Finding Nemo

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Lovely and Delicious Beers of the West

When the plane touched down in Singapore, I knew the routine awaiting me.  I had it dialed.  Push through crowd of hawkers at airport (hand on wallet), find taxi, negotiate price that doesn't rip me off, and get to hostel ASAP to dump off the monkey, aka the big backpack.  Only then could I truly take a deep breathe and relish the fact that I was traveling!!  Its always fun once the monkey's in bed to to dust off the map and start 'xploring.  The first order of business is a hard rule: sample the local grub and grab a cold brew.  And as I soon discovered, Singapore was just like all of Asia, and the non-Western world for that matter.  The food is always exciting, new, and interesting.  And the beer ........ is pretty much always the same old boring American style lager.

Its not for lack of trying.  I make it a point to try a local beer in every country I visit.  Perhaps the problem was that this is so much great fun in Europe, especially when one gets to Belgium and Germany.  But in Singapore, I'll be honest, the only reason I was looking forward to a new beer was not the taste, it was to admire the funky cool label of Tiger.  I mean, how many beers have a Tiger at a beach?  That's pretty awesome you crazy Singaporeans.

But why is it that microbrews haven't taken off everywhere else?  And then, it hit me.  Its partly because we got lucky, and partly because we are somewhat wealthy.

1) Luck and Fate.  Beer was "invented" in the Middle East and spread quickly through Europe by Germanic and Celtic tribes.  Of course, America was populated early on by European immigrants who brought all their favorite foods and drink.  So the West simply has a big head start historically on making good beer.
2) Wealth.  Microbrewing takes time and money.  Its a luxury hobby in that sense.  In a country like America with a relatively (for now) large middle class, many people can afford such a hobby.  Thus, with a fertile grassroots beer ecology, it was only a matter of time until we got the rich microbrew tapestry we enjoy today.

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