Toña — Nicaragua
Toña is a wonderfully mild lager out of Managua. I was going to call it “light”, but I worry that could be confused with so-called light beer, which I never drink — mainly because it isn’t beer :) Toña only made it to American beer aficionados in January of this year, and it’s very welcome as far as I’m concerned. One thing I found interesting is that the malt and hops are American and European; only the well-water (and the brewing process itself, I suppose) is Nicaraguan. It carries a 4.6% alcohol content, and it’s not overcarbonated, so it’s very smooth. It has a little bit of a floral note, too, I think. I’m not sure whether they’ve added any flowers or herbs (e.g., coriander) to the mix, as some brewers will do, but it’s a very nice beer. It compares favorably with other lagers of the region. One thing I found amusing was that, according to the bottle, Toña comes to Texas supermarkets by way of Washington state. That’s a little out of the way, isn’t it?
Czechvar — Czech Republic
Considering that I’m one quarter Czech myself, it may be surprising that I haven’t tried any Czech beer until now. Well, actually, in a way, I have, since Shiner and other Texas beers still use techniques brought to Texas by Czech immigrants (of which there are still many small communities — e.g., Shiner, TX, itself). There’s even a Czech Heritage Society of Texas. In any case, Czechvar is a very nice, very drinkable lager, with a 5% alcohol content. I could almost believe it’s the pivo červený (“red beer”) of which my grandmother used to sing as a girl — to judge by their folksongs, the Czechs have their priorities right! — except that it’s pale gold in color. They brew it in České Budějovice in the Southern Bohemian region of the country, and I believe this may be my first beer from Eastern Europe.
Other countries whose beer(s) I’ve tried include:
• Czech Republic
• Costa Rica
• El Salvador
• New Zealand
• Sri Lanka
• Trinidad and Tobago
Counting the United States, that puts me up to 44 countries.
Am I forgetting some? Probably. I feel like I’ve had one or two others from Central and South America, but I’m blanking. And if you count things that are beer-like, but not actually beer, then I could add Nigeria and Ethiopia to the list. I should keep a real list, I suppose (I mean, a list that’s on the outside of my brain :). Are there any international beers that any of you can recommend? I also look for microbrews inside the U.S., but that’s a post for another day.