Good Men Drink Good Beer

From trend to tradition, from tradition to trend. Good things are brewing among individualists these days – namely, individually crafted beer. For Beer Day, join us on a short trip around the globe, from hoppy hipsters to a traditional brewery in the Czech Republic: in Pilsen, to be exact.
Text Thomas Crown
Photo gestalten

Just looking at the list of ingredients, brewing your own beer may not seem so hard. But beware! To make a good beer, you also need lots of imagination and a fair amount of patience. And that makes brewing an art. People recognised this fact quite early on. Some would even go so far as to say that civilisation owes a debt to beer, that the early hunters and gatherers only settled down in order to cultivate the intoxicating cereals needed to make their brew. Anyone who has ever tried to go for a long walk while nursing a hangover knows what we’re talking about.

Thus the way was paved for beer’s triumphal march across the planet. Today you can find some kind of beer almost anywhere in the world. And here lies the crux of the matter. Because “some kind of beer” doesn’t necessarily mean a good beer. Globalisation has changed beer for the worse by watering it down more and more. In order to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, beers increasingly lost their individual character – a phenomenon that was especially widespread in America. As early as the 1980s, individualists there rose to the challenge by brewing their own beer. With lots of love and personal devotion.

Credit: Benedikt Sugar, taken from »Barley & Hops«

This was the birth of the microbrewery movement, also known as craft brewing: daring beers from independent brewers who simply wanted to craft a distinctive and beautiful product. Craft brewers come from all walks of life. They are college students, artists, cheesemakers and television engineers. In the past, when people asked for a beer, they would usually be served a pale lager. These days, you might be asked in reply: “And what kind of beer would you like?” While most continental Europeans are familiar with alternatives such as Pilsner, wheat beer or dark lager, an India Pale Ale still requires a certain amount of courage and a willingness to venture into the unknown. Even more individual are beers like Dubbel, brown ale, Märzen, barley wine, porter, imperial stout and Tripel. Here’s a good tip to help you talk your way out of the mess: for dessert, a good old-fashioned pale lager goes well with strawberry pie.

A GOOD READ: Sylvia Kopp: Barley & Hops: The Craft Beer Book. gestalten.

Today’s hoppy hipster scene is advanced enough to produce some stars of its own. Such as Mikkel Borg Bjergsø from Denmark, who sells his products as far away as Tokyo and San Francisco and generates several million euros of profit each year. Which brings us full circle from trend back to tradition. Because the story of a few determined individualists who decided to brew their own beer is also the story of some of the most traditional breweries in the world – such as Pilsener Urquell in the western Bohemian city of Pilsen. In the early 19th century, a group of local citizens responded to the poor quality of the beer at the time by acquiring the brewing rights to make their own beer. They hopped their beer with Saaz hops from the traditional growing regions in northern Bohemia. The rest is history. And lives on into the present day.


At the Radegast beer bar near Prague, guests enjoy traditionally brewed beer in an atmosphere infused with modern design.
Královická 300/6, 250 01 Brandýs nad Labem-Stará Boleslav, Czech Republic

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