Only recently have we decided to start giving our sources credit for the ideas we've trademarked under our system of legal charters. Where once Budweiser, Coors, et al brewed "American beer", we can now find shelves upon shelves of proper homage to the motherland in the form of Czech Pilsners, German Rauchbiers, and Belgian Quads -- all brewed and labeled right here in the United States -- to name a few. For that, I'm proud of our small brewers for honoring their heritage, while InBev and MillerCoors continue to browbeat us with patriotic drivel. This is why the perception of American brewing is so poorly regarded worldwide, when -- in large part to small craft -- we have augmented our philosophies to align with a more unified, universal beer culture.
I'll tell you something odd about visiting Europe (and I'll talk later someday about the same feeling I had in South America), is that their beer culture is not nearly as berserk as I expected it to be, and not nearly as zealous as it is here in America at the moment. They're like Oscar Robertson sleeping their way to another triple double, while we are the Jeremy Lins of the beer world, getting randy about a crossover layup.
When Melissa and I traveled to Portugal for our honeymoon, I was surprised -- but not really -- that a party culture like Lisbon and an artisan culture like Porto drank beer modeled after American rubbish. I guess in mass amounts, people will find that their endgame is to get painted, and I can totally respect that. However, I am really bewildered that they would look 4,200 miles across the Atlantic to St. Louis for macro inspiration, when the very brewers that beget American brewing in the first place lay less than a quarter of that distance to the east.
I totally subscribe to the drink-and-let-drink philosophy, and I've certainly imbibed on The Big Three with pleasure (and then, everyone has a favorite local for mid-week drinking -- here in Texas, it's Lone Star/Pearl Light). I'll tell you what, go to Billy Bob's in Ft. Worth or a Longhorns tailgate on a Saturday night, and tell me that this Lone Star Beer you are drinking is not the best thing you've ever tasted. Boozing is a lot like real estate: Location, Location, Location.
When some of the guys and I were in Argentina, back before the Malbec craze took over every shitty Real Housewives Wine Bar from Scottsdale to The Cape, we drank a bottle of wine at La Cabrera that had to be the best tasting fermented grape juice on the planet. Didn't matter what the price was, or the vintage, and I barely remember what it was called -- but what I did know was that between four dapper dudes, consumed with excitement, and sitting at one of the best steakhouses to have ever existed, this was the best fucking wine on earth.
And so it brings me to point of this post: the two giants of Portuguese brewing -- Super Bock and Sagres. This is sort of like scrutinizing Miller vs. Bud -- and it is because those are two of the biggest brands in the country -- but relaying back to one of my prior points: nothing tastes better with crawfish in April than a Pearl Light. Judging beer like this is to analyze the ambiance, the situation, your surroundings; in other words, the full experience.
|Super Bock Lager | Unicer Brewing | Leça do Balio, POR|
This particular glass of Super Bock -- which is not even a bock beer at all -- was enjoyed, ironically speaking, on the 4th of July at The Casa de Casal de Loivos in the Duoro region of Portugal overlooking hillsides upon hillsides of vineyards. Just married, feeling pretty damn good about life, a chilly pool on a warm day at the top of the earth, I had to rate this American-style lager a perfect ten. How could I not?
Acquired: And I'm being honest here: I pushed a little poolside button, and a traditionally dressed Portuguese chambermaid brought me this exact set-up on a silver platter. Like I said, the full experience.
|Sagres Lager | Sociedade Central de Cervejas | Vialonga, POR|
At this point of the night, we've bounced around several tascas, and happen upon one that I recognized from the recommendation of several locals: Tasca do Chico. There is fado and there are footy scarves. I'm fucking relishing each moment in here. I snap a pic of my goblet and the woman behind the tiny bar hands me a plastic cup to take my beer onto the street, whereupon I am promptly offered a trunk-load of pot to purchase. I pass. The beer is cold and rich, and not like anything mass-produced in America at all.
Although miles -- literally/figuratively/etc -- from the experience at Casa de Casal, it was still a wildly fun night that ended in a very small bar drinking Sagres and being swallowed by an entire bar doing freestyle fado. Thus, ...
Acquired: Tasca do Chico, Lisbon, POR