I know beer. I love beer. I've drank lots of beer. Benjamin Franklin said it best:
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy"
I myself have sampled many different kinds of beer in several different countries, in several different continents. Budweiser claims to be the King of Beers. I'm here to tell you, they are not the King of Beers. The King of all beers of course, is Guinness. A simple pint of Guinness is more than just a beer. There's a great scene in the Irish movie "The Snapper" where, after Colm Meaney's daughter has her baby, he goes across the street to the local pub and orders a pint. When it arrives, he just sits there looking at it, and the look on his face says it all.
Gettin' my pour on
As far as countries, I'm going with Belgium. The only bad Belgian beer I've ever had was Stella Artois, which, ironically, is the only one many people have even heard of. This is because Stella Artois is the Belgian version of Budweiser. One of the locals I was drinking with explained that SA is not viewed as a good beer by the majority of Belgians. As usual, the best selling is not always the best. On a hot day, there is nothing like a cold Hoegaarden with a slice of lemon. Leffe Blond is another excellent Belgian beer. Although they are much maligned, I am very fond of the kreiks and lambics, which are Belgian styles that feature fruit flavors in them. If they're done right, they're delicious.
I've always wanted to spend a couple weeks touring around England sampling the many bitters and ales up there. I've found very few that I don't like. Thank God there are many bars on the continent that cater to British ex-pats where I can get my fix. I've loved every pint of Boddington's Cream Ale I've ever had (It's the cream of Manchester after all...), but sadly, I hear they've been sold, which always affects the taste of a brew.
And what about Heineken? Hmm. Let me just say that when I was in Amsterdam for Queen's Day a few years ago, it was hot, and the Heineken taps were out in full force lining the streets. The taste of a cold Heineken straight off the tap in Amsterdam was truly unforgettable. However, after that experience, I can no longer drink it anywhere else, especially in bottles. It just doesn't taste the same.
Beck's? Don't even get me started on that swill. They are to beer what Boone's Farm is to fine wine.
I've found that an ordinary beer can taste extraordinary in the right circumstances. For example, when we eat Chinese food, I always order a Tsing-tao and it always compliments the food well. Same with Singha beer and Thai food. Next time you're eating Indian food, try a cold Kingfisher with it. You'll see what I mean.
Whenever possible, always try to use a glass when drinking your beer. You should never drink beer out of a bottle if you can help it. Always keep a couple pint glasses in the house, as well as a couple pils glasses and plain old beer mugs. A beer that comes in a can is not your friend. If one should approach you, simply say "no thank you" and send it on its way.
The Germans know their beer. The best beer in Germany is of course found in Bavaria, brewed around Munich, and has no equal in Germany. Some of my favorites are Erdinger Dunkelweizen, SchneiderWeiss & Paulaner.
Enjoying a hefeweizen in Kaiserslautern, 1998
We can't leave out the Czechs, creators of the "real" Budweiser, which is called "Budweiser Budvar". This is a good beer. But try a Pilsner Urquell - the world's first pilsner! - and you will see why the Czech Republic is the top per capita beer drinking country in the world. That's right, even more than Germany.
The French have mastered the grape, but still haven't figured out what to do with yeast and hops, so let's skip them.
Here in Italy, the local beers - namely Peroni, Nastro Azzuro, and Birra Morretti - are nothing special. But being in the North means it's easy to get German brews, so we don't have to live without good beer.
So, to sum up: Beer is a good thing. I'm always happy to share a beer with anyone, so if you're ever in my nape of the woods, look me up and the first round is on me!
Further reading: All About Beer Magazine. I have a subscription and read every issue cover to cover.