Americans didn’t invent beer.
The refreshing, intoxicating and fattening malt beverage dates back at least 6,000 years, to the Babylonians.
We don’t even drink the most beer per capita.
The Czechs, at 132 liters per person per year, take that prize. Americans rank 12th behind such nations as Slovenia and Venezuela. Who knew?
But no nation, anywhere, brews more different kinds of beer, probably 100 varieties of lagers and pilsners, ales and porters and stouts.
As you travel across the United States, you may run into: wheat beers, rye beers, barleycorn beers, bock beers, “lite” beers, all sorts of seasonal beers, “low-carb” beers, and beers flavored with the essence of everything from blueberry to pumpkin to chili.
An early-Egyptian carving, held at the Rosecrucian-Egyptian Museum in California, depicts beer-making. (Wikipedia Commons)
Americans brew red ales, amber ales, golden ales, blonde ales, cream ales, and something called “India pale ales,” which aren’t from India at all but were first brewed in Britain for export to its India colony.
A few years ago, the Miller Brewing Company, now known as MillerCoors, made a “clear beer” until it discovered people prefer a rich, caramel color and a frothy head on their beers.
And Anheuser-Busch, America’s biggest brewer - which is now Belgian-owned - is pushing a beer packed with 54 milligrams of caffeine in every 355-milliliter can.
Why so many kinds of beer?
Well, even though Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and a couple of other big breweries have bought out many of their competitors and dominate sales, there are more than 500 smaller “craft” breweries, as they’re called, plus thousands of local “brewpubs” making beer in small batches.
A combination pub-store in Hilton Head, South Carolina, sells dozens of craft beers from around the nation. (Beaufort's TheDigitel, Flickr Creative Commons)
Many of these breweries have developed a loyal following using social media and imaginative marketing. The wacky names of some of their beers - such as “Bad Frog,” “Dead Armadillo,” and “Weeping Radish Amber Lager” - have caught the attention of beer buyers at bars, restaurants and retail checkout stands.
We may not be the world’s thirstiest beer-drinkers.
But we have raised many a tankard to the sentiment expressed by American humorist Dave Barry, who wrote: “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”