The term “imported beer” for some conjures up images of a pretentious accountant quaffing Heineken from the bottle poolside at a suburban barbeque or some snooty fraternity brother nursing a twelve-pack of Corona watching March Madness. For others the term carries none of these image-based pretensions that the uneducated Busch Light drinkers that ooze through this country’s circulatory system like some coven of malicious parasites may associate with “imported beer.” The main focus of this diatribe revolves around the entire idea of “imported beer” and its legitimacy as it stands now.
We can all agree that both Bass and Chimay are imported beers because they are brewed in a foreign country then exported to the US, but what if one doesn’t prescribe to arbitrary national boundaries, then doesn’t the whole idea of imported beer shift? Having devoted so much of my time and effort to beer my mind has begun to think in terms of beer, and is not the history of beer deeply rooted in regional distinctions rather than national ones? A Kölsch from Cologne is vastly different from a Düsseldorf altbier but both could be categorized as German beer just as an ultra hoppy Pacific Northwest imperial IPA and PBR could both be united under the generic banner of American beer. My presupposition is that “imported beer” refers to any beer brought from one distinct brewing region into another regardless of national or international boundaries.
With the proliferation of large regional craft breweries throughout the United States and websites such as Ratebeer.com more and more people are not only interested in trying new beers but are increasingly interested in trying beers from outside their area. I know for a fact that beer drinkers on the west coast long for Bell’s Two Hearted and Founder’s Breakfast Stout. In fact when I moved from Michigan to Oregon I dabbled in the import/export business myself by bringing with me a large cache of Michigan beer and subsequently having my friends, sister, and even my mom re-supply me every few months.
For all my lucky friends who were fortunate enough to drink these beers with me the experience seemed no different than if I would have just flown in from Belgium with a bunch of beer; we were drinking beer from some foreign beer region. On the flipside whenever I returned to Michigan I always brought a small amount of beers from Full Sail, Stone, Moylan’s, and Hair of the Dog among others because these much coveted and undeniably awesome beers can’t be found in the Great Lakes state. My point resonates even more soundly to my friends in Utah where real beer is basically illegal so anything of substance must be imported. I relished in bootlegging beer from the Northwest to my beer starved ski bum friends in Salt Lake City and I would dare to say they would certainly agree that the beer I brought was imported since it was so drastically different from what was available in their beer-poor region.
The point of all this is basically to make people rethink exactly what constitutes an imported beer. Imported beer may not always mean better, it may not always mean exotic, it may not always come in a green bottle, but it is and will always be a refreshing change.