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A beer odyssey

How a home-loving Englishman gets to know the world through the bottom of a beer glass.


[alcohol] Pete Brown thought he could beer, after all, he had written bestseller Man Walks into a Pub, about the English pub culture. But the home-loving and un-adventurous beer journalist is totally unaware of the beer cultures of the great abroad, and his burgeoning curiosity thus sends him out on the pub-to-pub round of time, from London to Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, the Czech Republic, Germany, Australia, China, USA and home again. He returns several kilos heavier and many pounds lighter, with a solid filling anxiety and a gloomy view of the domestic drinking culture as a bonus.

Last stop before dritings

Where the pubs in Barnsley's hometown outbid each other in cheap brushes, offerings like the "Hulk" and "Cut the Bull" vodka cocktails, whose mission is to get customers the fastest possible dritings, he finds words and phrases abroad that he can't even translate into English. . Ireland's "craic", Spain's "la chispa", Germany's "gemutlichkeit" and Denmark's more debatable "hygge" describe, according to Brown, the magical stage where you have drunk enough to get rid of the snip and feel more lively, but before you lose control. In England, the closest terms are "merry" and "tipsy", both of which have a negative feminine tone, possibly "a bit pissed", which only suggests that this is the last stop before Dritings station. It's hardly a coincidence that 20 percent of weekend crime in Prague, the capital of beer nation number one, is due to full British.

The idea behind Brown's beer journalism is no academic campaign for the qualities of beer versus wine, though he argues convincingly that beer is far better suited to cheese than wine, if you choose just the right type. His approach is more amateur sociological, because he thinks beer is the most social drink. It is less pretentious and formal and more democratic than wine, which is more strongly associated with connoisseurs, meals and relationships. Liquor is more strongly associated with the art of drinking full or an even stronger fine checker culture. "Every time someone asks if I fancy a beer, it feels like a sensational good idea, one that never loses its glow as an original, inventive and exciting concept," he writes, showing how beer drinking acts as a safety valve, socially glue and global community that connects large parts of the world's population in the form of a common interest. Unfortunately, Brown does not go to any Muslim country to study further how alcohol's function is, for example, in liberal Malaysia or conservative Arab states.

Fixes beer myths

Brown rewards the reader with whimsical observations and anecdotes. In Australia, longtime Prime Minister Bob Hawke previously held the world record for fast drinking beer, with two and a half pints in eleven seconds. In Nigeria, Guinness is so popular as an aphrodisiac that the unofficial slogan is "there's a baby in every bottle", and when every fifth beer sold in Nigeria is a Guinness, the drink is so popular that when Irish tourists report that the brand is well known in home country, locals are both surprised and delighted that African beer is so popular in Europe. The 5000 Nigerians in Dublin then also consider the Irish version a bad copy, and import the "original" from home.

Brown further corrects nationalist biases and beer myths, and apologizes for the British's long-standing bullying of Belgium by praising Belgian beer traditions. And where Spain and Portugal only get one and a half of 240 pages in Roger Protz 'Complete Guide to World Beer, and the Spanish peninsula is not even placed on the map in Michael Jackson's Beer Companion, Brown points out that beer consumption in Spain has increased from two liters per snout in 1950 to 78 liters in 2003 – with 100.000 bars in Madrid alone.

Three Sheets to the Wind is an unpretentious and open-ended portrayal with the beer glass as binoculars, but it is not a particularly well written. In parties it becomes talkative and filled with uninteresting digressions. But if you manage to put aside the annoyance over the man's many bumbling self-explanations, many interesting observations are hidden here.

Gourmet or old-fashioned

Brown points out that, in Northern Europe, beer from pint, pint and pint glasses is preferred in the more macho Southern European culture 0,2 liter pint. In England, beer is considered old-fashioned and uncultivated, while in southern Europe it is new and trendy. Where London's trendy clubs only sell pils, at the expense of "old-fashioned" varieties such as ale and stout, the latter are the hottest among New York's trendsetters. In the English press, there are no permanent beer columns, while beer culture is considered one of the most innovative and exciting in the US gourmet journalism.

The global beer world is surprisingly complex and multifaceted, but Brown worries about increasing power concentration and alignment. Belgium's 120 breweries and 500 beers are under intense pressure because such specialist beer does not have the infrastructure to compete in the globalized global economy, and the market's giants are buying up the most interesting beer brands and closing down inefficient breweries.

In the US, there are 3400 beers, but in stores and bars you usually get simple pilsner imitations from the giants Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Miller and Coors. The three major companies have 80 percent of the market, which is worth just under NOK 500 billion (bigger than music, movies and mobile phones), and 95 percent of this consists of arrow variants. The diversity is there, but is threatened by the giants' expansion and lack of beer knowledge among consumers. So the next time you go to a pub, remember that "a beer" doesn't hold up as an order.

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