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International Beer Day

Each year’s first Friday in August doesn’t just happen to be Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s annual Brew at the Zoo event, the day also happens to be International Beer Day every year. (How fitting, right?!) This annual “holiday” was founded in 2007 by Jesse Avshalomov, just your regular beer-loving joe-schmoe, in Santa Cruz, California. What started out as a small gathering at local bars has since gained steam and momentum and is now considered to be a worldwide day of beer celebration and is celebrated in over 100 countries!

There are three official purposes to International Beer Day: 

  1. To gather with friends and simply enjoy beer in all its glory.
  2. To celebrate brewers and those who serve beer to the masses. 
  3. To join the world in unity by celebrating beer from all nations, across the globe, together on one single day.

Those whom opt to celebrate, are encouraged to give the “gift of beer” to others, which consists of buying a friend (or a stranger) a beer, and raise a glass in hearty toast of appreciation to brewers, bartenders, and everyone else who is a part of the beer industry. It is also very much suggested and encouraged that participants opt to try a beer from another culture or country on this day. 

England – British beer styles include bitter, brown ale, mild, old ale, barleywine, and Scotch ale. Stout, porter and India pale ale also originated in London. Cask ale or real ale is potentially the most British style of them all, dating all the way back to the Middle Ages; per the group Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) this beer is “brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.” The end-product beer is therefore unfiltered, unpasteurized, and does not have any added carbon dioxide – only that which the yeast creates as a byproduct of consuming sugar. Traditionally, all casks (similar in appearance to a barrel) were made of wood, but today they can be metal – typically aluminum or stainless steel. They are stored on their sides and have an opening at one end where the beer is poured from when ready to serve. 

Germany – German beer styles include many different lagers such as: pilsner, Kölsch, märzen, dunkel, altbier, bocks, Helles, and Schwarzbier. Gose, Berliner Weisse, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen and weizenbock and Rauchbier are other types of German beers. If anyone is serious about their beer, it is the Germans. At over 500 years old, the Deutsches Reinheitsgebot (or the German Beer Purity Law) was created in 1516 in Bavaria. This law dictates that all beer brewed in Bavaria (modern day Germany) could only be created from malt, hops, and water – nothing more, nothing less. In the 19th century, a fourth element – yeast – was added to the list of allowed ingredients. The use of wheat also happens to be an updated exception. This still-enforced law continues to be the base for all beer production today in Germany. It also happens to be the oldest food safety law in the world.

Belgium – Belgian whites (witbier), lambics, dubbels, tripels, quadrupels, abbey ales, saisons and farmhouse ales are all Belgian beer styles. Belgian beers are typically ales, heavy on malts, brewed with yeast that produce fruited and spiced flavors. They also tend to have a higher alcohol content than many other beers from other countries. Lambics are one to try for all the sour-lovers out there. Traditional lambics are dry, funky, and super sour. Brewers also tend to utilize “spontaneous” or “wild” fermentation – that is, after grain and water are boiled, the resulting liquid (called “wort,” that eventually becomes the beer) is transferred to a shallow, open container called a “coolship,” where yeasts and bacteria in our natural environment (ie. The air) infiltrate and settle into the wort to propagate. The wort is then transferred into wooden barrels where everything is left to ferment and create a beer that is truly unique and full of funky, earthy, sour, interesting flavors. There are also many fruited lambics, and in an added step, typically fruit (cherries, raspberries, grapes being most common) is added right to the barrel during the fermentation process. 

Italy – While we might know Italy for its wines, they also happen to produce some excellent pale lagers – with arguably the most popular Italian brewery being Peroni, which opened in 1846. Traditionally, in Italy, pale lagers are widely considered to be the perfect accoutrement to pizza. (And we certainly aren’t arguing against that here in the US!) However, the origins of beer in Italy go all the way back to the 7th century BC in Sicily, with documentation of the Phoenicians trading and consuming beer. There are other records found regarding brewing in ancient Rome and archeological discoveries of beer remnants found in ancient tombs.

Japan – Did you know that beer is more popular than sake in Japan today? It’s true! The most popular type of beer brewed in Japan are pilsner and pale style lagers with lower ABV around 5%. The history of sake dates back well before any contact by Europeans, but it was the Dutch who introduced the Japanese to the world of beer during the 17th century through trading. Kirin Brewery Company first opened in 1869, Sapporo Brewery in 1876 and Asahi Brewing dating back to 1889. All three breweries now distribute all over the world, including right here in the US. In addition, Japan also has gone through its own craft-beer revolution and the country (as of 2021) boasts 528 different breweries within its borders. 

Beer from around the world is also not limited to these well-known beer producing nations. There are beers from the Caribbean – Red Stripe from Jamaica, Presidente from the Dominican Republic, and many options from Mexico including Corona, Modelo Especial, Dos Equis, Tecate, and Estrella Jalisco. Head across the globe and you can find great brews from the Canaries (Spain) to Africa, onto India, and down under into New Zealand and Australia. Whereas it is a great idea to explore and imbibe in different brews while traveling, it is also even easier to peruse the international beer section at Wegmans to make a unique selection or take a trip out to the Rochester suburbs of Henrietta or Batavia to visit Beers of the World, which boasts beer imports from a vast collection of countries over 5 continents! 

There truly are many ways in which to celebrate International Beer Day this August and as Jesse’s LinkedIn profile describes the holiday, it is “an experiment in virality gone horribly right.”

Cheers! Sláinte! Kanpai! Salud! Prost! Cin cin! Santé! Skål! Proost!

Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!