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Introduction to the traditional beer regions

 

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So-called “brown bars” like this have been serving beer to Amsterdam residents for generations.

By: Stephen Beaumont

 

No one knows where beer truly began. The earliest documented evidence points to the Hunan province of China in 7000 BC, while crop patterns of 9000 BC infer that brewing was likely taking place in Mesopotamia two millennia earlier. Regardless, it is to neither of those places that the modern mind drifts when the topic of beer is mentioned.

 

Despite the advances made in the brewing arts the world over, from Hong Kong to Italy and Canada to Singapore, for the average drinker, the mention of beer brings to mind only a handful of nations where the national thirst has for centuries been slaked by neither wine or whisky, tea nor sugary sodas, but beer. These countries, all clustered more-or-less together in northern Europe, can be considered the globe’s traditional brewing regions, and it is to them that this section is devoted.

 
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Stroll almost any European square, such as this one in Antwerp, and you’ll find it ringed with cafes, pubs or bar-restaurants.

England and Belgium, Germany and Ireland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, and several others: each came to brewing in a different fashion, just as each has its own unique claim to brewing fame. For some, it is a style of beer which serves as their beery calling card, such as the golden kölsch of Köln in northern Germany, while for others it is a beer culture, as witnessed by the fervor with which the English cling to their pub traditions, those same traditions visitors flock to experience.


Principally, each of these traditional brewing regions are areas where barley and hops have been able to grow, and in many instances still do. The Czech Republic, for instance, is responsible for what may be the most famous hop variety on the planet, Saaz, while southern Germany is home to the world’s single largest hop growing region, Hallertau. England, on the other hand, is known for a variety of malted barley known as Marris Otter, considered by some brewers to be the best brewing barley on the planet.


Whatever the reason, though, each of these places encapsulates some or all of what the beer drinking public views as the romance and allure, the kinship and sociability of this beverage called beer. The role of this section is to introduce these lands and explore their dynamic and captivating beer cultures and subcultures.

 

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