Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Beer is one of the oldest, and most beloved beverages, worldwide.
There are references to beer in very early Pharaonic Egyptian writings and archaeologists recently found in Abydos the world’s oldest brewery dating to more than 5,000 years ago; we know the Vikings were beer aficionados and so were the Britons and the Picts and certainly the Irish, where people still stop for a pint of Guinness, instead of a cup of coffee. There are beer-making recipes from medieval Bavaria, ancient China and feudal Japan. Brazil has a long beer-like beverage tradition and so has Chile, brought in by German immigrants; India also has a long tradition even though, for them, beer came with the British colonizers.
My first beer experience was at the Fix brewery in Athens (Φιξ) which was founded in 1864 by Johann Karl Fuchs, who came to Athens as the royal brewmaster of King Otto, the son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who was installed as the first Greek king after the country's liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1832; for many years, until the very late 1930s, it was the major brewery in Greece and took 2 entire city blocks, plus a beer garden across the main highway; they served chilled beer there until the 1950s under large plane and linden trees. The original brewery building on Syngrou Ave., was converted to the National Museum of Contemporary Art when the Fix operations moved to one of the Athenian suburbs.
Bavaria, is still considered the best place to have a cool, crisp, local lager anywhere in the world.
Munich has its Oktoberfest celebrating beer; in the UK there are national breweries, local breweries and microbreweries and many pubs still brew their own, on-premises; beer drinking is a tradition there and their ales are drunk at room temperature and not chilled. Every European capital from the mid-18 century on, had a “Royal” brewery and many of them are still in business today. The Pilsner style originated in the 19th century in the Czech city of Plzeň who’s inhabitants were plagued by bad lager. The result was a beer that has the drinkability of a lager but with more flavor.
All beer falls into two styles: ales and lagers. The difference between the styles comes down to the type of yeast used to ferment each. The yeast in ales has a higher tolerance for alcohol than the yeast used in lagers, therefore ales have more alcohol than lagers.
In the 1950s and ‘60s when visiting Copenhagen, a visit to the restaurant located inside the Tivoli Gardens that brewed its own beer was considered de rigueur. The same can still be said about very local breweries in Amsterdam, Athens, Bangkok, Brussels, London, Munich, Prague, Chiang Mai, Shenyang city - Liaoning Province - and Qingdao (China).
Huge breweries operating in the United States can be found in Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, and Milwaukee (Coors), New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Ohio, California (Budweiser) to name just a very few of the beer giants, plus there are microbreweries sprouting up all over the country, in all states and cities. Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser is still a very popular brew in the US, although it has been recently witnessing declining sales across the country, with sales of microbrewery beers skyrocketing.
There are over 100+ distinct styles of beer (over 73 different ales, more than 25 lagers and, nowadays, a handful of hybrids) but to confuse classification, there are even more ways to sub-categorize beer.
And all the above bring us to Half Time Beverage; the largest retailer of craft beer in the United States.
They feature over 4,000 craft beer selections from over 800 breweries located in over 50 countries. In addition to a wide array of domestic and imported craft beers, Half Time Beverage also carries a lineup that includes cider, mead, mini kegs, non-alcoholic beer, gift packs, monthly clubs/subscriptions, hard seltzer, and malts. They also deliver all of these options direct to client doorsteps across the United States.
They were kind enough to send me 6 samples for comment. They were all cans from American micro breweries; so I dusted out my favorite mug, a heavy glass Urquell Pilsner mug, that can be put in the freezer for a few minutes so that it keeps beer cool for a long period, in a hot summer afternoon.
I have a personal collection of beer glasses, mugs, steins, pitchers and other paraphernalia that I’ve acquired through the years, including an antique German stoneware beer stein (pitcher) that I purchased in the mid ‘60s in Heidelberg and has been part of my “dowry” when I moved to New York City.
After tasting the samples, these are my comments:
I liked best two IPAs (Indian Pale Ales): the El Dorado DOH OH-J, a hazy double IPA with a double dose of hops from the Lone Pine Brewing Co. of Portland, Main, and the “Strictly Illegal” a Tripple IPA, from Lupulin Brewing of Big Lake, MN. Both were outstanding examples of an India Pale Ale; flavorful, aromatic and very refreshing, though the triple IPA had an 11% ABV. Another double IPA called “It’s complicated being a Wizard” brewed in Vermont, was nice but a little less smooth and sweeter with only 8% ABV. Schilling Beer Company’s “Alexandr” a Czech-style Pilsner at 5% ABV was a very good example of a Pilsner. The rest were a couple dark ales, one looked and tasted like a sweeter version of Guinness (it’s been a long time since a had genuine Guinness on tap, so I’m not very sure that my evaluation is correct).
I’ll be happy to have some more of these beers, so I’m off to my local store to see if they have any in stock.
To contact Half Time Beverage please click on the link.
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