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Your Cheat Sheet to the Best Beers From Around the World

Your Cheat Sheet to the Best Beers From Around the World

brothertehlonius

    It was not long ago that I didn’t really like beer all that much. To me it just was not something I would seek out; that is, until a few summers ago in Southern Italy. It was a typical summer’s day in that region: hot and humid. We had been out and about and I was really thirsty. I met our friends at a little bar along the beach, and before I could stop him my friend ordered me a birra piccola (tiny beer). What came was a glass of Peroni on tap. It was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. Since then I have been hooked, but not on just any beer. It has to be a great beer.

    When Lifehack asked me to write an article on beers, I jumped at it. I love when I can cross business with beer drinking! Let’s start our little foray into the international beer world by stating that although almost every country has a large selection of local beers, I tried to focus on ones you can get at the local beverage store. After all, what good is knowing how great a beer in Italy is if it never leaves that country and you never go?

    United States

    Brother Thelonius Belgian Style Abbey Ale

    Where do I start? There are so many micro breweries here and so many amazingly delicious beers that US beers are a whole article unto themselves. However, if I were to pick out a great beer from my home country I would have to say that I personally love Brother Thelonious from the North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg, California. Named for jazz musician Thelonius Monk, this beer is a fitting tribute to a master. This is not so much a beer as a soup. And as it trickles over your tongue, it changes and evolves. I find it very compelling.

    Gordon Biersch Blonde Bock

    I am a bit biased toward Gordon Biersch because my brother went to grade school with Danny Gordon, the man who created this beer-loving empire. Nonetheless, Gordon Biersch has a ton of fabulous beers to choose from. The blonde bock is fabulous because although it is a big and highly alcoholic beer, as bocks generally are, it has a rich and creamy texture. Danny and his partner only use the finest German hops, yeast and barley. They brew in strict accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, which is the German purity law of 1516.

    Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

    Available around the holiday season, which coincides with the first harvest of hops, Celebration Ale is famous for its citrus and pine aromas, making it perfect for holiday entertaining.

    Sierra Nevada Stout

    Sierra Nevada is a great brewery, cranking out great beer after great beer. Their stout is full bodied, rich and delicious. For those unfamiliar with stout beer, this is a good start.

    Fat Tire Amber Ale

    This ale is from the New Belgium Brewing Company and scores high in the Beer Advocate Ratings. The name Fat Tire comes from the co-founder’s bicycle trip through Belgium from brewery to brewery. Fat Tire is a great ale and that sounds like one hell of a bicycle trip!

    Italy

    Peroni

    This is just great beer! I have it every time I go to Italy. A Peroni in front of you while you contemplate the deep blue Mediterranean and wait for your homemade pasta dish to arrive at your table is the best experience I can ever imagine.

    Birra Morretti

    Another great Italian beer. Like Peroni, it is light, crisp and refreshing, with enough body to make it memorable but not heavy.

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    Mexico

    Corona

    I know I will take a total drubbing for this one but I like Corona! OK, if you are a beer snob you can hate me for it. The fact is that I like pretty much most Mexican beers. Mexico is now the leading importer of beer to America. (Thanks, Corona!) It recently beat out Holland and their Heineken.

    Dos Equis

    This is a bit more ‘beery’ than Corona. To me, Corona is more for thirst quenching on the beach. Dos Equis is a great complement to a meal of Pollo Mole.

    The Netherlands

    Heineken

    Another great, refreshingly crisp and yummy beer!

    Belgium

    Stella Artois

    I can’t think of Brussels, where I used to live, without thinking of Stella Artois and I can’t think of Stella Artois without thinking of Marlon Brando in a Streetcar Named Desire. In any case, Stella Artois is a relatively light Pilsner beer (the variety is named after the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic). Stella, like many Pilsners, is crisp and flavorful but not a meal like some beers.

    Seef

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      Seef is an interesting beer. Upon first sip, it tastes more like an unsweetened ginger ale with a kick. It took a little getting used to but the aromatic finish grows on you. I ended up really liking it!

      Croatia

      Karlovacko

      Croatia

        It had never occurred to me that Croatia had a beer market and yet while gazing in my fridge to see which beer to write about next, it caught my eye. I tried it. It is OK, very light compared to the more muscled beers I was drinking. All in all, given a choice between this and a beer like Staropramen, I would have to choose the latter. It just has a lot more to it.

        Scotland

        Traquair House Ale

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          This beer finds a delightful middle ground between the heaviness of Guinness and a lighter ale or Pilsner. Traquair is dark, with a creamy foam. On first sip, there is so much going on around the various parts of your tongue that you have to take several sips to figure it all out. When you do, you will love it. It is like espresso, a bit of an acquired taste that doesn’t take long at all to acquire.

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          Czech Republic

          Urquell Pilsner

          I recently visited Prague and Urquell is ubiquitious! There is just something about drinking an Urquell in Prague. Sitting in an outdoor restaurant, the roasted meats and potatoes, the people walking by, the historical center with its art and architecture, and the crisp, delicious taste of Urquell working its magic makes you feel like all is right in this best of all possible worlds.

          Staropramen

          Staropramen

            For someone used to lighter beers, this one was a delightful change. It is a bit heavier and more alcoholic than I am used to. Staropramen means “old spring” in Czech. This beer paired great with my brats and roasted potatoes and yams! Of all the beers I tasted (research is thirsty work) this was one of my all-time favorites.

            Ireland

            Guinness

            OK, I have to admit that Guinness is not my favorite beer. But my husband loves it and so do many of my friends, so I attribute my lack of desire for Guinness to a beer palate that has not yet fully developed. I included it here for them.

            Guinness is a big bottomed beer! If you like strong beers, you will love Guinness. It does have a smooth and velvety texture though, which is really nice. Guinness is so iconic that they have developed their own “Perfect Pour.” There is a whole technology on how to properly pour one. Study the above video well and you’ll master it.

            Murphy’s Irish Stout

            In a recent trip to Cork, Ireland, my husband had the opportunity to review Murphy’s side by side with Guinness. Murphy’s is designed to be less heavy than Guinness with distinct flavors of chocolate, carmel and malt. He prefers this one because he’s a chocoholic from way back. Murphy’s also edges out Guinness in the Beer Advocate ratings with 85 points to Guinness’s 80.

            Switzerland

            Eikhoff Braugold

            According to my friend Iain, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, and a devout Guinness follower, Eikhoff Braugold (which translates as “golden beer”) is heaven on earth when imbibed in the right conditions. Being a Guinness fan, Iain normally goes for the dark and heavy beers, but when he first tried this one midsummer in Lucerne, while stopping his hike next to a stream fed by crystal water from the Alps and waiting for his home-crafted sausages to finish cooking over an open fire made with sticks collected on his walk, he decided that Eikhoff Braugold chilled in the Alpine river next to him, was the best thing on Earth.

            China

            Tsing Tao

            Tsing Tao

              The Tsing Tao Brewery was founded in the early 1900s in China by German settlers, as were many other breweries in China at that time. Tsing Tao is a standard pilsner with an alcohol content of 4.7%.

              Tsing Tao Green

              For the more health conscious beer lover, you can now get your veges in your beer! Tsing Tao Green, or sometimes called Tsing Tao Spirulina Green Beer, is also now available. Now you can get tanked and healthy all at the same time!

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              Singapore

              Tiger Beer

              Tiger Beer was first introduced back in 1932 and since has found a home with parent company Heineken International. According to a buddy who travels, Tiger is a pale lager with a taste that is somewhat sweet and it goes great with chili crab, a local delicacy.

              Canada

              Molson Premium Lager

              Introduced in 1959, Molson is the signature beer of Canada. It is an easy drinking premium lager made without preservatives. This beer scored rather poorly on the Beer Advocate ratings. That said, millions of Canadians enjoy it, so there you are.

              Kenya

              Tusker

              Tusker!

                Tusker is a beer from Nairobi, Kenya, and has a colorful past. Tusker was first brewed up and served in the early 1900s. According to Wikipedia, the first batch was met with mixed reactions. Later the malt extracts that had been used were phased out and malted barley was used for brewing, which improved the taste.

                The Tusker label features a happy elephant. When Tusker was in its infancy, its founder, George Hurst, was killed in an elephant hunting accident. His brother Charles then decided to name the first beer after the murderous pachyderm who deprived Mr. Hurst of his beer-sodden future years. The happy elephant on the label reminds us that messing with elephants is a bad plan and they are happiest when another great white elephant hunter bites the dust.

                Japan

                Asahi

                Asahi is the largest producer of beer in Japan, surpassing Kirin by a few percentage points. That’s mostly thanks to Asahi Super Dry, a beer described as a highly attenuated lager (attenuation is a word that describes the completeness with which the sugar has turned into alcohol) and that launched Asahi Brewery ahead in the standings and created a demand for dry beer. Asahi Ichiban is a light, crisp beer. Ichiban means “number one” in Japanese!

                Kirin

                Kirin

                  Second in the standing, Kirin Beer is another crisp, light Japanese beer.

                  Denmark

                  Carlsberg

                  According to my beer connoisseur husband, Carlsberg is somewhat equivalent to Tiger Beer. However, on further interrogation, he had to admit that there as really nothing distinctive about this beer at all. It was, however, refreshing on a hot day and it did complement the curry laksa. To my mind, if it doesn’t disappear against a strong curry, it has to be pretty OK.

                  Germany

                  Hofbrau Original

                  In all fairness, we had this beer next to the Staropramen and it paled a bit in comparison, but that is only because Staropramen was such a stellar beer. I like this beer: it was lighter and had less bite than Staropramen, but it was good and tasty.

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                  Erdinger Hefe-Weizen

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                    This is a wheat beer from Erding, Bavaria. For a surprising treat, go to the Erdinger website. Warning: a very German polka-esque beer jingle plays! It is entertaining but can take you by surprise. The Erdinger Hefe-Weizen is a good beer, but lighter than I prefer.

                    Erdinger Kristal

                    I have not yet opened the Krysta,l but again, this one scored high on the Beer Advocate Ratings.

                    Non-Alcoholic Beers

                    OK, quit whining! I know they are not technically beers per se; however, there are times when you want a beery beverage and for whatever reason you should not be drinking alcohol. At times like those, these are the perfect substitute.

                    O’Douls

                    I really love O’Douls when I do not want to be impaired in any way. It tastes enough like beer to make me happy but doesn’t put me to sleep.

                    O’Douls Amber

                    This is a slightly more full bodied non-alcoholic beer. It has a higher calorie content than regular O’Douls with 90 calories per bottle versus 70.

                    Saint Pauli Girl N.A.

                    This is also a nice beery beverage. It has a bit of a sweet, almost citrusy finish. If you are dieting, these non-alcoholic beers are for you. This one weighs in at 90 calories per bottle.

                    Sharps

                    Sharps is another super light non-alcoholic beer. It will do in a pinch.

                    Buckler

                    Of all the non-alcoholic beers, I have to say that this one is the best. Although in  fairness, I normally get it served in my favorite restaurant in an iced mug, so it has an unfair advantage.

                    After a glorious week of beer research, I have to say that it is really tough to choose which one is my favorite. They are all so different and varied. My best recommendation to you is to go to your local beverage outlet and load up on beers from all over. The taste testing part is really fun and opening your fridge to an array of wonderful new taste opportunities is delightful!

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                    Last Updated on June 18, 2018

                    What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

                    What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

                    Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

                    Video Summary

                    Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

                    Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

                    Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

                    Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

                    This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

                    Sitting Is the New Smoking

                    Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

                    The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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                    Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

                      Sit Properly

                      If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

                      Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

                        Credit: StayWow

                        Stand Up More

                        Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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                        Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

                        Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

                        Or get a standing desk.

                        One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

                        Exercise for Lower Back Pain

                        Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

                        But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

                        The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

                        Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

                        Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

                        This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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                        Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

                        Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

                        There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

                        Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

                        I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

                        Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

                        If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

                        Where to Start

                        The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

                        Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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                        If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

                        Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

                        Keep a straight back.

                        Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

                        Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

                        I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

                        If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

                        Stay Away From the Back Pain League

                        Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

                        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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