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Hops, Ale and Rice: Our Favourite Beer Nations

2 August 2018

Has there ever been a drink, besides water, which has provoked as much celebration, adoration and imbibement than the humble beer? It has its own day, on the 3rd of August, so I doubt it!

Beer's place in the world is frankly astonishing. It is one of the oldest prepared drinks in the world, dating as far back as 8,500BC where it was thought to be brewed in Turkey during the Neolithic Era. The world drinks more beer than any other drinks apart from water and tea, and here in the UK, we drink nearly 14,841 pints of the stuff every single minute. That's nearly 7420 litres and the UK isn't even the world's top ten beer-drinking nations!

That honour goes to the Czech Republic who drink 142 litres per capita, followed by the Seychelles and Austria. The UK comes in at a paltry 27th with only 67.7 litres. Regardless, that's an awful lot of beer.

It's hard to say why the golden bubbles are so popular across the globe, with its population of diverse tastes and cultures. Is it the fantastic ways in which beer can be altered and brewed, from the heavy stout to the sparkling light lager? Could it be the 'just-perfect' level of alcohol in each pint? Perhaps it's just the inherent taste of the damn thing that draws us in? Regardless, the world loves beer, from the tundras of Siberia to the sun-drenched coastline of Chile, and so I present you some of my own personal favourite beer producing nations:

Belgium

Few countries have hurled themselves into the brewery vats in quite the same way that Belgium has. It is common in the towns of Leuven, Antwerp and Brussels to stumble across bars with hundreds of varieties of beer of all shades and strengths. Speaking from experience, the sheer number of beers made available to zythophiles in these establishments is astonishing, and the staggering range of choices often makes it near impossible to pick. Pale ales, IPAs, stouts and lagers all come in beautifully designed 330ml bottles, each with their own stickers, logos and unique tastes. The bar next door will have a different set, as will the next, and every beer yields a new experience.

Classic Belgian beer has been produced for centuries, but the most well-known concoctions famously come from Trappist monks, the most iconic of these being the Westmalle Brewery which still produced today. Trappist beer must follow a strict code of brewing for it to be considered a 'true' Trappist beer, most of which are based around who is involved in the process (monks) and where it is carried out (a monastery). These delicious beers form part of a larger zytho-culture in Belgium, which has produced such numbers as Duvel, Stella Artois and St Feuillien.

India

India's history with beer goes back a fairly long way, with their choice of tipple being a rice beer known as handia, which was drank by many of the indigenous tribes who populated the country. Interestingly, it seems the elephants of India are also in love with handia, known to raid villages in search of the heady liquid. With the invasion of India by the British Empire, European beer and particularly pale ale, was introduced to a great many people. In order to maintain the alcohol content during the transportation, a variety of ingredients were added to the pale ales, the doing of which actually created what is now known as Indian pale ale, or the IPA.

The IPA is a delightful beer, lighter than its pale cousins, well-hopped and of average strength. Its popularity has spread around the world, particularly in America where the craft beer trend has gone from strength to strength, producing some award winning beers. Popular beers in India include the Kingfisher brand and the Cobra lager which is of British origin.

The United Kingdom

The UK has always had a strong beer heritage, likely because of our infatuation with pubs and drinking places. Craft beer creation is higher than ever before, meaning that the UK has the highest number of breweries in the world per capita, with nearly 1,285 in total across all four nations. Real ale is the most popular among the younger drinkers, and this boom sees a staggering amount choice available in each pub. One of the most exciting parts of this is that each county and smaller region of the Isles, seems to have its own brewery offering beers which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Sadly, the increase in popularity for good beer has done nothing to halt the slow decline of the beloved British pub. Numbers have declined by 17% in the last 18 years and they show no real sign of stopping. With fewer people drinking, and those who do choosing to buy in supermarkets, the future of British pubs may be in danger in the near future.

Those are just three beer producing nations who go above and beyond to create fantastic beers of all manner and variety. There are more out there naturally, including such massive players as Germany, the USA and Italy, so please let us know of your own favourites in the comments below!

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