Beer and cocktails do not automatically come to mind when Bordeaux is discussed. Rather, opulent, structured wines birthed from countryside vineyards and ornate chateaus. When visiting the region, you could stay for a week and still have more vineyards to take in for your next visit. There’s certainly no shortage of fermented grape juice in this world-class region. Even the airport boasts small patches of vines, welcoming thirsty visitors with its best foot forward. Should your palate tire of wine, there’s plenty of pubs, cocktail bars, and microbreweries competing for your attention in the city center. In fact, most locals in the town do just that — drink beer, and lots of it.
The town of Bordeaux is the epicenter of the famous wine region. The center of the town lies on the left bank of the Garonne River just about an hour drive from the well-known First Growth Chateaus. Here you find sprawling promenades lined with cobblestones, lush greenery, and blooming flowers. Amidst century old cathedrals, soft cotton ball clouds line the blue sky. Even the stereotypical French mime and accordion players are in attendance. Everywhere you rest your eyes is an opportunity for an Instagram post.
While touring the city, you’ll easily be convinced that it’s time for a refreshing beverage. Or two. Or three. You’re in France, after all. If you can make your way through the cloud of cigarette smoke from outside, The Black Sheep Pub is the perfect way to start an afternoon beer fest. Located just south of the Pont de Pierre, and a stone’s throw from the Basilica of Saint Michael, this local watering hole has the charm of any neighborhood bar. Stocked with chuggable domestic and international beers and even their own, aptly named “The Black Sheep” beer, this happy hour spot will have you fitting in with the locals.
Should the day be perfectly beautiful (as I am sure it will be) and you need the perfect pub patio, The Blarney Stone is your next stop. Located on Cours Victor Hugo, caddy-corner to yet another Catholic church and right across the street from a KFC — The Blarney Stone offers prime orchestra seating for people watching. Kronenbourg flows as swiftly as the Garonne here poured by friendly Irish bartenders. They may even step in and play a round of darts with you.
What’s a good pub crawl without some grub? The Frog & Rosbif is the answer to your prayers. Just off the main artery Cours d’Alsace-et-Lorraine, this casual upscale beer-and-burger joint has it all. Televisions for watching soccer, a menu with something for everyone (even including tacos), an extensive beer list, nightly drink specials and even classic cocktails. Thankfully you’ve been drinking at happy hour prior. Here, the l’addition might not be as attractive as the staff.
It’s not just all beer halls in this romantic city. Cocktail bars — or “gintonerias” also offer quaffable imbibements. Tucked away in the Vielle Ville — The Center City — L’Alchimiste is great for a night of romance and grandeur. This gintoneria was a carefully kept secret until recently, I’d suggest getting there earlier than later. The carefully crafted cocktails are constructed among candlelight and stone walls accompanied by classic French fare. Some classic cocktails are served as well as some originals. I recommend the Gin O’Clock — because it’s time you had one.
Schedule one day of your trip to explore the town of Bordeaux. Drink in the sights and scenery. Be charmed by local pubs and residents. There’s much more to this region than its famous wines.