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Category Archives: Beer

When you’re a foreigner in a country, you don’t know a lot of the culture and customs of your host nation. It’s natural, and no matter how much one studies up before moving, you’re never going to know as much as the natives. Sometimes, that can lead to some embarrassing gaffes. Sometimes, that comes with language, as even the idioms are different in America as they are in the United Kingdom. For example, it’s perfectly normal for a guy in England to say to a girl, “Shall I come knock you up tomorrow morning?” He’s laterally asking if it’s okay to come knock on her door. On the other hand, an American should never saw, “Wow, I’m stuffed” after eating dinner at a neighbor’s. “Stuffed” can have a sexual connotation in the UK.

One of the more memorable cultural slip involves my mother. At the time, I was going to first grade at West Ruislip. My mom usually packed a ham sandwich, some carrots, and a box of apple juice into my lunch. One day, she opened the fridge and noticed a lack of juice boxes. So, she grabbed what she thought was a soda and put it in. You see, in the States, there’s a minor cola company called Shasta. She had often seen it on the grocery store shelves in New Jersey. When she grocery shopped at High Wycombe’s Tesco days earlier, she thought she was buying Shasta, but she misread the name on the can. In fact, she’d bought a six pack of shandy.

In the UK, shandy is usually a mixture of cola and beer or lemonade and beer. Yes, my mom sent my to school with a beer in my lunch bag. Once lunch period came around, I ate the ham sandwich and popped the can open. After the first sip, I knew something wasn’t right. I’d never drank beer before, but my dad drank beer all the time, so I knew the smell. Carefully, I stood up, found the nearest trash can and threw it out. The rest of the day, I was paranoid about the teacher smelling my breath. Nothing happened, though. My mother and I both got lucky in that regard, because that could have lead to an awkward call from the prinicipal, especially if didn’t have the sense to throw it out and got hammered.

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I used to have a strange tradition, but for the last few years, I haven’t kept it up. That is, on my birthday, I used to drink a few bottles of Bitburger Pils. Why? I was born in Bittburg, Germany. But then again, being perpetually broke, I gave up that ritual, partly because it was meaningless. Don’t get me wrong. Bittburger Pils is a wonderful, sharp tasting pilsner, but the problem, eventually, was thus: it was a vain attempt to build some type of personal cultural heritage, and after awhile, it seemed a shallow exercise, at best. Basically, it seemed best to appreciate the beer for what it was: good beer.

That said, this is their origin, according to their website:

In 1817 Johann Peter Wallenbronn set up a brewery in Bitburger to make top-fermented beer. In 1839 his widow, Anna Katharina, took over the business before her daughter, Elisabeth, married Ludwig Bertrand Simon in 1842 and Simon continued to run the company.

In 1871 their 24-year-old son Theobald Simon succeeds his father, investing in the expansion and modernisation of the brewery. This includes an ice-cooled artificial cellar designed to keep temperatures at the same low level, all the year round, making it possible to brew new bottom-fermented beers.

In 1883 Bitburger brewed its first Pils beer. The first Bitburger Export led to activities in nearby Luxembourg, where a representative office was set up in Echternach in 1886.