When the staff of the Weekender asked me to write about beers from around the world I could hardly contain myself. Over my 50 plus years on this planet of ours, I have been fortunate enough to travel to several countries and sample their beer. Here in the U.S. we have taken the craft of brewing beer and have taken it to new heights, or new lows, depending on the brewery. In other countries, they seem to stay close to their historic brewing standard which usually means good beer that does not deviate much from batch to batch. For centuries, they have brewed beer from the same recipes. With this tradition in mind, you can imagine how excited I was to take a trip around the world to visit several countries, eat their cuisine and drink their beer.
My trip begins in Wilkes-Barre where I will catch a plane to my first destination, Ireland. Where else would I start with the last name of McCabe? I checked out some local establishments to sample some before heading abroad.
Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale – Yards Brewing Co. (8.0% ABV) – Distinct hoppy flavor with fruity back notes. Good with roasted duck or pork.
Summer Paradise – Manayunk Brewing Co. (3.8% ABV) –A great summer beer with hints of spices and citrus. Great with a Philly cheesesteak.
Whitehorse Wit – Sly Fox Brewing Co. (5.3% ABV) – A Belgian Style Wit beer with an Orange and coriander flavor. Pair with smoked trout or chicken.
Now that I almost missed my plane, it’s off to one of my favorite countries, Ireland. When you think of Ireland and beer, Guinness immediately comes to mind. However, Ireland has several great beers that are must tries.
Leann Follain – O’Hara’s Brewing Co. (6.0% ABV) – Leann Follain means wholesome stout in Gaelic and that’s exactly what this is. This beer has tons of chocolate with hints of coffee. Pair with traditional Irish apple crumb cake.
Irish Blond – Reel Deal (4.5% ABV) – A strong hoppy aroma with a malty and citrus flavor that’s easy on the palate. I recommend this with a big plate of Shepherd’s pie. If you are in or around Dublin, go to Mary Ploughboys Irish Pub. Their home made Shepherd’s pie along with traditional Irish music and dancing are nothing short of fantastic.
Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale – Galway Hooker Brewery (4.4% ABV) – This is a very smooth pale ale with some grassy flavors and hints of citrus back notes. Goes great with bangers and mash at the Brazen Head Pub in Dublin. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland established in 1198.
It’s tough to leave the land of my heritage, but leave I must. It’s on to Germany, the land of Oktoberfest and the world’s best beer. As I arrive in Munich, I know right where I need to go, the Hofbrauhaus with its historic beer hall built in 1897.
Weissee – Hacker-Pschorr (5.5% ABV) – You can’t get a more traditional Weissbier than the Weissee brewed by Hacker Pschorr. Weissee is an incredibly smooth beer with hints of bananas and honey that melts on your tongue. Hacker-Pschorr has brewed beer since 1417. No wonder they get it right. Drink Weissee with a big hunk of German chocolate cake.
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier – Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan (5.4% ABV) – Of all the German brewed beers this is my second favorite. The taste is refreshing with subtle lemon notes and orange zest. You may actually taste a hint of bubblegum. A great beer for the summer months with a bratwurst on the grill.
Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen – Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu (5.9% ABV) – If any of you were wondering what my favorite beer is, now you know. Spaten Oktoberfestbier. This is the measuring stick for all Oktoberfest beers brewed around the world. Spaten invented the Oktoberfest style of beer and it is served at Oktoberfest every year in Munich. Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen has an aroma of walking into a bakery and smelling fresh baked sweet rolls. As for the taste, outstanding! It has a well balanced malty flavor with a perfect blend of spices. You can pair this beer with a whole chicken at Der Wienerwald restaurant in Munich or by itself at Oktoberfest.
Now that I had my fill in Germany, I must hop on the train and head to Italy. As most of you know, Italy is better known for its fabulous wines. However, Italians make very good beer.
Xyauyu – Birrificio Le Baladin (14.0% ABV) – This very potent beer has a medium brown color with a mahogany hue. It has a strong oak-like smell along with a “boozy” odor. As for the taste, if you want a beer with a buffet of flavors, this is it. As you sip Xyauyu you will first get the taste of brown sugar, figs and dates. Honey, tobacco, vanilla beans and leather are next to meet your palate followed by light caramel and lots of oak barrel mid palate. Toasted coconut, more caramel, honey, brown sugar, fig / dates, and mild rum all come together with a lightly bitter charred note from the oak barrel. All of these flavors are blended together perfectly for a great flavored beer. Drink by itself or with a Semifreddo for dessert.
Nastro Azzurro – Birra Peroni Industriale (5.1% ABV) – Peroni makes the most recognized Italian beer in the U.S. If you were to compare Nastro Azzurro to an American beer it would be Miller. This is the general beer of Italy. It’s nothing good, nothing bad, just beer. Pair this up on a sunny weekend with sweet Italian sausage on the grill. Don’t forget the onions and peppers.
Panil Barriquee – Panil (8.0% ABV) – This beer hits your taste buds with the flavor of sour cherries followed by hints of apple as it goes down. Panil has an after bite with just a slight hint of Champagne. Try a glass with a bowl of Cozze Pomodoro E Peperoncino (Chili Tomato Mussels).
With all of the delicious food and beer, I could stay in Italy for a while. However it’s time to move on and that means I have to cross the Mediterranean Sea to the land of the Phoenicians, Lebanon. I know you are wondering, do they actually have beer in Lebanon? The answer, yes. In fact, beer was first brewed in Egypt with Lebanon soon to follow.
Lebanese Pale Ale – 961 Beer / Gravity Brewing (6.3% ABV) – 961 Beer Lebanese Pale Ale is a great marriage between Western beer and Eastern complexities. With ingredients such as za’atar, sumac, mint, sage, anise, and chamomile, LPA is a real treat for the taste buds. This may not be the best Pale Ale you’ve ever tasted, but it won’t be the worst. 961 Beer LPA pairs well with Lebanese Zaatar pizza.
Almaza Pure Malt – Brasserie Almaza (6.0% ABV) – Like its name, Almaza Pure Malt is very malty in flavor with notes of caramel, brown sugar and molasses. If you like German Dunkel beers you may like this Pure Malt. Almaza is a good dessert beer to go along with a star anise yogurt mousse. You can also drink this while you snack on figs.
Laziza – Brasserie Almaza (0.1%ABV) – I had to dig deep for this beer. The Brasserie Almaza Brewery makes this “near beer” in several flavors including raspberry, lemon and apple. I would pair this with absolutely nothing. It’s not even worth a sniff.
As I packed my bags and got ready to leave Lebanon I looked forward to my next stop — India. People of India love their beer and they actually make a few very good ones.
Jaipur IPA – Thornbridge Brewery (5.9% ABV) – Jaipur is a very hoppy beer loaded with earthy flavors as well as back notes of apricot and grapefruit. Let this IPA warm up so you get those flavors to come out. Pair this with Maili Kofta (veggie balls in sauce).
Tiger Chakra Premium Lager – Chakra Brewing (4.7% ABV) – The word chakra comes from the Sanskrit language meaning wheel. This attempt to create a lager — well — wheel around and try again. Chakra tastes very dull with a slight hint of lemon. If you are brave enough to try Chakra Lager, drink it with a plate of Chilli Chicken.
Flying Horse Royal Lager – United Breweries (4.7% ABV) – Flying Horse Royal Lager is a simple, good tasting beer. At first sip you taste a smooth beer flavor with back notes of honey and apple. I recommend a tall cold pilsner glass along with a bowl of Navratan Korma (Nine Gem Curry).
It’s time to move on to Thailand. I know Thai food is fantastic, but what about their beer?
Singha Lager Beer – Singha Corporation Co. (5.0% ABV) – Brewed in the tradition of a German style lager, Singha falls miles short in flavor. It’s just not a very good beer. Pair it with Pad Kee Mao if you can choke it down.
Chang Beer – Cosmos Brewery (6.4% ABV) – Here’s a cheap beer in Thailand. You will spend about $1 per bottle and the taste reflects the cost. Chang has a basic lager taste and pairs well with any spicy Tai food.
Leo Beer – Boon Rawd Brewery Co. (5.0% ABV) – Leo Beer is Thailand’s version of Coors Light, a very simple beer with a very simple taste. It’s OK on a very hot day since it has citrus notes in the background. Try a glass of Leo with a plate full of baked Kibbeh.
I glanced at my itinerary and noticed China was my next stop. I do not know much about Chinese beers, however I was anxious to try a few. It was a rough trip over choppy seas, but we arrived in Hong Kong. As I departed the ship I noticed a cab driver waiting for a fare. I walked over, got in and asked him where I could sample the beers from his country. As he dropped me off at my hotel he told me to go to the Beer Bay, an outdoor come-as-you-are bar. This sounded right up my alley.
Snow Beer – China Resources Breweries Limited (4.3% ABV) – Snow beer is the biggest selling beer in China and may be the biggest selling beer in the world. It’s a light beer with slight hints of lemon. To sum up Snow Beer in two words — Bud Light. This beer goes with any Chinese food. Give it a try with sweet & sour pork.
Pearl River Beer – Guangzhou Zhujiang Brewery Co. Ltd. (5.3% ABV) – If you are looking for a cheap beer, Pearl is for you. At about $.50 a bottle, you get what you pay for. Pearl River has little flavor with a very short finish. You could drink this with any type of Chinese food, but why kill the flavor of the food?
Tsingtao Beer – Tsingtao Brewery Co, Ltd. (4.8% ABV) – I finally found a Chinese beer I like. Tsingtao is a smooth American style lager with an upfront rice and yeast flavor with floral back notes. Have a tall, cold glass with a dish of Moo Goo Gai Pan. Warning, do not let this beer get warm. It skunks quickly.
With China under my belt, it is time to head back toward the good ole U.S.A.. Before I get back I have two more stops. Brazil is next, the home of one of the top soccer teams in the world, the site of the Grand Prix of Brazil and lets not forget Carnival! As I got off my plane in Rio, the heat and humidity hit me like a sledge hammer. I had to cool off with a cold beer. Off I went to the Lord Jim Pub.
Bodebrown / Stone Cacau IPA – Cervejaria Bodebrown Ltda (6.1% ABV) – This Brazillian IPA just pops with flavor. At first sip you get honey and caramel followed by mid tones of grapefruit, orange peel and cacau all balanced into a good beer. Try Bodebrown with crunchy batons of manioc, bolinhos (little balls) or perhaps coxinha (little thigh), with shredded chicken and potato pureed, shaped like a thigh and covered in golden breadcrumbs.
Petroleum – DUM Cervejaria (12.0% ABV) – Talk about high octane beer. Petroleum is an intense thick black Russian style stout. Right up front you will get a smoky flavor followed by notes of banana and chocolate. I would hold Petroleum for desert and drink it with Brigadeiros, Brazils answer to chocolate truffles.
Invicta IPA – Cervejaria Invicta (8.0 ABV) – A very popular beer in Brazil, Invicta has a very hoppy taste with back notes of mango, banana and coffee all balanced into one darn good beer. You can pair Invicta with a nice bowl of Feijoada.
Sadly, it is time to move to my final destination — Mexico. As I boarded my private twin-engine plane I wondered if I would ever get to Mexico City alive. This was one of those older planes with an older pilot who looked like he had flown bi-planes in World War I. On takeoff I held my breath, closed my eyes and thought about the beer. As my plane hit the runway and came to a stop I quickly jumped out, kissed the ground and headed for a cold one.
Victoria – Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V. (4.0% ABV) – Victoria is one of my favorite Mexican-made beer. Most beer experts do not give Victoria good grades. It is a smooth beer with a crisp taste with back notes of grape. This is a great beer to drink in the heat of the summer. Drink a Victoria with a few corn and black bean quesadillas.
Bohemia – Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, S.A. de C.V. (5.3% ABV) – This German style pilsner gets high marks as Mexico’s best beer. You are not going to get any crazy flavors other than a perfect blend of hops and malts. Bohemia is easy going down and should be paired up with steak fajitas, refried beans and a hunk of corn bread.
Pay the Ferryman Porter – Los Muertos Brewing (5.0% ABV) – In the tradition of an English porter, Pay the Ferryman pays tribute with its complex flavors. At first taste you get caramel, chocolate and coffee flavors. These flavors stay with you throughout the taste and finish with a smoky pepper flavor. Have a cold mug with churros or flan.
I made it around the world in 30 beers. I will miss all of the friends I’ve made and all of the beers we drank. Of course I really did not go around the world in one trip, but have been to a few of these countries over the years. If you ever get a chance to visit one of these countries, don’t be afraid to try their beers. You will be pleasantly surprised by some and disappointed by others. Like food, you simply have to give beer a try.