The World’s Best Beer-Brewing Countries

RealClear Staff

            

     There are a lot of invigorating activities to do in life—the powerful pyramids of Egypt, the robust climb to the top of the Canadian Rockies or the refreshing feeling of Iguazu Falls. But nothing beats the bold, tantalizing taste of a tall glass of beer. Suds is the cultural king that brings just about everybody together.

[Image: Vinepair]

When it comes to brew, Belgium boasts the biggest beer behemoth. And almost nobody knows culture like UNESCO. The UN outfit found itself in the beer capital and gathered key points on the brew king’s pints.

“Making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage of a range of communities throughout Belgium,” UNESCO reported.

Even though there are only 11 million people in this hops-nectar nation, they fabricate about 1,500 beer though different fermentation methods to make anything from malty dubbels to sour lambics.

One, Belgium brewery’s even implementing a pipeline that will power roughly 4,000 liters (equivalent to 12,000 bottles) of lager underneath the tourist town of Bruges.

[Video: courtesy of CNN and Elsa News]

“There is absolutely no doubt that Belgian beer has had a huge influence on the rest of the world’s brewing scene,” British, award-winning, beer-and-food-writer Melissa Cole said in an interview. “Everything from the matching glasses to the care and reverence with which it’s poured, to the fact that they have extremely unique styles, which can only be brewed in those areas.”

The Belgians are a proud people, who are respectful and protective of their pours—so much so that they set the bar for beer makers worldwide.

“What we used to call the Low Countries, which are now Belgium and the Netherlands, have been invaded over the centuries by so many people,” CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide editor and writer Roger Protz said. “It was part of the Spanish Empire at one time—the Germans have invaded; the French have invaded. They all brought with them their distinctive beer cultures.”

When visiting this cask-heavy country, don’t miss De Koninck, Palm, Brussels Beer Project, Chimay and Leffe.

But how do other countries compare to the infamous, ale kings? We asked the experts for their inside intel.

The Elder Alers: United Kingdom

Because of their long-standing service (from around 1520 to date actually), it’s important to point out London’s Prospect of Whitby pub. This place can safely be called a cornerstone of Britain’s beer.

“The UK has contributed more to the world-brewing scene really than any other country,” Melissa Cole said.

Other countries have copied and adapted British-brewing methods. It’s mainly due to the country’s colonial legacy. Contemporary and cool IPAs historically hail from 19th Century UK. Their brew’s hop-heavy content was specifically to save the beer from the long, sea journey from Britain to India.

“The Americans have picked up on IPA, and they’re producing some fantastic examples of it,” Roger Protz said, which is amazing to the extent of Brits borrowing and adapting American-style IPAs to their liking. “The Belgians are brewing IPA; the French are brewing IPA; the Dutch are brewing IPA—just about every place in the world is now brewing IPA,” he added.

And while the Irish are associated with the stout-superb Guinness, Protz said that “stout originated in London. We exported stout to Ireland—they picked up from that in the 18th century.”

When lollygagging in London, foam it up with Five Points, Fuller’s, Wild Card, Kernel and Shepherd’s Neame.

The Climate Captains: United States of America

[Image: courtesy of Jaime Vias Delgado]

“You have to take your hat off to the Americans for reinvigorating the world’s love for artisan beer,” Cole said. “Americans are really carving the path.”

Cole also pointed out pioneers like Sierra Nevad Brewing Company-founder Ken Grossman, who burgeoned his love for English- and German-style beers in the form of his own foam factory back in 1980.

And the hot, sunny, US climate gives American-style IPAs a fruity edge not often found UK casks.

“In the Pacific northwest, in Washington state and Oregon, which is where most American hops are grown, you get big, fat, green hops full of wonderful citrusy character,” Protz said.

Back in the wetter, colder UK, the people’s palates get flavors that are “spicy and peppery [and] rather more restrained [but] nevertheless delicious,” Protz said. But US suds also has a Belgium influence. “There’s a big craze in America for what they call sour beers,” he added, “which is based upon one of the many, many Belgian styles—properly called lambic beer in Belgium. [It’s] made by wild fermentation, using yeast in the atmosphere rather than brewers’ yeast.”

Upon an American-ale excursion, seek out Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Anchor, Lagunitas and Goose Island.

The Monolith of Mashers: Germany

First and foremost, let it be known the Reinheitsgebot, Germany’s beer-purity law, had its 500th anniversary this year. It’ll forever remain the guiding stronghold of The Fatherland’s foam.

This law definitely ensures their suds’ high quality and prevents possibly poisonous chemicals from muddling their malt, but it’s also an unfortunate brick wall against beautiful batches of beer made with rye, herbs, spices, coffee or fruit.

“Germany is really the one, big, immovable obstacle!” Protz laughed. 

Folks have to respect such a steel-guarded suds disposition. However, Deutschland’s contemporary kids are countering this once-timeless tradition.

“I think Germany is changing, certainly in Berlin. Younger brewers are saying, ‘we’re not putting up with this’ and are openly challenging the government,” Protz said. “In terms of experimentation in artisan beer,” Protz added, “I think Germany will be the last bastion to fall!”

If you’re going to kick it in this part of The Iron Curtain, be sure to spend time at Schneider Weisse, Früh, Weihenstephan, Ayinger and Augustiner-Bräu.

The New World Upstarts: Australia and New Zealand

[Top: Australia | Bottom: New Zealand]

The Aussies and Kiwis are kicking their reputation for tasteless, carbonated cold ones to the curb. Also, just as they became coffee captains, they’re both showing the Europeans how suds is done.

“New Zealand’s craft beer scene is really taking off down there,” Cole said. “[There’re] some truly astonishing beers being produced—Australia the same.”

Whether you’re Down Under and/or over yonder, don’t forget to find Feral, Bootleg (Australia), Epic, Tuatara and Malt Shovel.

The Beer World’s One to Watch: China

China may be chalking it up in the beer scene—they’re currently the king of the mash market—but until now, their ale activities haven’t exactly scored high on a global scale.

However, hops are now part of their horticulture, so Protz thinks “they’re going to move away from the rather-bland lagers that they have been brewing for a long time.”

“I know there are a couple of IPAs being brewed in Hong Kong, for example, which probably relates to the old, British connection. I think Asia is going to change a lot in the next few years,” he added.

If China’s your chosen destination, check out Great Leap, Jing-A, Boxing Cat, Bad Monkey and Hong Kong Beer Co.

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