Beer has a deep, rich history, weaving together complex chemistry, pagan craft and ancient tradition – none of which I care about when I am sitting at a little metal table in a piazza facing a majestic marble fountain in a place I have never been to before. All I know is it's hot, I have been walking all morning and I am very, very thirsty.
And then the beer arrives; its golden mass seething with life under a thick head of creamy foam; so cold I can feel it trace its way down my gullet. Oh, joy of joys. It's at that point, roundabout when it hits the solar plexus, that I know I am on holiday.
Beer is perfectly nice at home, but my goodness, it tastes amazing when you are on holiday. It's also a very sensible thing to drink while travelling through strange lands. It's relatively cheap, it tastes great and it's a universal language spoken by many. The actual words may change, from ordering "una cerveza" in Spain to "una birra alla spina" (on tap) in Italy, but really, everyone speaks beer, in varying dialects of hops, grains and yeast.
There are so many ways to drink beer around the world. You could be sipping chic goblets of Peroni on a boat in Portofino, or clutching a huge tankard of 333 beer filled with crushed ice, like a beer granita, at the 400-seat Quan an Ngon street food mecca in Ho Chi Minh City. Tell me what you are drinking, and I'll tell you where you are; be it Dublin for Guinness, Belgium for a Trappist Tripel, the US for Coors, Spain for Estrella, India for Kingfisher or Japan for Orion. Next step: go beyond the "national" beers and explore the country's small-batch, seasonal, craft beers for a real taste of where you are.
While it has food-value of its own (fact check, please?), beer goes so well with the sort of food you meet on your adventures. Pizza in Naples, mussels in Brussels, jamon in Madrid, tacos in Oaxaca, satays in Singapore? Beer. That vast, pink, wobbly, roast knuckle of pork with fresh horseradish in the rambling beer garden of the Schweizerhaus in the historic Prater amusement park in Vienna? Beer. The build-it-yourself hot dog at John's Hotdog Deli in Copenhagen's Meatpacking District, complete with Mikeller beer mustard? Beer.
The price of a beer is your admittance fee to anything from a tiny village cafe to an infamous dive bar at midnight. With an ale in hand, you're a part of the local community. Wherever you are, you're at home.