Friday, 24 May 2019

Nationalism and culture

One of the strangest things I saw about CAMRA's revitalisation process* was the accusation that it was racist to Belgians. This was down to a motion recognising the value of all quality beers but advocating cask beer as the pinnacle of the brewer's art (the vast majority of cask beer being made in Britain). I thought it was rather cleverly worded myself, accommodating heathens people of other faiths, but without falling into the heresy of indifferentism. And anyway, what's wrong with a British beer consumers' organisation saying British beer is best? Would we accuse a Belgian beer consumers' organisation of racism for saying Belgian beer is best? No, surely we would just accept that as a normal thing for them to say, so we should accept it here too and celebrate our beer culture.

This is not to say we should succumb to nationalism though, the drinking class has no country. But let's face it, the beer in some countries is better and the four First Class Beer Countries have great beer cultures too. I have carried out extensive research into them and have just come back from a study tour of Germany which confirmed my findings, so for those of you who are still unclear on this matter here's the ranking:

1. Britain
A well kept pint of cask ale is indeed the greatest beer in the world. It has only been when drinking cask beer that I've felt the magic come and angels dance on my tongue. Served as god intended without artificial carbonation, there is no better beer. And to back it up it will be found in pubs, the greatest places that can be found to drink beer, where you can relax and unwind in a comfortable and cosy environment.

2. Belgium
Like Britain, Belgium retained a strong ale drinking culture against the onslaught of lager following The Great Schism, but in this case in the form of bottle conditioned beers (and let us not forget they are something our Mother Church recognises as real ale). Draught beer is however inherently superior to beer in small pack, both in the taste and that you have to go out to drink it, interacting with the local beer culture. You don't get pubs in Belgium but some of the bars do feel pub like so their second place rank is well deserved.

We now come to the lower tier of the First Class Beer Countries. Though there's no way the order of the first two countries could change I was a little bit at sixes and sevens about this one. However my research has confirmed that the third ranking beer country is:

3. The Czech Republic
Being on the lager side of The Great Schism confines them to the lower tier. As night follows day with lager extraneous CO2 will be involved, going against god's intentions. The Czechs didn't invent lager, but they did invent golden lager in Pilsen. Having said that, some of their lager is good (in fact I've got a soft spot for Pilsner Urquell), and unfiltered lager (which brings it closer to how god intended) is becoming more common. The Czechs stuck to very traditional brewing techniques, including decoction mashing. This helps drive off the sulphury DMS making them less diabolical and they're a bit relaxed about diacetyl so a small amount can be found in some of their lagers and they're all the better for it. Czech bars at their best can be pub like but I found them less cosy than the Belgians manage. I've only even been served beer for breakfast in the Czech republic though so that's got to mean something (even if it's only that I seldom have breakfast in Wetherspoons!).

4. Germany
The last of the First Class Beer Countries is Germany. Again, on the lager side of The Great Schism, they've not kept up with decoction mashing to the same extent as the Czechs, so DMS is more common in their beers and they're more down on diacetyl so they have a bit less character. German bars often look a bit like restaurants, though some have more pubbiness, and the Germans are famous for their beer festivals and beer gardens, both great contributions to beer culture. I have seen beer served directly from wooden barrels in German bars, which surely can't be far from beer as god intended. I also recently learnt that in Bavaria wheat beer accounts for around half of beer sales. Does this mean that in a lager drinking country people are moving closer to beer as god intended, albeit in a cloudy and phenolic form? Maybe they do have something on the Czechs...

Anyway, that wraps up a brief overview of the ranking of the First Class Beer Countries and I hope it's clear there was no racism here, merely a statement of facts.

*Does anyone else remember that?