Now we come to a subject very close to the Travel Begins at 40 heart – and stomach. Let’s be honest what better way is there to round off the perfect day than downing a cold beer as the sun sets – beats a pina colada any day of the week.
This is something that our ancestors understood. The first pint was pulled some 5,000 years BC in what is now Iran. The Sumerians paid homage to Ninkasi, their goddess of brewing, in a 3,900-year-old poem that includes the oldest recipe for this liquid gold, and even the ancient Chinese got into the brewing act with 5,000 year old pottery depicting our favourite tipple.
It is not to Iran, China or even Iraq, where the Sumerians lived, that we travel for the finest ales in the world, but to Belgium – apologies to all Germans and Czechs reading this -, which has 224 breweries (2016); not bad for a country split in three. This is why the UK’s CAMRA has produced a beer guide to Belgium, and why ale features so strongly in our trip to Brussels. Some of Belgium’s best festivals include the Bruges Beer Festival, the Zythos Beer Festival in Leuven, and the BXL Beer Fest in Brussels.
However, in recent years there has been an explosion in craft ale – what we used to call home brew back in my youth. Festivals abound across Europe and North America. Craft beer has even reached Southeast Asia, with you now as likely to discover an American IPA on the streets of Bangkok as pad Thai. It’s the good old U S of A that we have to thank for this trend, with some excellent ales as well as festivals.
So next time you are supping a pint on holiday, just thank Ninkasi and the Iranians, or even Uncle Sam.
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