I just got done rereading Calvin Trillin's Feeding a Yen about foreign foods one ate overseas and can't find in the US and the 60's beer post and it got me thinkin' about all the great beers I've drunk overseas that I can't find here.(Just keep in mind that I'm writing form Maine which has a great culture of microbreweries, but not much variety of imported brands.)
I studied in the old Soviet Union and was exposed to communism and beer(Not a happy marriage.) Beer names were derived from the town's factory Moskovskaya Zavod Piva was Moscow Factory Beer and it tasted like it. A weak, watery lager. Vodka was the way to go. I do, however, miss the public beer machines with communal mugs that dispensed a cool draft beer cheaply. Simply invert mug when done and rinse with a jet of water. I did taste awfully good with kielbasy and kapusta(saurkraut) though.
I loved Christmas in Norway. Out came the Juleol, an amber ambrosia worthy of the big Julenisse himself. My local brand was Tau(Tau Smak Gir Mer Smak or Tau Flavor Gives More Flavor) an excellent rich and creamy lager. Besides lagers and Christmas beer, Ole Nordman also put out some very decent bokks. All of the Nordic countries had the same method of rating beers by alcohol content. One or 2 stars on the bottle cap meant lower alcohol and could be purchased in grocery stores. For 6-10% alcohol, 3 or 4 stars, one needed to find the Vinmonopolet(Winemonopoly), the government run liquor store. Live in the boonies? No problem, they mailed it to your door. Other favorite brands were: Hansa(Bergen) and Frydenlund(Oslo). I, once upon a time saw another Oslo beer, Ringnes, in the US, but I didn't care for it. I do really miss an icy cold Tau with North Sea herring or fried cod tongues and cheeks.. Now that is a marriage made in heaven.
The Finns take beer to the arena of international politics. When Karjala beer first appeared on the market, during the cold war, the label had 2 mail clad gauntlets, the one on the right (read east) holding a curved sword and the one on the left (read west), held a straight sword. The classic symbol of the historic struggle of the Finns to stay free from the Russkies. The Soviet ambassador went on TV and (rightly) called this an unfriendly act against the neighborly CCCP.(The Finns have fought 43wars against the Russians and have lost every one!) The beer immediately rocketed to the top in Finnish beer sales and stayed there for decades! All one had to do to order a Karjala was to make a fist with the right hand and cock back your right arm. So much for Finlandization. Back to the beer! Sinebrynkoff (Russian influence?), the oldest and largest brewery, located in downtown Helsinki, puts out a fine array of beers. I have seen the Koff Porter in the US. Lapin Kulta is a creamy lager and of course a rich Christmas beer, Jouluolut (olut is beer). Finnish beer has saved me from embarrassment at many a summer's Rapu Fest. Rapu, crayfish, is Finnish summer addiction. Imagine sitting outside, in the summer's warm midnight sun peeling and eating scores of crayfish boiled in dill, and knocking back icy shots of Korskincorva (Over the Waterfalls!) Vodka with beer chasers! I was "forced" to drink more beer and less vodka. Oh, do I miss an icy cold beer with fire roasted makkara (sausage) after a 300 degree F.(no kidden, Kidden) sauna! Those were the days.
Bolivia was a beer lovers pleasant surprise. I was unaware of the huge German influence in Bolivia(I came afta ze var.) The national airline, Lloyd Aero Boliviano(LAB) is named after the German that founded it in the 1920's. Due to the mainly (except for the Altiplano) tropical climate and heavy German influence, the vast majority are lagers. The largest selling beer, Pacena, even has the famous German logo of a chubby crowned monarch legs wide astride a huge keg with 2 giant mugs of frothy beer in his hands. I preferred Taquina(Cochabamba) and the local Cruzanian brew Ducal. It went very well with churrascos (huge meat BBQs). I learned a lot about the third world when I found out that a .75 l. bottle of beer cost less that $.50, but the deposit on the bottle was $.75. It was more difficult to manufacture the bottle than brew the beer!
Finally, our oldest son is married to a Korean and lives in Seoul. When we visit, we love the food, culture and people; it's the beer we can't stand. All 3 majors Cass, Hite and OB make the silver bullet look rich and creamy by comparison. We learned the lethal joy of So Ju and our son has become an accomplished home brewer. Fini.
Remember: "In heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here. And when we're gone from here, our friends will be drinking all the beer!" Traditional Polish Polka
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