After over 30 years of being a consumer of beer, I have never been a fan of big American brews. I’ve given them every chance. After learning the fundamentals of beer drinking in high school in Canada, I tried all the kinds of American beer at college in central New York. There are some stories to be told about all of those years, but I’ll leave it that I was not impressed with beer south of the border. I eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest before the microbrew revolution, but didn’t care for Rainier or Olympia. I even tried making beer several times before the kids.
And just last month I was at a major league spring-training baseball game in Florida with my parents. The sun was out, the temperature was in the mid-80’s, long boring half-innings of teams trying to figure how to play again after five months of vacation. What better place to have a cold, light beer? I went for a Budweiser, partly because it was the first vendor I found, and partly because I hadn’t had one in a very long time. But it was awful. What little flavor it had was not pleasing, and I didn’t want to finish it. Let me tell you that has to be some bad stuff to make me feel that way.
So on a recent trip to the town of Budweis, in the Czech Republic, I was a little ambivalent about trying the original namesake of the “king of beers” even though there was no way it could be any worse than its American counterpart. It was drizzling, with temperatures around 50, and after a long train ride to get to town, we were directed to a restaurant with good Czech food just off the main square. A Budweiser shingle hung out front; familiar yet different. We ordered our “gross bier” in German, since that was the common language with our server, and out came 0.5 liter of an entirely different animal. It tasted so good. It made me a little ashamed of what American taste has come to. A colleague in Budweis said that their Budweiser will give you a bad hangover if you drink five or six, and that he prefers other Czech beers. But it’s been a long time since I drank that much in one sitting, so a hangover was the last thing on my mind. I was just happy to have a good-tasting beer in front of me while I had a chance to try some local food (pork medallions with wild mushrooms). Budweiser can be great!