I like beer. I like the beer itself, I like its iconic packaging, marketing and labelling. I like the stories behind the brands. Whilst the economics of acquisition may chisel at the intimate nature of the relationship between the beer drinker and his/her preferred brew, arguably it has provided a life line to survival of many smaller brands.
Let Aestheticons ‘whet its whistle’ and take you on a journey across some of my favourite European locations to sample some of the delights of the brewer’s craft.
Birra Moretti was first brewed in 1859 by Luigi Moretti in the Northern Italian city of Udine which was then still part of the Austrian Empire. Famous for its “doppio malto” brewing process that makes a golden beer, with an intense and delicious flavour.
The brand was owned by the Moretti family until 1989 when it was sold to a third party that was subsequently swallowed up by the giant Heineken group in 1996.
There is some dispute over the famous image of the moustachioed drinker on the label. It is said to have been taken in 1942 , with the sitter’s permission, by Lao Menazzi Moretti in a trattoria and given to illustrator Franca Segala who drew the finally used image. An alternative view, was that it was taken by a German photographer in 1939 near Innsbruck and was used without authority until in 1956 a legal dispute concerning its use was settled by Moretti. The romantic in me prefers the earlier tale!
Why not try this exceptional Italian beer by clicking the following AMAZON link
Estrella Damm Inedit – Ok so there you are in Roses (Catalonia) overlooking Cala Montjoi on Spain’s Costa Brava. It’s 2008 and you run one of the world’s most feted restaurants but you need the definitive beer to compliment your fine food. This is the challenge that faced Ferran Adria, the founder of el Bulli, and the brewers of Damm.
Damm was founded in Barcelona in 1876 by a young emigre brewmaster from Alsace, Augustus K Damm. Damm also make the delicious Estrella brand, that debuted in 1876.
The combination of barley malt, wheat hops, coriander, liquorice and orange peel gives Ferran’s beer a fabulous and, yes, unique yet delicious flavour.
Don’t be swayed by the advice that this beer is best served, half full, in a white wine glass in order to “fully appreciate its intensity and aromatic complexity”. This is a beer after all, allow it some dignity. If it were a dog it would be a clipped poodle but this is a wonderful beer. The cleaver branding and antecedents should not distract you from fully enjoying it.
Want to give it a try? Click the following AMAZON link
Boddingtons – I spent some formative days – and nights – in the Manchester and it saw my first pub visits. It was a magical, if edgy place, for a “Soft Southerner”.
A character to Northern beer that doesn’t seem to translate in the South is the “Creamed Pint”. In the late 1970’s if you went to any pub North of Stoke on Trent you’d be able to order such a marvel often from a high arch hand pulled tap, delicious.
My personal favourite of these great brews is Boddingtons Bitter or known as “Boddies” to its friends. Founded by Henry Boddington in 1853, a former employee of the predecessor brewer at the iconic Strangeways Brewery – founded in 1778 – North of Manchester’s city centre. Boddingtons remained independent until 1989, when direct descendent of Henry, Ewart Boddington, sold Strangeways Brewery and the Boddingtons brand (but not the tied estate which then exceeded 500 pubs) to Whitbread for £50.7 million. Sadly, the Strangeways Brewery was closed in 2005 when production moved to South Wales.
The Boddies logo that features the worker bee has been a long standing symbol of Manchester, its vibrant and busy culture.
In Manchester earlier in this year, a school friend, travelling and drinking companion and I failed miserably to find a pint of Boddies. Looks like I will have to survive on the rather decent canned versions.
If you’d like to sample this fine Northern pint you can by clicking the following AMAZON link.
Guinness – is a dark dry-stout but it is so much more. A combination of an Irish cultural icon, a completely nutritious liquid food – at around 198 calories a pint and high in anti-oxidents – and the World’s headline sponsor of St Patrick’s Day.
St James’ Gate Brewery in the heart of Dublin, a then disused brewery, became the home of Guinness in 1759 when Arthur Guinness, who with amazing foresight signed a 9000 year lease with the family of Mark Rainsford, a former Lord Mayor of Dublin, for a rent of £45 per year, started brewing with some of the barley being roasted giving the dark ruby colour and taste. He was funded by the bequest of £100 from his Godfather, Dr. Arthur Price, an Irish Archbishop.
The brand developed and its aficionados grew.
In 1986 Guinness acquired Distillers – amid a share price scandal and in 1997 Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan and was re-christened Diageo Plc. By 2011 Guinness was selling 850 million litres worldwide. By the end of 2017 it is expected that Guinness will be consumable by all including vegans, as the isinglass (derived from from fish) fining element that is used to improve clarity will have been phased out.
The preeminence of Guinness’ advertising has been a long-standing feature of its commercial activity. Certain campaigns have included the art of Sir John Gilroy. In the 1930’s he worked with Guinness’ then advertising agency, S.H. Benson (who in 1948 invested $48,000 in David Ogilvy’s fledgling agency that later acquired Bensons), for whom he created “Guinness for Strength”
and zoo creatures enjoying Guinness including the Toucan’s iconic pronouncement that “Guinness Is Good For You”.
In 1999 Guinness’ still incumbent advertising agency, Abbott Mead Vickers, used Left Field’s “Phat Planet” in the Jonathan Glazer directed, “Surfer/White Horses”. In 2002 the commercial was voted “Best Ad of All Time” (in a Channel 4/The Times Poll). See the advert here: Surfers/White Horses
Why not sample a pint of “Uncle Arthur” for yourself with these original Guinness Bottles – click this AMAZON link
Budweiser Budvar – is the anglicised spelling of the name of the state owned Czech brewery, based in the city of Budweis in Bohemia. It has brewed its Pilsner beer according to a strict local brewing regulation since 1516.
What is Pilsner? A brewing process that originated in the Czech city of Pilsen where brewing began in 1295. Using a technique that aged beer with bottom fermenting yeasts the clarity and shelf life were improved. The Pilsen brewery used the pilsner techniques, paler and brighter malts brewing the first Pilsen in 1842. By the late 19th century the product was being enjoyed around Europe and in 1898 Pilsner Urquell created their famous and original trade mark – more on this brand to follow.
This wonderful pale larger results from the combination of local water, barley from Moravia (East of the Czech Republic) and the indigenous Saaz hops – the hops also used to flavour the Stella Artois brand.
Given the similarity of their brands there has been an ongoing dispute with Anheuser-Busch the owner of the US beer brand “Budweiser” since the start of the 20th century.
Have you tried Budweiser Budvar? If not, you should by clicking the following AMAZON link:
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So sorry to our international readers as the AMAZON links are UK only.
Images courtesy of the Brewers