And no, before we get started, this is not a dylexically titled political rant regarding European feelings towards Mr President. Although, admittedly, the weak link was irresistible.
No, this is a post about an absolute fundamental of life. As Homer Simpson would say, Mmmmm. Beer.
After several well-spent years roaming the streets of London with a bunch of similarly-minded ne’er do wells, I had come to hone my appreciation for a fine beer to, well, a pretty sharp point.
It was one of the largest misgivings I had about moving to America: what the hell would I do when I really needed a good beer?
The trouble is that American beer really doesn’t have a good image abroad. The main contenders on the shelves of UK off-licences (that’s “Liquor Stores” in American) are Budweiser and Michelob (both Anheuser-Busch products), with Rolling Rock (which, to be fair, is the fault of the Latrobe Brewing Co.) along for the ride.
These are all, not to put too fine a point on it, awful beers. Truly, utterly appalling. The fact that they’re marketed as beers is an affront to the word “beer” itself.
The heavy marketing and widespread distribution of these taste-free, watery concoctions is the reason than many Europeans, faced with the words “American beer” can’t help but giggle uncontrollably.
Happily (for me, a beer-lover living in America), this reaction is in fact unjustified.
Since I arrived, I’ve found several things which gladden my heart.
Besides that, though, the real good news is that there are several American brews which are actually quite fantastic. In no particular order, my current favourites are:
All of them have great texture and good flavour, and are generally a Very Good Thing. I hadn’t heard of any of them before I came out here.
A quick look at their provenance suggests why: Fat Tire is brewed in Colorado, Sierra Nevada in Chico, CA and Anchor Steam in San Francisco.
Good beer generally takes care – space, expertise and work. For breweries in Western states to produce beer for the west of America without sacrificing quality is relatively easy. Much harder to produce enough beer for the entire American market, and licence the same production method (or export the same beer) to foreign markets.
Get too large, and you end up with mass-produced fizzy water like Budweiser.
Not that this is an excuse for the likes of Anheuser-Busch. I suspect that, for these massive-scale breweries, the “brewing art” has degenerated into a method of producing something that’s just acceptable enough to the mass-market, as cheaply as possible.
The brewery which has perhaps managed to strike the best balance is the Boston Brewing Company, who produce the Samuel Adams range of beers. None of them is as good as the favourites listed above, but they’re not bad beers (certainly at least on-par with Europe’s more prolific brands), and they’re available US-wide and, I believe, abroad.
Unfortunately, their marketing muscle pales into insignificance alongside the relentless push of Budweiser into every corner of the globe already colonised by McDonalds and Starbucks.
In reality, however, Budweiser is no more typical of American beer than McDonalds is of true American hamburgers, or Starbucks of some of the good coffee you can get here. Having discovered that, I’m ashamed of having ever scoffed at American beer. My scorn for Messrs Busch, Anheuser and Latrobe continues unabated, however.