A Brief History
On December 31, 1759, Arthur Guinness contracted for a lease on 4 acres of land in Dublin, Ireland, where he promptly commenced to brewing Guinness dry stout beer, a now world famous brew. The terms of the lease? Only £45 per year for 9000 years! Today, we commemorate this part of brewing history by listing what we think are the 10 Greatest Beers (ales, too) in the world today.
1. Guinness Draught (Stout), Guinness, Ireland.
Now owned by Diageo, a multi-national producer of alcoholic beverages (including whisky, vodka, and liquours, as well as brewed drinks and Champagne), Guinness produces Harp Lager among its products, another great beer. If you are a casual beer drinker, you may have to work on acquiring a taste for the dark, dry taste of GD, which is unlike American and English stout that is somewhat sweeter. They also make Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, with an alcohol content 50% greater than the regular stuff (7.5% vs. 5%). This beer is not the stuff to guzzle on a hot day, but to enjoy over conversation or with dinner. Not a beer to have more than a few.
2. Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Boston Brewing Co., Boston.
This award wining beer is heavier than the typical American lightweights, more flavorful and distinctive. It has no real attachment to its namesake, other than being from Boston and honoring the Founding Father that was also a brewer. Founder Jim Koch uses his great-great grandfather’s recipe for this brew and traditional brewing methods that are more time consuming (but worth it!) than modern methods. The Sam Adams brand also produces other, seasonal, favorites including a wonderful Christmas Ale. The great taste of this once micro-brewery product has seen massive expansion in its sales across the US. It is the official beer of the Boston Red Sox and is now brewed in 2 other breweries (Ohio and Pennsylvania). Incredible to think it has only been around since 1984!
3. Yuengling, DG Yuengling and Son, Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
Brewed since 1829, Yuengling is the oldest continuously brewing brewery in the United States, and if you try one you will immediately see why it has last so long! It is the largest selling “craft” beer in the US, and is now available all over the country instead of just on the East Coast. More substantial than typical American beers, but still light enough to be refreshing, Yuengling is a terrific beer for having with dinner, knocking down brewskis, or refreshment after mowing the grass on a hot day. It is my personal favorite American beer. They make a darn good light beer as well. Founded by David Yuengling, the company is still in the family, currently owned by Richard Yuengling. The original family name was Jungling when David immigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany, and then changed the name to sound more English (?). Their Original Black & Tan is another great product, a mixture of their Premium and Dark Brewed Porter beers.
4. P.O.C., Pilsener Brewing Company, Cleveland.
(Note: they spelled pilsener the European way.) A bygone brand that used to be a staple of rust belt Cleveland, it was considered about as cheap as beer could get. In spite of that reputation, it was one of the first beers I acquired a taste for, and I found it incredibly refreshing, the ideal beer for rehydrating on a hot work day or for downing between innings while playing softball in the summer. The Pride of Cleveland (not a real name) started life in 1892 when a Bohemian immigrant opened the brewery. The original company went under in 1963, with Duquesne Brewing buying the brand and picking up production of P.O.C. at its Pittsburg brewery until 1973 when Schmidt’s of Philadelphia bought the brand and moved the brewing back to Cleveland. Alas, that production stopped in 1984 and the beer variously called Pilsner on Call, Pleasure on Call, Pride of Cleveland, and Pleasure of Cleveland was no more. (There was actually a less flattering nickname that we choose to ignore.) Nobody knows what the real initials stood for, and the company liked it that way, to keep up the interest of the beer drinking public.
5. Coors Banquet Beer, Coors, Golden, Colorado.
Part of Molson Coors Brewing Company, the third largest brewing company in the world, the beer usually just called “Coors” is made at the largest brewery in the world in Colorado. Opened in 1873 by German immigrants, the company used a recipe bought from a Czech brewer. In 1959 two milestone events at the company occurred, the first being the use of all aluminum cans and the second being the use of sterile filtration instead of pasteurization, thus preserving the great taste of the beer. Coors innovation in aluminum cans continued with the invention of the push tab can, eliminating the pull ring tabs that littered the landscape and threatened fish and wildlife. In fact, Coors owns the largest aluminum can factory in the world. Coors makes various other brews, of course, most notably Coors Light in the “Silver Bullet” cans, which is now their best selling product. The light variety is extremely refreshing, but we will still opt for the original.
6. Michelob and Busch, In-Bev, St. Louis.
With 12 US breweries and breweries in 20 other countries, Anheuser-Busch by itself is America’s largest selling brand, but there are only these 2 beers out of their immense portfolio that we claim to like. Busch is the economy line, but as a classic American style beer it is quite refreshing and goes down easy. Michelob is the upper crust of A-B brands, and it does not disappoint, having a regular American lightness with just a bit more taste and body than cheapie beers, but not as malty and heavy as craft beers (such as Sam Adams). The light varieties of both of these brews also meets our approval, but we honestly do not like the Budweiser brand brews, despite their fantastic advertising campaigns. Sorry!
7. Dos Equis Amber Draft, Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma Brewery, Mexico.
Although “The Most Interesting Man in The World” apparently drinks the regular variety of Dos Equis, we find the Amber variety on draft (almost all beer is better if on draft) is the best beer by far when eating Mexican food. It is so good with Mexican! The taste compliments Mexican food incredibly well, although we find it hard to find the words to describe why. We guess you’ll have to try it yourself and make up your own mind. Stay thirsty, my friends.
8. San Miguel, Kirin Holdings, Philippines.
San Miguel Brewery is now owned by Japanese brewing giant Kirin, and the author first encountered the brew in Spain, where it was introduced in 1946. The beer bearing the San Miguel name in Spain is now separate from the Philippine company, but both varieties are great, with us referring to the namesake main product, also known as Pale Pilsen. Not particularly heavy or with a pronounced after taste, the San Miguel brew is somewhat more satisfying than the watered down typical American mass market beer.
9. Beck’s, Interbrew/Inbev, Germany.
Now that Beck’s Brauerei is owned by an international giant, the stuff is made in the US in good old St. Louis. We are referring to the real product made in Germany, which was the largest selling German import beer to the US. A lighter, lager or pilsner type beer, Beck’s is refreshing and yet satisfying. With the incredible variety of great German beers, it is hard to narrow down just one as a favorite. Other contenders are St. Pauli Girl and Warsteiner, both more like premium American beer than some of their heavier European bar mates.
10. Molson Golden, Molson Coors, Montreal.
Molson makes other good varieties of brews as does Labatt and Moosehead, but our favorite from up North is Molson Golden, eh? This beer has a nice crisp taste and finish that makes you feel as though you just had a premium brew without being overbearing. A little hoppy, not overly malty, just right. Molson Golden is a versatile beer that can be guzzled when working in the heat or enjoyed over dinner or conversation. Molson is Canada’s oldest brewer, established way back in 1786!
Question for students (and subscribers): What brews do you think belong on the list? We know our choices are not for everyone, especially those that savor a particular type of brew, so tell us what you like and why in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Beaumont, Stephen and Tim Webb. The World Atlas of Beer. Mitchell Beazley (UK), 2016.