I’ll admit I’m a little nationalistic when it comes to craft beer. Our country might have its share of problems, but I think we brew some amazing beer in America, perhaps the best in the world.
This got me to thinking what would happen if Britain threw a party (lets say one where everyone wore spandex shorts and used a lot of chalk dust) and invited its pals America, Belgium and Germany to bring the full line of beers offered by three breweries from within their borders. Who would show up with the best selection of beer and win the gold? We’re talking a single winner-takes-all tasting here, and not splitting the beers up into 95 categories. This ain’t the World Beer Cup.
Now before we get started, I have to say that while I’m rabidly interested in beers from America, my level of enthusiasm for beers from the other countries ranges from a love for Belgian beers, to respect for German brewers, to little interest in what England is up to. This is very much like my knowledge of the athletes in the Olympics – I know the most about who is representing the USA, and after that, you gotta be a superstar for me to be aware you exist.
Here’s where I think our competitors net out:
No Medal: Britain. As far as I know, Britain is paralyzed by tradition and brews few truly interesting and exceptional beers. They have no radical new moves to blow the judges minds on the uneven bars, they’re simply going through the motions. Of course you have the lads from BrewDog peeing on the leg of CAMRA and fighting like hell to stir up a craft beer revolution in the UK, but after that, there’s…umm…Newcastle? A bunch of ciders? I actually don’t know, but I’ll chalk my ignorance of their beers up to the fact that England doesn’t brew anything worthy of my attention. It’s a lot easier for my ego than admitting I’m intellectually lazy. Anyway, they may have laid the foundation for many of the beer styles brewed (with gusto!) in ‘Murica, but if I’m the judge, Britain goes home empty-handed in this competition.
Bronze: Germany. Much like Britain, Germany’s brewing is largely mired in the past, but they have better dental work than the English, and this judge likes a nice smile. Having been to Germany a few times and enjoying the beers there, I have to say that Deutschland brews some wonderful stuff, but their conservative nature is costing them style points in this competition. The Reinheitsgebot is basically the missionary sex position of brewing, and that ain’t getting you a gold medal around here. Hmm…I think I’ve strayed from the theme here, but I like it!
Silver: Belgium. I could drink Belgian beers for the rest of my life and be a happy man. Their combination of deep tradition, complexity of flavor, and brewing beers that pack a wallop make Belgium a perennial powerhouse when it comes to which countries brew the best beers. Unfortunately, a lack of variety (at least for beers imported into the States) is holding them back in this competition. At the end of the day, variety is the spice of life, and brewing a handful of excellent styles (even with interesting variations) isn’t enough to win it all.
Gold: America. [Cue The Star Spangled Banner, as performed by Jimi Hendrix] You could’ve guessed at this outcome based upon the first sentence of this post – I’m in the bag for American beers. Not only do our brewers make exceptional beers, they are bound by no tradition, except the restless American spirit that keeps them pushing the boundaries and exploring new territory. The results are creative, delicious and unique beers that have one foot in the brewing traditions established by the other countries in this competition, and the other foot hoisted above their head as they gyrate wildly on the balance beam to the delight of the crowd. American brewers nail both the technical aspects of brewing world-class beer and the flair required to stand above the rest. For that they get the gold – God bless the USA!! [Fireworks, Sam Calagione holding a bouquet of roses and crying].
So that’s how I see these four countries stacking up. The truth is they’re all winners here, and each has contributed to the history and tradition of the World’s Greatest Beverage for centuries. These are the superstars of beer, both aging (Britain would be Kathleen Turner), timeless (Germany and Belgium are like Cher and Meryl Streep) and young and sassy (America is like Justin Bieber). I gotta admit, I don’t like how this analogy wound up, but you get the point. Everyone’s awesome, now line up and say “good game…good, game…good game…”
Who do you give the medals to? Let us know below!