Politics aside, America is a nation bursting at the seams with people and places—and beers—that make it great. It’s a nation founded on big ideas, big endeavors and big cities (and bigger open prairies, woods and mountain ranges). From the giant redwoods to the Grand Canyon to, uh, the Super Bowl, this is the land of super-sizing. That applies to American beer, too, in the form of imperial stouts and IPAs and 64-ounce growlers. Rather than focus on what divides Americans, let’s take a journey to explore some things that are uniquely American. These largest thises or thats typically are not located centrally in beer meccas, but exist as roadside attractions on highways and byways. Fortunately, given that there are now over 5,000 breweries in this vast republic of ours, we can count on finding a brewery in the vicinity or just down yonder road.
There’s a lot of talk these days about America’s greatness and whether that quality solely existed in our collective past, or if it persists in the present, or whether it needs to be made so once more. The fact is, we have hallowed halls that are testaments to the people who have achieved greatness. These buildings are living tributes, always inducting more heroes from whatever field they’ve excelled at. Some of those fields are actual fields while others are parks, arenas or stadiums. And lovers of these fields and their respective champions that we are, we have a proclivity for visiting them to gaze upon their super-heroic costumes and tools of their trades. Herein are a few of these galleries of greatness, these pantheons of perfection, these halls of fame. Plus beer.
Drinking a maß of Märzen or sipping a stange of Kölsch is okay as far as trying to celebrate the Reinheitsgebot and Germany’s 500-year-old beer purity law, but when I was invited to head to the land of lagers and weisses to see how this tradition is holding up, I found two things: braumeisters who are, admittedly, a bit jealous of the creativity that modern craft (or privatebraueries) allow, but also people who take great pride in making the beers that their customers love and feel very passion about as being real bier! Southern Germany is postcard picture beautiful at nearly every turn. Prost!
People just love to experience the weird. For this installment of All About Beer’s Beer Traveler column, we explore breweries around the country where one can also visit nearby actual odd museums. After all, beer is its own work of art, but anything can be treasured when displayed properly. Here’s a smattering of the most bizarre collections curated under one roof along with some “only in (insert town here)” beers that can be enjoyed nearby.
Growing up in Southern California, and even becoming a burgeoning beer geek down there, I didn’t have much opportunity to become exposed to a real beer culture. Sure it’s booming all over the Southland now, but it was late to the table. Real estate is too expensive for manufacturing. Beer wasn’t seen as stylish as wine and cocktails. Beer has calories and the camera adds ten pints. But before San Diego changed all that, there was beer in Temecula, courtesy of one Vinnie Cilurzo now of Russian River fame! And today, the bedroom community that services both LA and SD is home to nearly a dozen breweries.
What is barely touched on in this story is that I wanted to write this story as a way to kind of illustrate to my dad what I do for a living. He wasn’t much of a craft beer drinker. He is an avid golfer. Temecula is home to some great golf courses, which he’s been playing since I was a little kid and got to drive the golf cart. So I pitched both him, and my editor at All About Beer, this story where he and I would hit the links by day and the myriad breweries by night. (I’m scarcely better at golf now, but my dad has since developed a passion for Berliner Weisse and even barrel-aged sour beers including Russian River Consecration!!)
As the Beer Traveler columnist for All About Beer Magazine, I’ve gotten to write about myriad far flung places. This time, I got to write about home–Portland (Link coming soon). This coincided with the issue that streeted during the annual Craft Brewers Conference which took place in the Rose City this year. As such, I was also assigned a story on the best bars craft beer is served. Correction: the best nudie bars craft beer is served.
“Beer” and “Traveler.” Inherent in each word is a sense of adventure. Where does the beer/travel begin? Where will it take you? Will you enjoy it? Will it be relaxing or will it challenge you? Ideally, you go into each with expectations, yes, but also with an open mind. Furthermore, once they’re done, those things have somehow changed you, shown you something exciting and enjoyable, and affected the way you participate in future beers/travels the next round. Best of all, there’s always a next round/go-around. That’s what I signed up for when the company my wife works for offered to relocate us to Amsterdam. New travels and new beers. New adventures and opportunities.
This installment of my column (AAB vol. 35.2, 2014) is 90% guide, 10% impressions of our new if temporary home in the Netherlands’ world-famous city of Amsterdam that’s still trying to develop a world-class beer culture. If I may quote myself from this story: “To be honest, I expected that this country—one that shares borders only with Belgium and Germany—would have a robust brewing culture. There is absolutely some great beer being made here, but you have to really dig deep to find it.”
Overall, it’s a beautiful city with some watering holes that are downright gezellig. My top recs for tasting rooms, breweries, and other spots to taste the local flavor will be missed once we head back home.