Jeff Alworth of “Beervana” was in a self-described “bomb-throwing mood” yesterday and chimed in about how the United States in general and, by inference, Portland, Oregon, in particular is the best place in the world for beer. (And I hope that “bomb-throwing” comment doesn’t have Homeland Security on his, or my, ass now.)
Which is, of course, absolute bullshit.
Are there more beer “styles” brewed in the U.S. than in any other country? Arguably, yes, probably, in fact. But that doesn’t make it the best in anything, even if a whole lot of them are, in Jeff’s words, “at least credible example(s).” (“Dude! Come over and taste this beer! It’s credible, man!”) Do the Americans experiment more than the brewers of any other nation? Again, probably, with Italy and the independent duchy of Mikkeller hot on their heels. Again, though, that and a few bucks might buy you a latte, but not much else.
The fact is, of course, that no nation is the “best” for beer, any more than one city in the U.S. is the “best” for beer drinking. (And please, let’s not wade into that morass yet again.) I was just in London for a spell and loved drinking there, at traditional pubs and new style places like the Craft Beer Co. and Draft House. Equally, I was delighted earlier this year to be back drinking in Brussels and, while writing about the place this summer, found myself longing to return to Bamberg and the Franconian countryside. And right about now, I’m thinking that a trip to San Diego seems like a very good idea, although the patio of my condo in the bright sunshine is making a good case for itself this afternoon.
My point is that suggesting that one country or city is a better place for beer than another is to ignore the nature of beer itself, which is as a sociable, relaxing, deeply enjoyable beverage. It is not, and should never be considered to be, something to be tasted in two sips and ticked off a list before the next one is approached. Variety is fine, but quality is even better, and there are mercifully fewer and fewer places in the world today where at least one or two quality beers cannot be found. That is what we should be toasting, not whose nation is “best” for beer.