Sunday, 15 February 2009

Beer nationalism

Beer has no nationality. Beer is beer. I like it or I don't like it. Or I'm equivocal. That happens, too. The world isn't black and white. Like my clothes, it comes in a variety of shades of grey.

Stonch's post about Tetley's Dark Mild was the hammer that smashed into the frozen gearbox of my brain. Thinking about prejudice. Loving poor beers from small breweries, whilst ridiculing decent ones from the big boys. Opinions based on prejudice. Like beer nationalism.

"What is beer nationalism?". That's a good question. Not one I'm going to answer, but good nonetheless. Just think of nationalism. Then add beer. Get the idea now? I'm not the Open bloody University, you know.

The world of beer is one exciting whole. Not a series of competing fragments. "Which country brews the best beer?" What sort of stupid question is that? "Where's the pub?", "Can I have a pint of that, please?", "What are you having?" They're good questions.

15 comments:

Adeptus said...

Hear hear! Take them as they come and enjoy the journey.

Elektrolurch said...

Omg. As a german, i know this topic too well. And most people dont think about it. As having lived most of my live near cologne, i really know and hate this ,,Our beer is the best in the world" too much...Ugh. I remember that all of my friends back then didnt know what Alt tastes like. Hell, most of them didnt know how Alt LOOKED like.
Its disturbing.
I think we germans are sadly the strongest nation when it comes to beer nationalism. Just think of the aviability of Duvel, a beer i really love. You can get it nearly everywhere in europe- except germany.......

Bailey said...

Yes, you're right. If you like a beer, it really shouldn't matter whether it's made by a big or small brewery; in Germany, the USA or on the Moon; from barley,corn, rice or pulped cardboard. But it is bloody hard to taste objectively, when every sip is influenced by a whole sack of baggage on the part of the drinker. At least being aware of your prejudices can help you understand how they affect your judgement, though. I'm always predisposed to be generous to beers from Somerset, for example, because I'm a bumpkin by birth.

Elektrolurch -- I've heard people say similar things about the Czech Republic. It seems that the unquestioning belief that "Czech beer is best" distracts people from the deteriorating quality of the products of some of the bigger breweries. Sad.

John Clarke said...

I take your pint about Czech beer. I for one have always found Budvar a very ordinary product and yet people seem to put it on a pedestal.

Tandleman said...

I agree. I have written several post praising Tetley Mild, Dark Mild and Bitter. I haven't exactly been overwhelmed by praise for it though.

Jeffrey said...

"It seems that the unquestioning belief that "Czech beer is best" distracts people from the deteriorating quality of the products of some of the bigger breweries"

I think that's true, but I am wary of listening to beer geeks who decry the Czech beer scene. I rather like the uncomplicated relationship Czechs have with beer. Sitting in a pub where everyone's drinking the same beer is rather nice, I think. Fussiness has infected my own pub-going for too long, and I think I'm a relatively moderate case: some beer enthusiasts can't even drink in a normal pub anymore.

Adeptus said...

Elektrolurch, as a non-German living in Germany I didn't want to say what you just said. :D Although I think I'm pretty lucky with my colleagues, many of whom seem more open to external, non-German influences. It's great fun challenging preconceptions.

Matt said...

I think we're actually talking about beer regionalism: coming from Manchester, I've always enjoyed Holts bitter served with a sparkler but I know many southern English bitter drinkers find it too assertively bitter. It's what you've been used to drinking from your youth I suppose, hence the Alt/Kolsch rivalry in Germany from two cities that are not that many miles apart.

John Clarke said...

Jeffrey,

Couldn't agree more. There are too many people, both in and outside CAMRA who seem to judge the quality of a pub by the number of handpumps on the bar.

Pivní Filosof said...

I 110% agree with Bailey on the Czech beers.
There are still many people out there that believe Pilsner Urquell is the best beer in the world and that Gambrinus is the second best and they have this "why trying any other?" attitude drives me nuts. PU and Budvar are still great beers if you compare them to others brewed by similar sized breweries, but that is another issue.
There's also those who would look funny at you if you tell them you spent 60CZK on a beer, and no matter how much you want to explain them what sort of beer it is, they just don't get it.

Velky Al said...

PF - I got strange looks on Saturday night for paying 385kc (that about 15 euros) for a bottle of Dnaish stout at PK, so 60kc is really not a lot.

I think the reason people put Budvar on a pedestal - and for the record it is a beer I really like - is because it hasn't been consumed by the big breweries, and because they still do things the old fashioned way with regard to hops and lagering times.

Jeff, regarding this "uncomplicated relationship" Czechs have with their beer, I would say it is more of an "unthinking relationship" for the vast majority of people, just as it is in most countries.

Jeffrey said...

Jeff, regarding this "uncomplicated relationship" Czechs have with their beer, I would say it is more of an "unthinking relationship" for the vast majority of people, just as it is in most countries.

The difference being that mainstream Czech beer is actually very good (yes! I think Pilsner Urquell is very good! I really do!), unlike most countries.

Velky Al said...

Jeff, I am glad you qualified your description of mainstream Czech lager as being Pilsner Urquell - and I agree with you that is a good beer (being an old fogey I would say it was better in the pre-SABMiller days), and of course Budvar is far better than most mainstream lagers period. Beyond those two, I would say that mainstream lager here is not that great.

At that point though it becomes necessary to define "mainstream" - are the likes of Svijany, Primator and Bernard mainstream? Afterall they are easily available in the shops and have a decent number of pubs in Prague and beyond. Or is "mainstream" synonymous with "corporate"?

Jeffrey said...

I think we can agree Gambrinus is fairly ropey, although I did quite like the 12 degree version I had at U Novaka in the Nove Mesto last time I was in the city. Having said that it was my first beer on a trip to Prague, which would have tasted good whatever it was!

You have to remember just how crap the mainstream lagers over here are - and it's not just the quality of the product, but the way they're poured and presented.

Velky Al said...

Now you have me at a weakness Jeff because generally speaking I have very little idea of how terrible lager is in the UK. I used to drink Guinness and Caffrey's almost exclusively when I lived in the UK, and only discovered lager when I moved to Prague some 10 years back. Back when Gambrinus was decent, Kozel was fabulous and Pilsner Urquell was still Plzensky Prazdroj in Czech resturants.

Sadly all three are pale reflections on former glories, since the advent of SABMiller in the Czech Republic.