Ever since the late great Michael Jackson (whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow) commended craft brewers in the US for brewing the best beers in the world, some of us, in a self-congratulatory manner, have occasionally overlooked the bigger picture. A good beer culture is not only the liquid but also local pride and national zeitgeist.
Evan Rail is author of Good Beer Guide: Prague and the Czech Republic. In a recent blog, Rail mused about what he considers the true measure of a beer culture ... from his vantage point in the Czech Republic.
a country’s beer culture shouldn’t be measured by the achievements of its best beers. Instead, I’d argue that a better way to take the pulse of any beer culture would be to look at its worst beers. Just how good are your supermarket generics? How good is the beer served at sports events? What do the masses drink?
Sure, America may have Surly Darkness and an army of outstanding craft brewers producing more variety than any other nation on earth, but the fact is that most people there drink Bud Light. In its history and achievements, Germany’s beer culture is outstanding, but if I had to drink mass-produced German pils for the rest of my days, it wouldn’t be a particularly long ride before I died of thirst, if not boredom.
And yet of all the beers in the Czech Republic that didn’t impress me — and yes, there are a few — I can’t think of any that are really and truly terrible, as in evil. (Okay, someone might say ahem! and nod in a direction west-northwest from Prague. With the qualification that I mean it in a global context, I stand by my statement.) <...>
It’s true, there’s not a huge amount of variety in Czech beer culture, at least not by American standards, though there certainly is much more now than just a few years ago. Regardless, our good beers are generally excellent, just as the good beers are in any beer culture.
The difference? Our bad beers are often quite good, too.