Monday, October 27, 2008


Americans know France for its wine, but do the French know America for its beer? Likely not, and that is unfortunate. Just as France has a rich and historic culture of wine making, so too does the United States have a rich and historic culture built around brewing beer. While the French take pride in their world-renowned wines, their claim to Champagne and the role fermented grapes play in their daily lives, so too do Americans appreciate regional beers from across the country, participate in tastings at restaurants that make their own, and know the value of an ice cold brew after a hard day's work. So why can most Americans tell you that France produces great wine, but most French people have no idea that Americans enjoy well-crafted, multi-varietal beer? Blame it on Budweiser.

Yes, I said Budweiser. The King of Beers, over-ambitious Super Bowl commercial time purchaser, most recognizable name in American beer, Budweiser. As far as I've been able to tell, this is the only American beer available for purchase in France, and as a result, the French believe Budweiser to be the only beer Americans drink. Not that there's anything wrong with Budweiser. It's a perfectly good and inexpensive option for a backyard BBQ or a night a the local bar, but in my own humble opinion, it's not the best example of fine American craftsmanship in beer. It's the equivalent of a two-euro bottle of French table wine, and if that's all American consumers were able to purchase, we'd think the French had poor taste as well. As it stands, Budweiser is the reason why I can't answer the frequently-asked French question, "Do you drink wine in the US?" by saying, "Yes, but I drink beer more often," without hearing raucous laughter followed by, "Oh yes, Budweiser!"

So, I'm here to let the French know that they do not hold a monopoly on the art of alcohol production. And that Americans are not limited to Budweiser in their choice of beer. On the contrary, the Unites States is brimming with beers of all kinds: wheat beers, barley beers, rice beers, sweet beers, dark beers, light beers, amber beers, hoppy beers, lagers, ales, pale ales and pilsners. Breweries exist all over this great country, and Ameircans enjoy finding new beers when they travel to different states. When I'm home in Minnesota, I drink Grain Belt Premium, brewed by the locally owned and operated since 1860 August Schell Brewing Company. When in Washington DC, I drink Yuengling, a beer from nearby Pennsylvania. Many beers are not distributed in all 50 states; you have to be in the region in which they are produced to drink them. The varieties are endless, and their taste can be enjoyed and dissected just the same as a fine Bordeaux. Now, if only we could get some of them to take that trans-Atlantic flight.

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