The human love affair with beer was built over many pints. Five thousand years ago, the Chinese, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians first fermented grains to yield a froth pretty different from today’s pint. Ancient Greeks liked it so much, they drafted their own recipe, as did the Romans after them, then the Germans, Czechs, Belgians, and Irish. European brewing was born. Back in the Middle Ages, beer was more than just enjoyable; the “cooking” process rendered the liquid grain sterile, making it much safer to drink than water. These days, beer is made of four primary ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. Lagers and pilsners are made with “bottom-fermenting” yeasts, and are typically fermented at cooler temperatures; ales and stouts are made with “top-fermenting” yeasts, which ferment best at warmer temperatures. Whichever you prefer, there’s a European version you’ll want to try. Here, Heidi Smith, a bartender at Jackalope, in Austin, TX, shares some of her favorites.
Czechvar (Czech Republic]
An Old Country brew with a hopped-up fi nish, this crisp, fresh beer left companies battling over the rights to the name, if not the original recipe. Meet Czechvar, the “weiser” Czech brother.
Kroenenburg 1664 (France)
Believe it or not, the French make good beer (they started in the mid 13th century). Perfectly bitter, this pale lager is popping up more and more in sixes or on tap at bars, even on this side of the Atlantic.
Pilsner Urquel (Czech Republic]
Hundreds of years ago, the Urquel brewery, in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, made such a refreshing lager that the term “pilsner” has become synonymous with lagers that imitate its style.
Young’s Oatmeal Stout (England )
Roasted oats give this dark, smoky brew with 5.2 percent alcohol a creamy head and rich, toasty, smoooth fl avor. Not the everywhere stout, this may be the every time one.