Beeradvocate.com currently has a discussion thread about what country in the world makes the best brews. The comments seem to be biased toward the U.S. on the grounds that the craft beer "revolution" started here and we brew the most styles. That may, and that's a big may, be true but I don't think that makes us the greatest. Here would be my top 5 with my reasons:
5. France Yes, the French brew beer. This was a tough one and I almost went for Ireland, but in the end France actually brews quite a lot of high quality beer, especially in the north of the country. And there are microbreweries all over the country, just like here.
4. United States People will tell you that there are a lot of American styles of beer, and this is true, but many of them are just slight variations on styles that existed for a long time. But what the U.S. is able to do that no other country really does is brew a vast range of styles, many of which are as good or better than in the Old Countries. Our craft beer industry is huge and thriving.
3. The United Kingdom England, Scotland, and Wales have a long brewing tradition and invented many styles that are common today. Examples are porters, stouts, bitters, IPAs (or India Ales as the English call them), barleywines, and more. They grow barley and hops that are native, and the thriving pub culture means lots of beer. I wish the UK had more microbreweries and craft breweries, but licensing laws are tricky over there.
2. Germany Germany is the home of many styles of beer that we take for granted. All your American macros, like Budweiser, Coors, and so on, are basically variations on the German lager. Beer drinking has a long history in Germany, and there are still a huge number of breweries making excellent beer. Hefeweizens and bock beers have become common over here too. And I still have yet to taste a lager made in this country that is as good as many German lagers I have tried. Lagers get no respect, but I see lots of breweries that make great pale ales or big, rich stouts, but to me the true mark of a master brewer is somebody who can get the lager right.
1. Belgium This is an easy one. No other country shows the same respect for beer that Belgium does. Despite the fact that Belgium is a divided country linguistically and culturally, they have made a wholly original style of beer making. Many american craft breweries like Allagash have devoted themselves to making only Belgian-style beers. And the fact that Belgian ales often come in 750ml bottles is telling - they show the same respect for beer that other countries show for wine. The beer is meant to be shared, often with a meal, not guzzled.
Other standouts that didn't make my list are Ireland, the Czech Republic, the Nordic countries, Canada, and The Netherlands.
What do you all think?