Mine’s a Pint !

Coming to live here in the States you quickly become aware of the two prevailing views of the other country’s beer – that American beer is universally awful, whilst English beer is always warm – neither of which are true….

To set the record straight from the start – I am an aficionado of fine ales – I am not what the vast majority of the world seems to be, a lager drinker. I’ve always felt that it was a trifle unfair that if you are a connoisseur of good wines you come to be regarded as sophisticated and a rather fine chap, whereas if you like good beer you are basically Homer Simpson !

Although the generalisation that ALL American beers are terrible is without foundation, sadly the types that sell the most here really aren’t that good…. Something that has always somewhat baffled me I must admit is that most of the world’s beer drinkers prefer lager… Now I’m not averse to a good pint of Stella Artois for instance – when it’s really hot and I urgently need to slake my thirst, but couldn’t contemplate drinking lager for any other reason…

It is frequently extremely gassy – so you feel rather bloated after drinking it, but for me the kicker is that most lagers taste exactly the same. I swear that in the average bar here in Vegas, the taps of those popular draught American lagers could all be connected to the same keg and no one would notice ! Ales are subtly different, and for me there is pleasure in drinking them beyond simply feeling thirsty…

England and Belgium are probably the two countries that produce the best ales, whilst America – like much of the rest of the world – decided that what the masses really needed was yet more lager. Now its not that American lagers taste that bad… I have been known to drink them when I was really hot and sweaty and fancied a beer…. Its just that they are simply not that good, especially when compared to the great lagers of Germany and Eastern Europe. The best selling of these US beers actually chose it’s name from a very fine beer that has been brewed for hundreds of years in a city that is now located within the Czech Republic – leading to name and trademark disputes that go back to 1907…

Enough of lagers… The real gems in terms of beers to be found on this side of the Atlantic are the micro breweries – and they abound….

There are many pubs here where various types of beer are brewed on the premises – often in part of the pub where you can see all of the brewing vessels behind glass, and much of their output is excellent. They usually produce a variety of beers ranging from lagers to ales, and including stouts and porters too… Given the choice, I regularly make a bee line for such places and will always want to try new beers that I haven’t encountered, so lets hear no more talk of ALL American beers being bad….

Now as for English beers being warm – that too is a fallacy…

It is true that unlike lager – you should not actively CHILL ales, but they are certainly not served warm. A better comparison would be the difference between serving red and white wines. The latter as I’m sure you are all aware are usually served chilled, whist red wines are best served at room temperature. So it is with ales…. In fact ales are properly served at the temperature of the cellar in which their casks are stored under an English Pub…  This will usually be at around 13 °C/55 °F, which is 10 °F higher than the temperature that lagers should be served at…

In chilling lagers – their crisp taste is accentuated, but as any nutritionist or gourmand  will tell you – the lower the temperature,  the more your taste-buds will be deadened… As lager doesn’t really have any distinctly subtle flavours this isn’t a problem, but the whole point of drinking ales is to savour those differences – hence the need NOT to chill them…

Whilst we are talking about beer, I’d like to end this with a complaint against one of the large Strip Casinos here in town – The Monte Carlo. When it opened in 1996, one of the restaurant-come-sports bars they built in there was called “The Monte Carlo Brew Pub”, and I remember passing a pleasant evening there some years ago whilst on vacation. As the name suggests, they brewed their own beer on the premises, and  rather nice it was too….

A month or so ago I was looking for somewhere to have a beer and as I was in the area, decided to pay it another visit… When I arrived I was disappointed to find that they no longer brewed their own beer… That’s OK, I know that financial situations change – but what REALLY annoyed me was that it was still called “The Monte Carlo Brew Pub” ! Pardon me for saying this – but if the words “brew pub” appear within the name of your establishment, there should be some sort of onus on you to actually BREW beer… If not – this is something of a fraud, designed to entice people in who might not otherwise have ventured there…. Especially when, as a server informed me, they hadn’t brewed their own beer for well over a year…

In England there might have been grounds for prosecuting them under the Trades Description Act, but you can be very sure that this is not a place I will be patronising again any time soon….

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