the Vaucluse, 7 in the Bouches du Rhône and 8 in the Gard. One should mention the prestigious Brasseries de la Méditerranée and the Brasserie du Phoenix, now part of the Heineken group.
Although centuries old and solidly anchored in some regions such as the Lyonnais, Alsace or in the North, the French brewing culture has diminished considerably since the early 20th century.
CONSOLIDATION & STANDARDIZATION
Under the effect of continuous mergers & acquisitions, ever larger breweries have been producing standard and bland beers, designed to supply the expanding number of supermarkets. In the space of a century, the number of French breweries went from more than 3 000 to under fifty…
The French brewing industry lost most of its know-how and found itself limited to the mass production of standard beers, with no link to local grain production, losing its recipes and regional styles along the way.
THE REBIRTH OF CRAFT BREWERIES
The momentum has however turned in the past 15 years, and the craft brewing industry has blossomed as people are looking for local produce with character, produced in an environmentally friendly way.
While they had been no new breweries since the 1940s, numerous units have been popping up during the last few years. They are now over 300 breweries, spread all over France.