Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Australia - Coopers Brewery

The land down under might be out of the World Cup, but they are still up in the World Cup of beer!  When most people think of Australian beer they think about Foster's... after all, they are Australian for beer, right?  Well, I have it on good authority from the mouth of an Aussie that Foster's is really Australian for Natty Light.  In fact, when I was studying in London one Summer Foster's was our go-to beer... because it was the cheapest beer in the stores.  Australia is also home to many microbreweries, not unlike their island neighbors New Zealand, and per capita drink the 4th most beer of all nations.  Since this is the BR Beer Scene, though... I'm going to feature one of Australia's brewers that is regularly available in South Louisiana... Coopers.

One of the amazing thing about Coopers is that they started in 1862, and are still owned by the Cooper family.  They are the largest family-owned brewery in Australia and like I said, one of the few to export their beer to international markets.  I've tried a handful of their offerings over the years... always in bottles, at places like the Chimes, or picked them up myself at various beer retailers in town.  Perhaps their best beer is the Coopers Best Extra Stout, always found in the bottles with the yellow labels and a well above-average stout beer.  It's a strong beer, at over 6% alcohol, with hints of coffee and dark fruits.  They also produce a Vintage Ale, meant to be aged and quite similar in style to the Fuller's Vintage Ale I featured for England a few weeks back.  I've seen this one around town, as well as their original Pale Ale, one of their most popular brews.  

These guys aren't quite going to give the best brewers in the world a run for their money but they are still putting out quality beers that can be found at the local grocers... so give them a try for something different!

A Good Beer Blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Japan - Hitachino Nest White Ale

For Japan, I'm going to feature one of the finest and possibly most unique ales in the world.  One that can also be found in many drinking establishments in Baton Rouge, as well as in the bigger beer retailers and many of the plethora of sushi joints this town is overflowing with.  I'm talking of course about Hitachino Nest While Ale.  
I'm not sure when it was that I had my first try of this beer, but I remember where it was.  Slinky's, a little beer joint on Chimes St. and I was hooked ever since.  This has become one of my go-to beers and one I'd love to always keep stocked in the fridge.   It's a traditional Belgian ale, a witbier to be precise, with a Japanese kick.  Witbiers (such as Hoegaarden, Blue Moon, Allagash White, etc..) are typically known for a citrus feel to them, as well as spices such as coriander, but the Hitachino version really kicks it up a notch with some Japanese spices you don't find in the more traditional Belgian versions.  
It's also not a dark beer, a perfect entry into the world of craft beer for someone who wants more than bland swill but is afraid of the dark stouts or bold IPAs.  Something like a Hitachino White can really open the eyes to what beer can be while simultaneously not overwhelming a craft beer virgin.  

So next time you want something different and delicious, look for the owl on the label, and order up a Hitachino.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chile - Microbrews!

Chile is up in the World Cup of beer, and they are up today in the real World Cup in a tough matchup against Brazil.  I honestly can't say I know too much about Chile... they are in South America, bordering primarily Argentina with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Andes Mountains on the other.  The capital is Santiago and the soccer team from the movie 'Alive' was either headed to or from Chile when they crashed high in the mountains.  As for their beer, I can't say I know too much, but apparently I'm not really alone because their microbrews are one of their best kept secrets! Chile is also known for a type of corn beer known as 'chicha' but it's not considered a beer by the native population, more of a wine, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jay talks about it over on the Bite and Booze blog.  So I'll leave it at that!

Microbreweries stemming from the German immigrants are now quite popular and somewhat numerous in Chile.  And after checking out a few of their websites (in Spanish, of course) I found that they aren't just sticking with the pale lagers and bland beer, they are trying to push the limits and introduce new beer styles to the South American market, not unlike what I found in Uruguay

Some of the microbreweries I read about included Szot, Kross Cerveceria, and Cerveza Kuntsmann, all with a wide array of appetizing styles and many with that German influence.  Szot (pictured above) was started by an ex-patriot in reaction to Chile's previously bland-dominated market.  Really though, just about every country I've reviewed is dominated by the bland beer... you have to dig deeper to see if there is something more there.  It's great to see that with Chile's expanding economy their beer scene is expanding as well.  Maybe one day some of these beers will make their way to the USA, or if not, maybe I can make my way to Chile!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Germany - Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock

For those watching this World Cup still now that the USA has been eliminated, you just saw Germany destroy England, and yet another horrible call to disallow a goal.  Seems to be a bit of a theme unfortunately.

As far as the beer goes, just like their soccer, Germany holds a reputation as one of the best countries in the world.  From fantastic Bavarian beer gardens to unique rauchbiers to Oktoberfest Germany is always celebrating their brewing heritage.  
One of their best beers, and one that can easily be found in Baton Rouge, is the Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock.  If you look over to the right, you'll see that this one comes in at #4 on my top 10 beers that I've tried.  That list might need some updating, but there's no doubt that it still holds a spot in the top 10. The beer is a malty, rich concoction full of hints of caramel and syrup and sweetness.  The alcohol percentage is 6.7, which is a little low for the style, but it means that multiples of these can be enjoyed without worrying about overdoing it!  The guys at BeerAdvocate consider this one to be a world class brew and I wholeheartedly agree.  If you want to try something different, look for this one around town, most of the bigger beer retailers should have it in 4-packs.
Check back tomorrow for Chile, and cheers!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ghana - Pito Homebrew (And, Victim #4)

Time for Ghana... the United States' first elimination-round opponent of this 2010 World Cup.  After barely finishing behind Germany in their group Ghana should be a tough test for the USA... if I remember right they beat us in the 2006 World Cup to formally eliminate us from the group stage.  So... it's payback time.  And no more draws either.  This time, someone has to win.

As for the beer in Ghana, this would be pretty easy to repeat the Nigeria post, as Guinness is one of the favorites, and just like Nigeria there is a Guinness brewery in Ghana as well, producing Guinness products as well as the hugely popular Star beer.  But that would be lame, right?  And fortunately I stumbled across something a little more interesting... pito.
Pito is essentially rural Ghanaian homebrew, but also sold on a small-scale level out of people's houses.  It's made from either fermented millet, which is a cereal-like grain, or sorghum, a type of grass more popularly used in Chinese liquors.  Apparently a common side profession in Ghana is to brew this home-made beer and then sell it straight out of calabash gourds.  It's commonly served warm (which we would obviously frown upon here) but then, if you have no electricity, how are you going to keep it cold?  

From what I've read, pito is a sour, usually high alcohol beer... something I'd absolutely be willing to try.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Switzerland - Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes

Sorry that this one is coming kinda rushed in the late afternoon... but I've been moving offices all day and had no interwebs access!  So... belatedly... here is the World Cup of Beer - on Switzerland.

Switzerland... I've been there.  BEAUTIFUL country!  And they really love their beer.  It's an odd mixture of German (Bavarian) and French influences that molded this country and the beer scene is similar.  You'll see your brasseries listed alongside your braueries and you're going to see French-inspired farmhouse ales alongside German-inspired dunkels and doppelbocks!  In fact, there are entire websites (in English!) devoted to Swiss beer.  I'm blown away, and don't even know where to start.  When I traveled to Switzerland, it was the Summer of 2002 and I was just getting my feet wet when it comes to craft beer.  I definitely enjoyed a few pints in Interlaken and took in the sights, but I really don't remember much about the individual beers I drank.  Most likely... the larger breweries, the pale lagers and euro lagers that you'll find across the continent.
What I'm happy to say is that it appears I missed out!  Beeradvocate has 35 breweries listed for Switzerland, but the Ultimate Switzerland Beer Guide lists well over 100!  One of the highest rated on both sites is called the Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes.  Obviously this is one of the French-inspired breweries and one look at their beer list and it's obvious their specialty is the 11% abv 'biere de garde' style and in particular barrel-aged beers.  I'm a sucker for barrel-aged beers, so next time I visit Switzerland I'm going to look for these guys!  They also feature two eisbocks at 17% and 19.5% abv!  Obviously these guys are okay with pushing the limits of alcohol in their beer.  Now I really wish I could tell you what these beers taste like, but alas, no such luck yet. 

So... keep up the good work Switzerland!  You may have been knocked out of the real World Cup today, but your beer scene appears to be looking up!

The Ultimate Switzerland Beer Guide
BeerAdvocate - Switzerland
Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Zealand - And Up And Coming Craft Scene

Of all the countries covered so far, I think New Zealand is probably the closest to what we see out of the American beer scene.  The market is dominated by pale lagers, just as Bud/Miller/Coors dominate the American market.  But there is also a sizeable craft beer movement, and just about all decent sized towns have a microbrewery or brewpub to their name. 

I ran across an old article written by a wine writer praising the craft scene in New Zealand and their wide range of beers available.  And surely they have made great strides in the last 4 years as well, with currently close to 50 listed breweries and brewpubs.  While that might not seem like a lot in sheer numbers (Oregon alone has about double that!) it's pretty remarkable for a country of just a little over 4 million people.  For reference, Louisiana is also estimated at about 4.4 million people, and we have 10 listed breweries and brewpubs!  
I don't think I've ever tried any beer from New Zealand, though... most is unlikely to be exported due to high costs shipping beer from such as relatively remote country.  It appears their only highly-exported brew is Steinlager and I can't ever remember drinking any.  I certainly haven't seen any recently, since I really started paying attention to the selection and where beers were from.

So New Zealand, sorry that you guys are out of the World Cup, but in the World Cup of Beer, you'd be advancing to the second round.


Special Honduran Beer World Cup Update!

Only a few days ago, I featured Honduras as the country of choice, and while I had never had a beer from there, I found a blog describing several beers from Hondurans largest brewery.  In particular, they described the Port Royal Export beer as Honduran Michelob.  Now, it's been years since I've had a Michelob, but I happened to be at Mellow Mushroom last night... and lo and behold they had this Port Royal Export beer on the menu! 

To sum it up... we're dealing with a slight step above the big adjunct lagers.  There is still a little corn flavor, but overall the taste is bigger and more fulfilling than something like a Bud Light.  So if you think Michelob is a step up from Bud Light, then the comparison is probably pretty close to spot-on.  I wouldn't turn down another one of these, but I'm not going to seek it out either!

So, happy drinking!  And check back later today for the post about New Zealand!

Sources: (Photo)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Algeria - Victim Number 3.

I knew it was bound to happen over the course of this 32-nation tour.  A nearly 100% Muslim nation and I'm supposed to write about their beer?  Well, it turns out there IS beer in Algeria, but I've had little luck finding much information about it.  Apparently they don't allow alcohol to be imported so there are a few breweries operating for the benefit of the hotels and few bars, but you usually have to ask to get it.  

I consulted a travel site on drinking in Algeria...
Algeria produces a selection of wine (not in big volume in more) and also beer. However, Algeria is a Muslim country, and you do not find alcohol sold everywhere, you have to know where to find it. Wine and alcoholic drinks are sold in the few bar restaurants in the big cities, high end hotels, and night clubs. 
If you visit Algiers or coastal cities, there are fish restaurants in almost every fishing port, the fishing is traditional and the fish sold is very fresh; usually, these restaurants sell alcohol but you have to ask (do not expect to see it, some times it is on the menu, some times not).
It almost sounds like a speak-easy situation... know the right people and know where to go and you can find a few beers, but otherwise, you are shit out of luck!  And in this Muslim nation drinking itself seems to be a touchy subject.
Some Muslims drink but they consider it a sin. It is in private but socially. If some one invites you into his home and does not offer alcohol, he expects you not to be drunk or smell of alcohol, and does not expect you to bring your own bottle or even discuss drinking alcohol in front of his wife and kids.
Hmmm, Algeria really doesn't sound like the kind of place to make a beer journey to, although it does seem that there are extremely beautiful parts of the large North African nation.  Hopefully the food scene will be a little better to report on over on Jay's Bite and Booze blog!

And in the meantime... GO USA!!!

WikiTravel Guide
Wikipedia article on Algeria

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nigeria - Where Guinness Is King!

That's right folks, this Beer Scene post about Nigeria is going to focus on that all-time classic Irish brew.  Why you ask?  Well, for starters Ireland got shafted out of the World Cup so I can't exactly wait for their turn... and for secondsies, Nigeria drinks more Guinness than Ireland does anyway.  That's right, more Guinness than Ireland.  (Although less than Britain, which is the #1 consumer of the dark stuff.)  In fact, Guinness has become quite the success story as far as foreign businesses proving that they can succeed in Africa.
As most of you know Guinness hails from Ireland, brewed for years and years at the St. James Gate brewery in Dublin.  I've been there, many of you have been there... it's a bit of a tourist trap, no?  It's also a huge brewery, but not huge enough to keep up with worldwide demand for the beer.  So, Guinness also contracts their beers to be brewed in other countries, including the Bahamas, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Nigeria.  In many of these cases the larger local breweries also produce Guinness but in the case of Nigeria, the brewery is a subsidiary of Guinness's parent company.  

While I always like to read about the local brews doing well, it's nice to see a smaller (really, compared to the few big guys) brewery doing well like this.  And Guinness sure beats the hell out of some adjunct lagers!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Honduras - Cerveceria Hondurena

I started off my research for Honduran beer the same as I start all these countries that I'm unfamiliar with... a quick search for "Beer in Honduras."  And in this case the number one hit was... a blog post about beer in Honduras!  Unfortunately the blogger in this case compares Honduras's four major brands to the Honduran Corona, the Honduran Michelob, the Honduran Budweiser, and the Honduran Heineken.  Um, yuck.  This is not exactly a glowing endorsement of Honduras's largest brewer, but then it seems that any country's largest brewers are rarely also the best... so... is there anything else in Honduras, hidden away?

Well, there is apparently a place called D & D fine Micro Brewery plus Bed & Breakfast!  Wait... I can drink all day and then just stumble to my bed?  I like this idea. 

Unfortunately none of the popular beer rating websites has any more info on the beers at this place.  They both acknowledge its existence and that's about it.  I must admit though, the picture on the site of all the beers in front of a naked baby is kinda creepy.  The place also offers combination beer drinking and bird watching tours... that's interesting.  I really like the idea of combining a brewpub with other activities, just wish there was more info about the beer itself. 

That's it for Honduran beer... not a lot to work with, but we'll see if their soccer team can do better than their beer scene when they take on Spain this afternoon!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Slovakia - Golden Pheasant & Czech Pilsners

The beer scene in Slovakia is a step up from the worst countries I've encountered so far, but still appears to be a good bit below the best countries.  Fortunately I can say that I have had a beer from Slovakia, as Golden Pheasant used to be a staple of the Chimes menu and a key part of their "Around The World" challenge.  Golden Pheasant is a Czech-style pilsner along the lines of Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, and that other Budweiser... Budweiser Budvar.  And geographically and historically it would make perfect sense for Slovakia to be putting out similar beers to the Czech Republic, as they used to be part of the same country!

Czech Pilsners are known for their liberal use of hops for such a light style.  They tend to be smooth and crisp brews, best served cold, with a malty finish.  They implement the native "noble" Czech Saaz hops which give an earthy floral aroma but aren't nearly as bitter as some other hop varieties.  This makes the Czech Pilsner style a perfect one to enjoy on a hot day when sitting back to relax.  Some American breweries might want to claim 'great pilsner taste' but they don't have anything on some of these Slovakian and Czech beers.  In fact, as hot as it is in South Louisiana these days, a good Czech Pilsner would be the perfect drink to toast with for Father's Day.  Or for the Slovakians, the perfect drink to wash away memories of that 0-2 loss to Paraguay this morning.  But don't worry, in the World Cup of beer, Slovakia wins that matchup every time!

Beer A Day (Photo)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cameroon - Save Your Beer Caps!

As expected, there's nothing really exciting going on in the world of beer in this African nation.  There are a few large breweries putting out the same typical beers that I've lamented over for the last several nations.  Included in these is the Brasserie Du Cameroon, which uses the French language for their name, one of the nation's two official languages along with English.  They produce several of their own beers as well as Heineken, Amstel, and other European standards for the local market.  They also bottle Coca-Cola products for the Cameroon market and neighboring countries.

After wading through all the reviews on the beer and such, I did come across one interesting link regarding the beer scene in Cameroon, and that was an article on how the beer caps were being used as currency!  To sum it up, the two large rival breweries began promotions a few years back with free prizes that could be won, including cars, cell phones, and more beer.  The prizes were revealed on the bottom of caps, so caps that were worth more beer became a valuable form of currency, with a winning cap worth about the same as a cab ride!  And apparently winnings was common enough to form a beer cap currency.  Amazing... if this worked with just any old beer cap I'd be rich!  Rich I say!  

So... keep saving all your beer caps, you never know when they'll be worth something some day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Slovenia - Victim Number 2!

Slovenia, which won their first 2010 World Cup match against Algeria, has the honor of being the USA's second victim!  Victim number one?  Well that would be Robert Green of course.

For the uneducated among you, who don't know where Slovenia is, allow me to fill you in.  It's West of Italy, North of Croatia, South of Austria, and generally East of Hungary.  The capital city is a charming place called Ljubljana, which unlike Baton Rouge, has a loop.  Ljubljana is also home to one of the country's two major breweries, Pivovarna Union.  Union is considered the more popular beer in the capital city, which the other major brewery, Pivovarna Laško, is more popular throughout the countryside.  Unfortunately it seems that keeping with the trend of this series, both breweries primarily produce mediocre pale lagers.

Fortunately, though, I was tipped onto a small brewery called Pivovarna Adam Ravbar, which has no English website, but they have beers listed in styles such as kellerweiss, schwarzbier, pilsner, and dunkel, giving me hope that there is indeed good beer in Slovenia too!   

This is certainly the beer I'd seek out if I was taking a trip to Slovenia, but sometimes you just have to settle for what the locals love, even if it isn't your favorite style.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Greece - Mythos and Craft Microbrewery

Ah Greece, one of the cradles of civilization and the birthplace of democracy.  Or so they would claim.  Greece is one of the first countries on this World Cup of Beer tour that I have visited in person, and I've had the opportunity to try at least two different Greek beers here in Baton Rouge.  Athenian and Mythos are both available at different location, and Athenian beer was always a favorite on the Chimes 'Around The World' trips.  Unfortunately, as I've learned more and more about beer and delved into different styles and types of beer, I've come to realize that both Athenian and Mythos aren't really all that good.  I featured Mythos in my final 2009 entry on the prevalence of bland European lagers, and unfortunately Athenian barely rates higher on BeerAdvocate, a C vs. a C-.  

The good thing is, though... just like I've found in places like South Africa, Serbia, and Uruguay... there IS good beer, it's just not the beer being exported.  I stumbled upon the website of the Craft Microbrewery, which by our definitions is really more of a brew-pub but appears to be putting out serious craft beer for the Greek people.  They started in 1997 and were the first microbrewery in Athens.  Their CEO even states on the website:
Our goal is to promote love for real beer and to contribute towards the development of a true beer culture in Greece. It is our belief that beer is not just a summertime refreshment but a highly enjoyable, sophisticated, full of taste and aroma drink characterized by taste variety and natural freshness that can be enjoyed all year round on various occasions and moments of social life.
Now that's something I can get behind!  I decided to check out some of the reviews of the place and there were plenty of great things said!
Overall I'd definitely recommend this place for any visitor to Athens. It's a welcome local beer oasis in an otherwise relatively beer-dry city.

This microbrewery produces about 8 styles of beer. This, for Greece, is a very huge number! The most impressing fact is that all of them are from above average to excellent!
I was happily surprised to find that this brewpub was really about the beer. Not only do they proudly display their brewing equipment but they have also produced some good brews.
So the next time I visit Athens, you have better believe I'm going to check this place out.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Uruguay - A Lot Of Promise.

Recently I featured Paraguay on the World Cup of beer tour, and labeled it as a beer wasteland due to the lack of any variety and a market dominated by mass-produced pale lagers.  I was worried I would find the same thing in the neighboring Uruguay, but it turns out there is hope in this small coastal country nestled between soccer powers Argentina and Brazil.  My first exposure to Uruguay came through the TV show 'No Reservations' featuring Anthony Bourdain.  The show focused on the meats available and Jay and I decided right then that a trip to Uruguay needed to happen sometime in the reasonably near future.  In fact, I'd be surprised if this doesn't come up in his Bite and Booze feature on Uruguay!  What that show didn't feature, as far as I remember, was anything particular on the beer.  So, it was up to me to dig a little deeper.

According to RateBeer there are 9 breweries in Uruguay, with all of them being in the Montevideo area.  Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay, located on the southern coast, and from what I can tell it seems like it would be a fun place to visit.  It even features the highest quality of life of any South American city, according to a recent study.  (The link is in Spanish... as is a lot of what I've found on the beer!)  In fact, Montevideo was the host of the first ever FIFA World Cup, way back in 1930.  Uruguay won that inaugural tournament, and the USA finished 3rd, our best ever finish.

One of these breweries, Cerveza Artesanal Mastra, even features beers from styles such as American Stout and Scottish Wee Heavy.  Unfortunately their English side of the site appears to be incomplete, but compared to previous countries, I'm very impressed to see a South American brewery attempting darker bolder styles!  Even if the ratings aren't superb it's a huge step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned.  
So Uruguay, three cheers to heading in the right direction... if anything this look into the beers and culture of the small South American country has made it a more appealing travel destination for the future!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

North Korea - Communist Beer at the Taedonggang Brewery!

In a minor miracle, there is a LOT more info out there about North Korean beer than there is about Paraguayan beer!  It turns out North Korea does have its own "independent" brewery.  Independent in this case meaning no ties to the large beer conglomerates that dominate the rest of the world market.  In this case, the brewery is state-owned.  It's actually a pretty interesting story!
Apparently Kim Jong Il, who you might remember from the movie 'Team America: World Police' decided that his beloved Democratic People's Republic of Korea needed their own beer.  Rather than build a brewery from the ground up, they bought one that had recently closed down.  The only problem was that this recently closed down brewery was located in Wiltshire, England.  After assurances were made that the equipment couldn't be used to make chemical weapons, the brewery was dismantled and shipped to North Korea, where it was reconstructed and became the Taedonggang Brewing Company!  Hooray, communist beer!

The brewery brews one beer that is widely known, called simply Taedonggang Beer.  There are rumors of 3 other brands produced by the brewery but no beer rating sites have any reviews of the supposed other brands.  The Taedonggang beer itself appears to be a mediocre brew... a typical pale lager, or adjunct lager maybe.  Reviews are mostly poor and on par with the pale lagers of Paraguay unfortunately.  The brewery did lead to the first ever beer advertisement on Korean TV, though!  And that's kinda cool.  I'll add a youtube link to it once I can access YouTube.
So, congrats to North Korea for having their own brewery... maybe one day I'll get to try some of this stuff, but until then, good luck against Brazil, Portugal, and The Ivory Coast.  You're going to need it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Paraguay - A Beer Wasteland?

So far this has been the most difficult country to write on, as I've never tried any beers from Paraguay and even with our wonderful internet it's not even all that easy to find information on beers from Paraguay.  As best I can tell it's a macro-lager wasteland.  According to the Beer Me! website there are 5 operating breweries in Paraguay, and three of them are owned by AB-Inbev.  Ouch.  BeerAdvocate has nothing listed for Paraguay.  Not a thing.  And they are probably the most comprehensive beer rating site out there. had three beers listed for Paraguay, all with poor ratings and the following glowing comments:
 "Marginially bettter than some of the others but again yellow colored water. No flavors to speak of" for the Cerveceria Paraguayana Pilsen Cerveza Blanca.
"Choices here are limited and so are flavors. the only inteeresting thing is that they bring the beer out in a ice bucket." for the Cerveceria Paraguayana Pilsen Dorada. 
"Bottle. Piss yellow, thank god it was ice cold (literally - served in an ice bucket!). Not much to say about this shit beer." for the Polar Lager from AB-Inbev's Cervecería Asunción.
Searches on 'Craft Beer In Paraguay' turned up an article about AB releasing Budweiser into the country, while 'Microbreweries in Paraguay' turned up nothing at all worth noting.  

Congrats Paraguay, in the World Cup of beer, you are currently in last place!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Serbia - It Appears They Love Their Beer!

Unfortunately I can't say that I've ever had a Serbian beer.  This disappoints me, as it's one of only two countries that I've set foot in, had stamped on my passport even!, but never had a beer from.  From this day forward I vow to myself and whoever else might care, that that list will never be larger than two.

Before I stopped through Serbia on that ill-fated beer-less trip I spent about a week in Bulgaria.  One of my favorite things about Bulgaria was that you could go to any corner store and purchase a plastic 2-liter of decent beer for dirt cheap.  Apparently this is the same case in Serbia, so now I'm REALLY kicking myself for not grabbing another bottle for the train ride out of town.

From what I can tell beer is quite the popular beverage in Serbia, too.  There are 14 breweries listed on Wikipedia and undoubtedly many other smaller breweries throughout the country.  The most popular domestic beer is Jelen, which is owned now by AB-Inbev, and followed by MB, which is owned now by Heineken.  Shit, this is starting to feel like the Mexico post all over again... is there ANY serious beer out there not owned by AB-Inbev, SABMiller, or Heineken?  Any?  Well the good thing about Serbia is that there is!  While the majority of the market is owned by the big guys (common everywhere) there are also all sorts of smaller breweries.  There is even a Belgrade Beer Fest which from the looks of the following picture, is quite the party!  I'm going to put it on my list of 'things to do before I'm told old to do them.'

That's like a rock concert on steroids, all devoted to beer!  I'm going to have to go one day... in fact, while researching for this post the conclusion I've come to is that Serbians love their beer, and that one day I need to join them in this love.

So, Serbia... congratulations, you've gained a new fan.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

England - Our Best Friend And Worst Enemy

It seems as though the relationship between the USA and England has come a long way since we kicked their ass in the Revolutionary War.  Sure, we tried to kill each other again in 1812, but I'd like to think it's been a pretty amicable relationship since then. 

But that changes today.  Big time.  England can go to hell for 90 minutes worth of soccer as the USA gets their World Cup run started this afternoon.

Despite that, and the fact that Wayne Rooney looks an awful lot like Shrek, I really do admire England's beer scene.  This is a huge step up from South Africa and Mexico as previously featured, although England does have an advantage in that I've been able to access and try all sorts of different English beers compared to the first two featured countries.  Past reviews of English beer include the Meantime Coffee Porter, Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, Old Brewery Pale Ale, and Oatmeal Stout, Newcastle Brown Ale, Boddingtons Pub Ale, Fuller's London Pride, and my first ever beer review on the blog... Wexford Irish Style Creme Ale.  So needless to say English beer has been a staple of this space on the internet since the beginning.  

This time around, I'm going to feature an English beer that I've tried before but never written about, other than to place it in my top 10 beers of all-time.  Fuller's Vintage Ale, in this case a 2008 version bottle-aged for a couple of years.  And yes, I drank this ahead of time, not on the day of the England/USA match.  Hell no, no English beer for me today!  

This one pouts a cloudy amber color... reddish tones to it.  Smells of malt primarily, but the hops are there too. Also some caramel maybe.. it's quite nice.

There's no real surprises in the taste, mostly just follows through on the aroma. It's delicious though, feels great on the palate. A hint of honey shows up on the aftertaste, well balanced sip of beer for sure.  The alcohol presence is very muted in this one, can't tell at all from the taste that it's over 8% abv. I could definitely go for another right now... if England wasn't on my bad side at least.  Instead, it's going to be Plucker's for some soccer and we'll just have to see what beer will be on tap.  I can promise you it'll be an American brew.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mexico - To Lime Or Not To Lime?

That is the question?

I know the stereotypical Mexican beer is what you're going to find on special every year around May 5th... Corona, with a lime.  

In my taste test I decided to skip the Corona and go for a Dos Equis Amber Lager, an undoubtedly better Mexican beer that isn't owned by Anheuser-Busch.  And it doesn't hurt that they have possibly the best advertising campaign on TV right now.  Sure, it's not about the beer because very few beer commercials are, but it's hysterical.  (Yes, I know that Dos Equis is owned by Heineken International... it really is a shame that all the major Mexican beers are either owned by AB-Inbev or Heineken!)

Moving on to the beer, though... first I broke out a Dos Equis in the stereotypical American way to serve it.  In the bottle, with a slice of lime.

The problem with drinking the beer this way is that the aroma gets trapped in the bottle, and what you do get is dominated by the lime.  'They' say that smell is a large portion of how we taste things, so as a result the malty flavors of this Vienna-style lager are lost in the lime juice flavors.  Unlike a Corona or Modelo Especial which are American-style adjunct lagers, Dos Equis Amber is brewed with a greater malt presence in a more traditional German style.  In fact, the creator was a German-born brewer.  With the lime, it's still a solid beer, but for the second one, I decided it was time for a pint glass.

It just looks more appealing, with the amber color and bubbly head, doesn't it?  And I'll be honest, it tastes better this was as well.  The smell still isn't strong like a stout or IPA, but there is a noticeable malt presence with hints of caramel that get completely lost in the lime before.  The taste is more open as well, malts dominate and there isn't much balance but it's still a significant improvement.  

In the whole of the world's supply of beer Dos Equis isn't anything special, but as far as Mexican beer available in the United States and more specifically Baton Rouge, I think it's the best option and best enjoyed on tap or poured into a glass without the lime, with some friends and some chips and salsa! 

Hopefully the Mexican fans aren't TOO disappointed in their 1-1 draw this morning against yesterday's featured country, South Africa... and always remember; stay thirsty, my friends.