The best beer in the world
13th October 2015 - Mark Dredge
Award winning beer writer Mark Dredge is constantly being asked about where to find the best beer in the world. His latest book is his attempt to answer that question. In a book that's part city guide, part travelogue and part reference work, The Best Beer in the World takes you on a journey in search of the world's great bars, breweries, and beers. Here, he shares one of his more unusual experiences - an Oktoberfest in an unexpected location.
It was at the exact moment that thousands of people dressed in lederhosen and dirndl started singing a German drinking song in Portuguese that I had to step back and really think about what was going on.
There I was, in the sultry south of Brazil, somewhere in the middle of a series of trips which took me to five continents in two months all in the search for delicious beer, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It wasn’t just the German outfits, it wasn’t the oom-pah music with the samba beat, it wasn’t even that everyone was drinking German-style lagers from large tankards, it was the fact that this town was built to look like a fairytale illustration of a Bavarian town that really got me.
The town is called Blumenau, named after Dr Hermann Blumenau who founded it in 1850, bringing with him a small group of German immigrants. The town grew slowly at first then became more and more Brazilian. A century later, in an attempt to draw in tourists, the town decided to market its German-ness and play up to its past, eventually leading to 1985 and an Oktoberfest party, which has since become an annual thing. Then to go with that they built a replica German village, complete with a small castle, they lined their streets with shops selling typical German things like clothes and beer glasses, and they encouraged the citizens to really embrace their German heritage.
The people of Blumenau call their Oktoberfest ‘The Party.’ The whole town builds up to it, the whole town gets excited about it, they dress up for it and they drink steins of German-style beer when there. If they didn’t do it annually, and they didn’t take it so seriously, I’d almost think it was the most elaborate parody I’d ever seen.
This event isn’t about the beer but the beer is so important to it. Those swaying steins are shared in the same way as the jokes and the laughs and that’s what makes this event – and beer in general – so good. It brings people together, it brings smiles to face, and it can make a small Brazilian town famous for its Bavarian buildings and brilliant beer festival.
The beers I drank there might not have been the best-tasting in the world but the experience was unbeatable. And that’s what really matters – it’s the main lesson I learnt on my beer drinking adventure, an adventure to try and find the best beer in the world – because sharing drinks and good times with people is the reason beer is the greatest drink in the world.