Demory: The First Craft Brewery in Paris

Demory: The First Craft Brewery in Paris
When Brewer Kai Lorch founded Demory Paris, Paris’s first craft brewery, in 2009, it wasn’t with the goal of making the nerdiest, craftiest brews. All he wanted, he says, was to make a beer for locals.  “I wanted to become the local Parisian beer.”  This, he says, meant compromising a touch on the funk that characterizes so much of the craft beer scene. “I always knew I had to give the people, a little bit, what they want,” he says. “Which is not what you really want to do as a craft brewer. You want to just do your own thing.”  That said, in his way, Lorch has.   Before founding the brewery, Lorch had already lived a thousand lives: He’d attended a French boarding school before graduating from high school in both the U.S. and Germany. He had studied business administration in Switzerland, and he’d even worked for a subsidy of Richemont, the second-largest luxury goods company in the world. But beer was his birthright; it had always been dear to the Munich native’s heart.  “In Munich, if you start drinking a glass of wine, people stop talking,” he says. “They go like… what’s your problem? What’s up with you?”  Lorch’s innate love of beer had only deepened upon encountering the American craft brewing scene. He and a friend even considered launching their own craft brewery in Munich, and while the project didn’t pan out, he recalls, “it stuck in my mind.” He spent his university years studying beer, even writing his thesis about small- and medium-sized breweries. And when finally the time felt ripe, France felt like the ideal place to launch.  In 1998, this required incredible foresight on Lorch’s part. Despite craft beer burgeoning in America beginning in the 1980s, over a decade later, Paris’s beer culture wasn’t even nascent; it was non-existent.  “When I arrived, it was blonde, blanche, brune,” he says. “If you came in with a hefeweizen, they didn’t know what that was.”   But Paris was his dream. Just a few months before Gallia, now owned by Heineken, swung wide its doors, Lorch launched his Demory. The name, he says, came from Paris’s oldest real brewery, dating back to 1827.   “Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir wrote that they used to go dancing at Demory,” he says. “You can just imagine that they didn’t go alone; they went with their other artist friends and all this stuff. So it was a big part of Parisian life back then.”  A riff on that original bleu, blanc, rouge label soon graced the packaging of his initial core range: a pilsner, a hefeweizen, and a schwarzbier. But even this small selection, he says, proved difficult to get off the ground.  “People didn’t appreciate that you would go through all that hustle to make lager beers,” he says. “There are countries like in America where they’d go, oh, that’s a lager, a black lager, that’s awesome, so they would really appreciate the fact that you go through that. Here… they didn’t care.” 

Lead photo credit : Kai Lorch at Demory. Photo Credit: Emily Monaco

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Emily Monaco is an American journalist based in Paris. Her work has appeared in the BBC, Saveur, Atlas Obscura, and more. She is the host of the podcast "Navigating the French" and pens a weekly newsletter, Emily in France, with tips for dining (and cheese-eating) in Paris and beyond.