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Why Europe is better than America

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has been out promoting his new book. In order to demonstrate how well connected to the world ordinary people now are, how much choice they have, and much information they have easy and inexpensive access to, he has repeatedly brought up the example of the bar he likes to work ” with 27 kinds of beer on tap, a nice patio and… a free wireless Internet hookup,”

It sounds reasonably good.

As it happens though, Jonathan Pearce and I went to Porto in Portugal last weekend in order to get pissed have a stimulating weekend. On saturday night, we ended up in a bar with a choice of over 200 kinds of port. There was something work related that I had to get done reasonably promptly, so I got out of my laptop and joy of joys, the bar was providing free wireless there too. I was able to get my work done. It certainly beat spending time in the office. It beat a mere 27 kinds of beer too.

So what can I say? Samizdata 200 – Instapundit 27. We win.


port2.JPG

For what it’s worth, in front of me I have a dry white port, a fruitier white port, a reserve, an unfiltered L.B.V, two tawnies, and a 21 year old colheita. (The colheita in particular was just divine).

37 comments to Why Europe is better than America

  • Kim du Toit

    One only needs ONE beer, not 27. That would be the Pride of Devizes: Wadworth 6X

    Hell, I’d rather have 200 different kinds of port, myself.

    Beer fills you up too quickly — what are you going to get through: about six or seven? (No comments from the PG, please — I have gout, and can’t drink that much anyway.)

    But dozen or so different ports?

    Heaven.

    When we were in Portugal a couple of years ago, I couldn’t believe the variety (and the low prices). We brought back eight bottles of the lovely stuff, and I could have brought back twenty-eight.

    (I bet most of the 27 beers suck, anyway.)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Michael, it was a pleasure testing this idea out with your good self. The port was magnificent. In fact, let’s try and organise a mass blogger Port tasting event, in Porto, some day.

    Oh my god, what have I just gone and suggested?

  • permanent expat

    It could be postulated that one only needs one of anything….maybe two if you want to get physical….but it’s wonderful to have a choice.
    Didn’t I read somewhere that you’re more likely to get gout from beer than from port

  • Malcolm

    Very, very jealous.

    If you’re serious about the mass blogger Port tasting please count me in.

  • Julian Taylor

    Certainly up for a mass portswilling event. I’m currently sitting watching a bottle of port that Messrs Pearce and Jennings brought back from Porto and willing it to settle faster so that I can decant it.

  • In order to demonstrate how well connected to the world ordinary people now are, how much choice they have, and much information they have easy and inexpensive access to, he has repeatedly brought up the example of the bar he likes to work ” with 27 kinds of beer on tap, a nice patio and… a free wireless Internet hookup,”

    So what can I say? Samizdata 200 – Instapundit 27. We win.

    I’ll have to agree – except for the air fares and the flying time, this was easy and inexpensive.

  • Raghu

    What is the name of this place?

  • Anthony

    Love port. But I’ve never heard of this “divine” colheita.

    I’ll look it up, but I’d love hear from experienced parties.

    Hic transit gloria mundi.

  • Anthony

    Love port. But I’ve never heard of this “divine” colheita.

    I’ll look it up, but I’d love to hear from experienced parties.

    Hic transit gloria mundi.

  • Anthony

    Sorry about the dumb duplication.

  • In the Four Seasons’ UItimate Bartender’s Guide, the authors have a great recipe for a Brandied Port that’s worth experimenting with: pour four ounces of Port, a half ounce of Cognac into a wine (or brandy) glass, and stir. It adds a nice little extra bit of complexity to the Port, and is a breeze to make.

  • ben jarrell

    But I bet they didn’t have Abita Amber.

    You Europeans don’t know what you’re missing. ;)

    Quality, not quantity, you know?

  • Tuscan Tony

    The mention of Abita reminds me of my favourite place in News Orleans where I go for these 225 good reasons. NO, truly a great city for the travelling beerswiller.

  • David Descamps

    You should come in Belgium too, we have more than 400 differents beer here :-p And savage ones (like the Bush beer at 12%)

  • Instituto do Vinho do Porto?
    We’ve got one in Lisbon as well. Did you know that Easyjet started flying here from Luton on 1 March?

    About adding brandy to port. Err, that’s what it is. Port is the wine of the region fortified with brandy. First done because the wines would get cloudy when shipped to England. Add the brandy to stop this.

  • David: From these embarassing photos you should conclude that I have been to Belgium and I am familiar with the beer.

    Tim: No, I actually wasn’t aware that Easyjet had started flying to Lisbon. I must go and have a look around – I haven’t been to Lisbon since 1993. Certainly, though, that part of the world has been opened up. When I visited Northern Spain and Portugal 18 months ago, there were no discount flights from London to anywhere along the coast between Bilbao and Faro, whereas I can now fly to Santander, Gijon, Santiago, Porto, and Lisbon. On that occasion I encoutered lots of Spanish tourists but relatively few English speakers. This is now really changing.

  • But I bet they didn’t have Abita Amber.

    You Europeans don’t know what you’re missing. ;)

    Quality, not quantity, you know?

    Is that the sound of an American labouring under the misapprehension that they brew decent beer? Yes. Yes, I think it is.

  • There are approximately three (3) good beers on the west side of the Atlantic. Sam Adams is one. I don’t know what the other two are, but I know statistically, they must exist.

    Otherwise, Europe generally wins that contest hands down.

    Of course, we can frequently buy European beer here for cheaper than they can buy it at home, so…

  • Kim,

    Can’t resist commenting I’m afraid: what on earth are you doing necking that volume of port if you have gout?

    And besides, the instapundit is talking out of his A*se if he thinks his bar serves 27 beers: all American beer is the same watery faux lager.

    Ghastly stuff…

    PG

  • Citizen Grim has a point about Samuel Adams – it’s not bad. Has some flavour.

  • Midwesterner

    Those of you who condescend about American beers should take the pleasure of prequalifying yourselves by testing product from each of at least a dozen or so of these Wisconsin breweries(Link).

    National brands like Pabst Brewing, G. Heileman Brewing (Stroh Brewery Co.), and the ever forgettable Miller Brewing Company, are in the water redistribution business and do not qualify.

    Other well known brands like Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company and the Joseph Huber Brewing Co. are drinkable to good, but won’t count toward prequalification.

    Many or most of the beers are even available in bottles, for example, Gray’s (Link) Oatmeal Stout, Sprecher(Link) Black Bavarian (Link), or something lighter like Spotted Cow(Link), from New Glarus Brewing Company(Link).

    Many are only available on tap, and many more are only available seasonally.

    And I would be very remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of breweries friends of mine are part of. Pete Fauerbach helped reserect two old family traditions with iceboating and the Fauerbach Brewing Company(Link)
    and another friend of mine has decided Capital Brewery(Link) is a good investment.

    And, for those of you who don’t think anything good ever comes out of University of Wisconsin, Madison, there is the Barley and Malt Laboratory(Link). Please ignore the reference to Bud Lite and the denial of testing product, I think they are trying to keep a low profile on campus. The campus authorites are currently on an anti drinking campaign.

    Even so, this product(Link) was invented by a couple of other sailing instructors. I remember some good parties while they were developing it where we all helped test the mechanism. In our tests at parties with the prototypes, we were able to fill a 64 ounce pitcher in about nine seconds with no waste, and a 16 ounce cup in between three and four seconds with no waste and a perfect head.

    Good beer, fast. Is free enterprise good, or what?

  • I dunno… when I think Wisconsin, I don’t think “beer.” I think “squeaky cheese curds.”

    Michigan has some nice breweries, too… all of which make that Sam-Adams stuff wilt in shame.

    /Russ, who knows the value of a good corn beer/pulque when it’s 114 in the shade…

  • Midwesterner

    Russ, when the debate over leaving “Americas Dairyland” on our license plates was in full swing, some wag noted we also led the nation in beer, brats and toilet paper and suggested that ‘Land of Beer, Brats & Toilet Paper’ might make a less discriminatory motto to put on the plates. Hhmmm… We do have the basics pretty well covered, don’t we?

    Agree on Sam Adams, but I still wear their T-shirts since he was one of the most important but mis-appreciated of our nations founders.

  • Re: American Beers (and posts like these always come down to discussions – and disparagements – of American beer):

    I disagree with everyone here about them. Who needs fancy beers? I’ve gone through all of the beer lover stages — whether it’s imports, Sam Adams or some micro-brewery stuff. Whatever.

    If I were stranded on a desert island, the one drink I would want to be stranded with would be … Budweiser (and I mean the King of Beers, not that Czech swill). You must remember, desert islands are hot and tropical, and a cold Bud cannot be beat in such a place. It’s just a fact of life, people. Get used to it.

    (Of course if there is, by chance, no refrigeration on the island, then any beer would be nasty. So, I’d go for rum. That and the ubiquitous coconuts will make for a fine time.

    I think I’ll quit my job now ….

  • Midwesterner

    post script brats=bratwurst

    Nomennovum, if the alternative to Bud is to drink salt water, then it’s a tough choice.

  • I always take great comfort in the knowledge that I am right.

    But thanks anyway.

  • I will take my stand with Nero Wolfe and argue that the American lagers – especially Pabst and Budweiser – are excellent when you’re actually thirsty and don’t merely want to feel like part of a gustatory elite.

  • Midwesterner

    Archie Speirs,

    But a good Imperial Stout, that’s food. Good food. I like a beer you can chew on. One that satisfies, not just replaces sweat.

  • michael farris

    In really hot weather, a very cold Borsodi (Hungarian beer from the northeast of the country) absolutely cannot be beat.

  • permanent expat

    Did I read someone trashing genuine Czech Budvar Budweiser in comparing it with the US brand? A “Bud” may certainly quench the thirst but then so does water, even when it’s colored & fizzy. Yes, “That Bud’s for you”……Despite Carlsberg’s “probably” claim, the two best ‘lager’ beers are both Czech: Budweiser & Pilsner-Urquell but………as a sage would have it: “There’s no bad beer; only some beer is better than others.”

  • Julian Taylor

    You should come in Belgium too, we have more than 400 differents beer here

    Is that like Dudley Moore’s advert in Crazy People, “Come in the Bahamas”?

    Toss up between 200 types of port and 400 beers? I’ll stick with the red stuff, amazing cuisine and roasting sunshine thanks.

  • Midwesterner

    Toss up between 200 types of port and 400 beers? I’ll stick with the red stuff, amazing cuisine and roasting sunshine thanks.

    Such serious questions as this call for empirical research. But no matter, “amazing cuisine and roasting sunshine” are hard to beat no matter the beverage.

    Too bad we can’t have a ‘mass blogger beer tasting event’ here. Summer’s are nice.

  • Albion

    My favorite line in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ was:

    Spike (taking a drink from a can of beer): “You know, there are quite a few American beers that are highly underrated. This, unfortunately, is not one of them”

  • ben jarrell

    Tony,

    I go to school mere blocks from Cooter Browns. I end up there a few times a month, at least.

  • Scott

    Well, I’m going to throw in my 2 cents here… I live in small town Kentucky mostly surrounded by creeks, streams, and trees. Pretty much out in the middle of no where next to nature. Someone with a microscope or telescope would view this place as heaven. Virtually everywhere I go, from the bars, to the coffee shops, to the pizza places… almost all have had wifi for about a year or two now. I go to a dense town or city, and what’s that? I have wifi while driving around, laptop hooked into my car, cruising around town hunting for geocache sites, getting traffic, and whatnot. I can easily find a wifi connection on some residential or commercial block to help entertain me & my passenger.

    These remote places in America, offer an ecosphere which has hardly been touched by civilization and if you’re lucky, you might even find an ancient Indian burial mound, arrow heads, or rock tools and the discovery of interesting plants and wildlife. Rivers, streams, and creeks, have cut beautiful canyons and waterfalls into the hillsides. The night skies are often clear and beautiful, unpolluted by city lights making excellent conditions for amateur astronomy. The freedom to build a nice camp site and a circle of rocks for roasting hotdogs, schmores, can make any place on Earth appealing, as it does in America.

  • Verity

    Michael – When are you going to start having your Friday cats again?

  • Johnathan

    I enjoyed some of the microbreweries in California, esp. in the Bay Area. Worth a slurp.