I’ve spent most of the last decade living in Fort Collins and part of that experience has been enjoying the occasional microbrew. Here I learned that beers could actually have distinctive flavors, rather than the bland taste of many mass produced beers. I didn’t choose to abstain from Fort Collins beer, but I did choose to move to Asia for 10 months last year. I wanted to experience living in a developing country and was exploring whether I wanted to do so long-term. While there, I volunteered, worked remotely doing web design, and I drank some beer.
Cambodia, where I spent most of my time, has two notable beers that sound a lot alike: Angkor and Anchor. The first is pronounced Ang-kor. Think of the second one as an-chore, not an-ker. The great part about these beers is you could buy a cool pint, on tap, for about a $1, sometimes $1.50, and as cheap as 50 cents. And hey, I thought it tasted a lot better than Bud Light. I even ran with the local Hash House Harriers a few times, where they corralled us all into a cattle truck and we drank on the road.
Ah, Cambodia. Where else would the leader of the country says something like this, “Don’t forget, [if you] drink one bottle or one can of beer, how much will the state get? The money we get from this revenue can be used to build infrastructure or used to pay the salaries of teachers, doctors and civil services such as the armed forces. To anyone who joins here today who thinks this factory is not useful because they don’t drink beer, thinking like that is wrong.” Thank you, Prime Minister Hun Sen, for these words.
They had a few other brews as well, like Cambodia Beer, which had an awe-inspiring commercial (by Cambodian standards) and the premium Kingdom Beer, which was a little more flavorful. But, after a few months, I began to picture a slightly cloudy wheat beer with a lemon and thought, “I’d really like an Easy Street.” I imagined myself sitting in Odell’s tasting room sipping a cool pint. Ahhh, so refreshing. And a variety of bars, restaurants, and tap rooms all have this tasty beer. All the places in SE Asia have mostly the same very plain beers. They just don’t have the depth of an Easy, or any of the other Fort Collins beers, of which there are so many types.
Oh, there was an occasional import to be had, like a Corona, and our friendly neighborhood movie house owner started importing Hoegaarden, which was a welcome addition, but it’s not the same as being able to walk into a tap room and choose between Easy Street, 90 Shilling, Fat Tire Amber Ale, and a few seasonal offerings from local breweries. When I met some people who were really into beer, I could then say, “I’m from the Beer Mecca known as Fort Collins. You should visit.”
My best beer experience in Asia was in Malaysia, where they also have a Guinness factory. My childhood friend Jason treated me to a few drafts while there. That was early in my trip though, which then began a beer drought till I made my way to Europe. I searched for Odell and New Belgium brews, and came up empty. Europe has some great beers, but so does Fort Collins, and our best compete well.
Upon returning to Fort Collins, I sought to fill a mug with a cool Easy Street Wheat. It may have been the best pint of wheat beer I’ve ever tasted.