Before industrialisation, most beer was brewed in small rural breweries, which catered to the needs of the local residents. In the early 20th century there were over a thousand breweries in France. As rural population declined, these breweries almost disappeared and along with them the tradition and diversity of the regional beers, which started to be replaced by larger urban ones.
Events that arguably caused the most impact to the rural brewing heritage were Industrialisation, which drove people to cities; the decline of the coal-mining industry, which employed a large number of people in northern France and thus provided a significant market for local beer; and the two World Wars, which hit the French countryside very hard (not only the population but sometimes the breweries directly, which had their equipment turned into ammunition).
However in the post war years interest in beer and brewing was renewed and many new breweries have appeared.
Nord-Pas-de-Calais area, also known as French Flanders, has a longstanding cultural ties to Belgium; however, it would be an error to think that its brewing tradition is a mere imitation of its neighbour’s, but rather a descendant of a common brewing heritage.
Pelforth is a French brewery founded in 1914 in Mons-en-Barœul by three Lillois brewers. Among connoisseurs, it is “famous for its strong speciality beers”.
It was originally called Pelican, after a dance popular at the time. Production was stopped during World War II, restarting in 1950. The brewery name was changed in 1972 to Pelforth. It was bought by Français de Brasserie in 1986, which was acquired by Heineken International in 1988.
The brewery produces the Pelforth brand of beers: Pelforth, an ale, was first brewed in 1935 using two different types of malt and English yeast. The name came from “Pel” for pelican, “forte” for strong, because it contains a lot of malt (43 kg/hL), and the h added to give it an English feel.