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IPAs in Europe

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GaeilgeGuinness

I have long stated that the European beer scene is largely disastrous. Even in Belgium, everyday people drink Coors Light and Carlsberg. This awful situation includes Ireland, where every bar serves the exact same 6 mostly bad beers. Guinness is ubiquitous of course, but I don’t particularly care for it. Other than that, it’s slim pickings, with the second best beer being Smithwick’s, if that’s even possible to call the 2nd best beer under any circumstances.

There was a time, 15 years ago even, when Guinness was the gold standard of quality beer in most of the United States. That time has of course changed with far superior microbreweries cutting severely into that reputation. Guinness has tried to counter that by creating new beers, largely for the American market. Among them is the utterly pointless Guinness Blonde, which I see no reason to ever try even as it seems to be selling. Perhaps more interesting, but probably not, is the new Guinness IPA. It’s unclear whether this will be available in Ireland, but European beers could use a strong shot of hops to counter the mediocrity on tap everywhere. I’m perhaps more optimistic is the new deal between Lagunitas and Heineken.

That makes it a win for Heineken, as large brewers increasingly attempt to buy in to craft beer’s biggest waves. “We recognise and respect the tremendous success of Tony and his team in building one of the great U.S. craft beer brands,” Heineken Chairman and CEO Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said in a statement. ”We look forward to that same team partnering with us to expand Lagunitas globally, so it can reach parts of the world that other craft beer brands have not.”

Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas, has criticized “big beer” companies in the past. He justified this partnership by pointing to the large international market he hoped to tap into. ”This is not the end of anything at all at Lagunitas, except maybe it is the end of the beginning, meaning that we are now standing at the threshold of an historic opportunity to export the excitement and vibe of American-born Craft Brewing and meet beer-lovers all over the Planet Earth, our true homeland. This could one day even be seen as a crucial victory for American Craft Brewing,” he wrote in a blog post announcing the deal, titled “The Future Will Not Be Like The Past”.

With the best national beer scene in the world*, the United States could engage in some useful beer imperialism and start selling quality products globally. Certainly I would welcome that when I am traveling. The beer scene around the world is so bad that before recent changes in Mexico that have created a nascent microbrew scene of sorts, I think my favorite beer country I have traveled to is Bolivia of all places, and this only because that each city had a different beer. None of them were particularly good but at least they were different and I wasn’t stuck drinking Tiger or Singha or Carlsberg or Imperial and Pilsen (for god’s sake Costa Rica, you have so much going on but why are both your beer and your food so atrocious, even compared to your neighbors?).

* I understand that the top end of Belgian beer is better, but there’s really no question that because of the fantastic varieties of American beer and because actual Americans actually drink it instead of the good stuff being exported, the U.S. beer scene is better. As for Germany, yes that’s good too, but the lack of variety and the purity laws (never change Germany) create limitations.

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