A CRAFT beer revival could help boost tourist numbers to a part of France that is often neglected by foreign visitors.
They hope a number of “Beer Routes”, set to launch next year in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, will prove as popular as the more well-known wine, champagne and cider routes in other parts of the country.
In July, Senators voted to give French beer the same protected status as wine and champagne and make it part of the country’s cultural heritage.
Now entrepreneurs in Nord-Pas-de-Calais are determined to make the most of the cultural seal of approval.
One company offers tours around a number of the 41 local breweries in the region. It hopes to add more tours next year, as more small- and medium-sized breweries sign up.
"Our philosophy is to restore its reputation for beer and show that it is a piece of the heritage of the area and a real drink tasting," Olivier Faure, one of brewery tour company’s three partners, told regional newspaper Voix du Nord.
The region has a rich brewing heritage, he added. A century ago, it boasted nearly 2,000 breweries.
Brewer Dominique Dillies said he understood beer-related tourism faced many obstacles, including the fact that France’s picturesque wine regions prove a more natural draw for tourists than the industrial Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
“Beer is less spectacular than wine,” he said.
“When you arrive in wine country, you see the vineyards. But hops are far less visually impressive.”