This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Country #4: Lebanon

Beer: Almaza Pilsener

Brewery: Brasserie Almaza, Beirut, Lebanon

ABV: 4.0 %

A nice, tasty Arabian pilsener.
I have cracked more than a couple jokes about Islam’s disdain for alcohol on this blog. The happy reality is that most Muslims, as well as the governments of most Muslim countries, are far more tolerant of the sauce than the regimes of Iran or Saudi Arabia, even if they abstain from it themselves. Also, most majority-Muslim countries have non-Muslim minorities. And sometimes these minorities make beer. I heard from friends that visited Palestine last year that there is a commercial brewing operation in the West Bank, and I have since learned that even Pakistan produces a domestic beer (big time Chad Award for anyone who finds me one of these).

Given that, it is not too surprising that Lebanon makes beer too.  The home of Hezbollah is actually only 60% Muslim, leaving 1.7 million potential Almaza drinkers in an area smaller than Connecticut. What was surprising, then, is that I was able to find the stuff at a regular corner store in Golden Hill, San Diego, amongst the Heinekens, Stones, and Sierra Nevadas. It was something like $13.99 for a six-pack, but I guess it had come a long way to get to my hand.

No Arabic script on the bottle, though there was some on the six pack itself. In other news, it doesn't get any more metric-y than "33 centiliters."
Almaza is a pilsener, instead of the requisite bland pale lager that seems to come out of most countries not known for their beer (they also make a darker beer called “Pure Malt,” but I don’t know if it makes it to the States). It’s a pretty decent pilsener. It doesn’t quite have that distinct bite that the best pilseners have, but when drinking it, I thought to myself “Yeah! This tastes like beer!” rather than “Hmmm… this tastes like… nothing.” Overall I enjoyed it, and I’ll always have a soft spot for Almaza because I was drinking it during the entire second half of the Super Bowl as the Giants made fools of the Patriots.

"Almaza" is a rough transliteration of the Arabic word for diamond. Learnin'.
The name means “diamond” in Arabic, as evidenced by the design on the bottle and cap; no attempt at making a marketing connection between the product and its place of origin this time. I wonder if this has anything to do with the potential ruffling of feathers that might have resulted in the Muslim community had the brewery used the national symbol of the cedar tree somewhere in its imaging. I couldn’t find too much information about the brewery outside of its web site, which is as snazzy as they come and replete with lots of braggadocio and hokey stories about its origins. I recommend perusing it for a laugh.

A screenshot from the Brasserie Almaza web site. We are talking perfection here.
And finally, no cheeky discussion of beer from Beirut would be complete without a nod to the wonderful drinking game to which it lends its name. Even though most people I know call it “beer pong,” I highly recommend playing a game of Beirut with beer from Beirut, just so you can tell your friends that you did it. So come over with some red cups and ping pong balls. I still have some Almaza in the fridge, and I’ll happily re-rack those cups into an “almaza” formation if necessary.

Just your average game of Beirut. We did something like this in college, though certainly not with Almaza, as it would have gotten a wee bit expensive.

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