Sunday, April 01, 2007

Beers Around The World

" I'm French Mr. Eckland. My parents started me on wine mixed with water when I was six... The truth is, I don't believe in excessive drinking.... We had martini's before dinner, white wine with the fish, red wine with the main course, champagne with desert, cognac with the coffee and port after dinner." ---- Father Goose, 1965 , a Cary Grant movie.

The above quote from Father Goose really makes you want to get invited to that house for dinner. The French can drink and I am quite sure they would not consider the above list as excessive drinking. The French are known for their able drinking ability and also their preference for wine. Other countries also have interesting labels attached to them concerning the type of drink that they drink.

Right next door, is Belgium. A country smaller than most states in America, but a country with over 400 different locally brewed beers. Beer in Belgium is given the same respect as wine in other countries. Lambics, ales, sour beers, pilsners, Trappist Ales, white beer. Belgium has it all and they are not afraid to up the ante when in comes to alcohol content.

The Czech Republic is responsible for the style of beer mostly consumed in the United States. Let me rephrase that. The Czech Republic is responsible for the style of beer that we in America, loosely base our most popular beer recipes on. The Pilsner was invented in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Up until the time of Pilsner, beers were dark and cloudy. In Pilsen, they cleared the beer up and came up with a lighter crisper style. A few towns over in Budweis, their style of pilsner was so good, it inspired Adolphus Busch in and around 1875 to come up with his own Budweiser brew. The Budweis beer made in the Czech Republic can be bought in the United States under the name Czechvar. Only the names are similar as the actual taste of the two beers is worlds apart.

Germany is another country that tends to brew crisp, clean, refreshing beers. The land of the oversized beer mug is known for their lagers, but are second to none when it comes to serving up a large, frothy glass of wheat beer. Also called, Weissbier or Weizen or Hefeweizen. These beers are becoming hugely popular in America due to their refreshing qualities and perfect paring with the summer season. Nothing beats a Weissbeer on a hot summer day.

The land of Ale, England, brews some of the oldest and tastiest beers ever concocted. Britain is responsible for the extreme hop movement in the United States. When the Brits discovered additional hops added to the brew pot preserved the beer for the long boat trip to India, the India Pale Ale was born. On a more subtler note, the cask conditioned Bitters and all the other ale styles served at cellar temperature in pubs across Britain, are luscious examples of how a good beer should taste. And please, on a cold winter evening, never forget the king of all ales, the mouthwatering, stomach warming, tastiest of treats, the Barleywine.

When listing countries known for their unique drinking habits, one of the most unique would be the Republic of Ireland. Forget the green shamrocks, give me the black stuff. Stout sort of had the same origins as the British IPA. During the 1820's, Arthur Guinness was brewing porter beer in Dublin, Ireland. Arthur was exporting his beer to the Caribbean. To survive the trip, he made the beer stronger and renamed it Extra Stout Porter. Eventually the Porter was dropped from the name and the beer survived as Guinness Extra Stout. Overtime, the beer morphed into what we consume today, Guinness Draught. Guinness Extra Stout and Foreign Extra Stout are also available, but not as popular with the masses. If given the chance, try a bottle of Extra Stout, it will stand up to almost any American version of bottled stout. Truly a classic.

What of the Good Ol' USA? The roots of this country as a people represent one big melting pot of nationalities . The same could be said of our beer and our breweries. We have learned from other countries and brew beers of all styles. We have even taken the old traditional styles and Americanized them into bigger, bolder, brasher beers. While mostly known for our light and extra light lagers, American Microbreweries are foraging ahead with styles and tastes of beer that could not be found in any other country. The beauty of American beer is the same as the beauty of America, variety.

This Month's Beers

Arcadia Scotch Ale:
Brewed in Battle Creek Michigan, this Scotch style ale is perfect for the style. It is very close to my bench mark beer, McEwan's Ale. Not as strong in alcohol as McEwan's but just a flavorful in taste. Sweet, malty taste with a warming finish.

Victory Brewing, Hop Wallup: This beer started with a strong hoppy aroma, almost like the trimming of a fresh hedge. A light bodied beer that has an extreme tilt towards hop bitterness at the finish. Despite the delicious hop wallop and the 8.5% alcohol, this beer is not only extreme, but extremely drinkable. To date, Victory Brewing has never disappointed me with any of their offerings.

Alaskan Brewing (Amber, Winter & Stout): The Alaskan Brewing Company brews a fine trio of beers in their Amber, Winter Ale and Stout. My good friend sent me these beers as a gift and they did not disappoint. The Winter Ale did not have any funky Christmas tree tastes, just a mild, drinkable ale with a hint of spruce. The Amber was also very drinkable and made a great session beer for me, as I drank all 6 in a row. The Amber is actually a German Alt beer and is a very good representative of the style. The stout was the big surprise, as I am a huge stout fan, I tend to be picky in my selections. This one was an oatmeal stout and smelled like a cup of hot coffee with a chocolate bar melted in. Delicious to boot. If this beer was on nitro it would remind me of the hand crafted Stouts at the Porterhouse Pub in Dublin, Ireland.

Pranqster: I tried this beer partly because of the name. I was known as the pranqster in college due to my playing of the pranks. This Pranqster, brewed in California is a Belgian Style Ale, light in color with a nice clovey aroma. Lot's of different herbs and spices in the taste. A very refreshing beer that due to the 7.5% alcohol content sneaks up on you. Very drinkable. A good summer beer.