A beer for every occasion

Not every beer we drank in July was an American beer, not every beer was great, but they consistently fit the setting. Lemongrass Rye was perfect with hummus on a muggy afternoon at Free State Brewing in Lawrence, Kan. Wine would have gone well with dinner at Market, but Belgian-style beers served in glassware marked with the names of the breweries were even more appropriate. And the best thing to drink at Nacho Mamas in Baltimore was National Bohemian beer right from a cold bottle (they don't offer you a glass).

Earlier in the day we sat at the Wharf Rat Bar in Fells Point and enjoyed the beers made at the nearby Camden Yards Wharf Rat brewpub. The best are traditional British styles, with the ESB also served in the traditional manner, via handpump. Is it a British ale? Well, yes. Is it an American beer? Yes.

Natty Bo, as locals call National Bohemian, is what traditional American beer turned into by the 1970s -- a pilsner not much different than almost every other American beer. It was different because it was Baltimore's beer. National Brewing opened in 1885 and resumed production after Prohibition until it was sold to Carling in 1975, then to Heileman. Natty Bo was still made in Baltimore as recently as 1997.

Nacho Mamas Where there isn't a picture of Elvis Presley or a photo from old Baltimore (mostly sports) in Nacho Mamas, there's a National Bohemian item. These include signs large and small, a gallery of bottle caps on the wall at the front entrance, buckets hanging at the bar and more.

We asked the bartender where the beer is brewed now, and he recited its history. He noted that when Stroh bought Heileman, it closed the Baltimore brewery. "Then Pabst bought Stroh, I think," he said, remembering that Pabst acquired a Stroh brewery in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. "You're probably just drinking Pabst," he said, laughing.

In fact, Pabst brews Natty Bo in Pennsylvania as a distinct product but his point was well made. In the 1970s it seemed like the day would come when you would walk into a bar, order an "American beer" and automatically be presented a pale, bland lager.

Reprinted without even asking for permission from a good beer site worth checking                                                                                          * http://www.beertravelers.com/lists/americanbeermonth.html