Friday, April 14, 2006

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Tapping Into Good Beers

Very good article trying to introduce good beer to people.
Imagine that when it came to wine most Americans drank only lambrusco, the sweet, soda-pop red made famous by Riunite.

You'd go into a wine store and it would be stacked with aisle after aisle of lambruscos - with maybe a few burgundies and chardonnays in a corner.

You'd go out to eat and the wine list would have 20 different lambruscos - and only one or two cabernet sauvignons or pinot grigios.

What a sad place this nation would be. Nothing but lambrusco, lambrusco and more lambrusco.

Now you understand the situation in America when it comes to beer.

More than 80 percent of the market is dominated by a handful of mega-breweries that make versions of lager, mostly of the pilsner variety. Light in color, light in taste, light in alcohol content.

In America, beer is almost always a blonde.

The problem is not looks - not with chemical enhancements to give it a rich color and a foamy head. The problem is taste.

The difference between drinking fine beers and these mass-produced lagers is the difference between eating a steak and eating a picture of a steak.

Until about a decade ago, even if you wanted to experiment with different beers, you were mostly out of luck - not just in Philadelphia, but pretty much everywhere. Mercifully, the Dark Ages are over, and we have been happily in the midst of a beer renaissance.

Interestingly, even the larger brewers are having a go at variety -- I mean real variety, not just the SOS Lite, SOS Gold, etc. Up here in NH, the Merrimack brewery of A-B does a lot of small, experimental runs. Some have been okay, a few even quite good. I don't recommend their stout, however.

Competition drives innovation. The quick inroad of Sam Adams a decade ago (which also sponsored a number of brewing festivals) woke them up fast. Not their fault if most Americans still prefer bland.
It could be worse. Ever been to the French Quarter of New Orleans? You have to pick from Bud, Coors, 1 light beer (either Bud Light or Coors Light), 1 import (always Heiniken), and sometimes 1 local (Abita). That's it. I'm not talking about draft, that's it altogether. Abita's not bad, but that's a sorry selection. Eventually I found a bar with Guiness, but until then I drank a lot of white russians. Anyway, I'm thankful for Philly's selection. (PS: Viva Yuengling!)
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