In 2020, we are no longer stuck with tasteless, watery, adjunct lagers. Instead, the world is full of flavorful IPAs, lambics, and dark doppelbocks. So, if you’re looking to travel in a new way, why not take a beercation? Just make sure to take notes on what you drink. Chances are, your memory will be hazy.
We’ll start our trip in England because this is the birthplace of the IPA. What does IPA stand for? India Pale Ale. Originally, this beer was brewed for British soldiers stationed in India. During the long trip across the sea from England to India, most beers would spoil. So, one brewer came up with the idea to add extra hops to the beer. As you know, hops contain all sorts of antibacterial chemicals. By the time the beer got to India, most of these chemicals had oxidized and the beer was only slightly more bitter than a normal pale ale. In the hot Indian sun, this beer was the perfect antidote.
Today, you can drink the original pale ale when you visit England. While some Americans might complain about the ‘warm’ beer, what you’re actually drinking is called cask ale. The beer is kept between 11-13 degrees Celsius. It lowers the activity of the yeast, but cask ales will change in flavor over time. There are also porters and stouts that you can try in England, available in cask, bottled, and tap variations. These dark, hearty beers were once brewed for the porters, who spent their days hauling heavy cargo around town. It was meant to be cheap and low in alcohol, but heavy enough to be filling. These days, it is Ireland, and not England, that’s best-known for its Guinness Stout.
America is the land of reinvention. Brewers on the west coast decided to take the old IPA recipes from England and recreate them. The focus wasn’t on preservation, it was on the taste of the bitter hops. Today, American IPAs are one of the most popular beers in the world. You can try west coast IPAs as well as the hazy east coast IPAs.
The best way to do your American beercation is via a road trip. Start on one coast and drive in the other direction. Make sure to hit states like Colorado and Michigan, where micro and craft breweries are popping up almost every day! You’ll get to try the American versions of almost every single style of beer in the world. And that is the real taste of freedom.
Since Belgium separated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it hasn’t had to follow its complex beer purity regulations, known as the Reinheitsgebot Laws. Embracing creativity, Belgian monks added fruits, coriander, and all types of spices and herbs into their beers. Instead of fresh hops, Belgian beers contain aged hops. This means that if you hate that bitter beer taste, you’ll love the sweet flavors of Belgian beers.
One of the most famous styles to come out of Belgium is the Trappist beer. These beers are made (or overseen) by Belgian monks, and some are extremely rare. You can travel to a monastery to purchase a case or head to an authorized retail store to try a few bottles. Importing beers from Belgium to the US is extremely expensive, so while you’re in this little country, take advantage of the low prices!
Of course, it’s no beercation without a trip through Germany. This is the birthplace of the lager, the most popular style of beer in the world. Lagers are easy-to-drink and low in alcohol. Almost every popular commercial beer out there is a lager or adjunct lager. But Germany, you won’t just find golden lagers. There are also dark and heavy lagers (called doppelbocks). They too have a rich history.
German monks used to fast during Lent, but they needed to sustain themselves on something. Instead of drinking water, which was often unclean and could cause illness, they would brew doppelbocks. These doughy brews were almost like liquid bread for the monks during the fast. And since liquids were considered holy, the monks drank LOTS of doppelbock.
Taiwan is one of very few truly democratic, Chinese-speaking countries in the world. It’s a small island in Asia heavily influenced by Japan and the Western world. It’s no surprise that many Americans and Europeans immigrate here and bring with them their beer culture. Today, Taiwan has a thriving local craft beer scene. Accordingly, the Taiwanese have picked up the art of brewing. You can now find local creations like lychee beer or starfruit beer.
Many bars in major cities, such as Taipei, not only import American and European beers, but also serve their own house specials. Taxis are cheap and the subways run late, so you don’t have to worry about getting back home. Another plus about Taiwan is that it’s a very safe country. So party on!