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(Not) The Top 10 Cities for Beer Lovers

I somewhat optimistically assume the slight that beer receives at the hands of our intrepid mainstream media will never get as bad as the last example of it, and yet more often than not I am proved wrong. Take MSNBC’s list today of their choices for the world’s Top 10 cities for beer lovers. Or rather the advertisement pretending to be news, because MSNBC’s list has no discernible author but instead appears to have been compiled and written by Sherman’s Travel, making it more like an infomercial than actual news, though it’s shamelessly made to look exactly the same as any real news item. But maybe it’s a good thing it’s not real news, because as news it’s laughably bad. As travel suggestions, at least it makes a little more sense since the goal is not to educate but to sell vacations. As a consequence accuracy or even logic is not only unnecessary but might get in the way of their ultimate goal. It’s a little sad that MSNBC, which at least is masquerading as a real news outlet, would “partner” with a travel agency to essentially hoodwink their readers into believing an author who knows what they’re talking about is sharing the inside track on beer destinations. But unfortunately the blurring between commerce and the media is all but complete.

Here’s the list Sherman’s Travel offers up as the best ten places worldwide for people who love beer:

  1. Amsterdam
  2. Berlin
  3. Brugge
  4. Burlington (Vermont)
  5. Dublin
  6. Mexico City
  7. Montreal
  8. Portland (Oregon)
  9. Prague
  10. Sapporo

Notice anything funny about that list. It’s not immediately apparent on MSNBC, but when you see them as a straight list then it’s obvious the list isn’t even trying to put them in any kind of order, because they’re alphabetical. There’s already been a lively debate about the order of the choices but I think we can dispense with any further discussions about rankings since there really aren’t any. Viewed in that light, it becomes obvious they were more concerned about a list that was spread out across the globe, the better to sell travel packages, the bread and butter of travel agencies.

But let’s look at their choices and the reasons they give for them.

1. Amsterdam: After listing the best known Dutch beers as “Heineken, Grolsch, and Amstel” (hardly the reason to visit Amsterdam, not that there aren’t good reasons to go) they suggest trying instead “artisanal blends [huh?] and witte (wheat) beers from neighboring Belgium.” Um, wouldn’t it make more sense to go to Belgium and drink there? I’m not planning a trip to France so I can sample the Napa Valley wines.

2. Berlin: Since this is the only German city on the list, apart from mentioning Munich in the introduction, it seems reasonable to assume they think it’s the best city for beer in Germany. There are places all throughout Germany, of course, rich with brewing heritage and Munich alone is a better choice than Berlin, as is almost anywhere in Bavaria.

3. Brugge: While it’s good that there is a Belgian city on the list, sadly there is no beer brewed today in Brugge so it seems an odd choice. Perhaps they have a good airport.

4. Burlington: This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. While I think Magic Hat Brewing does indeed make some very fine beers, and I’ve enjoyed my trips to Vermont immensely, I cannot fathom by what possible criteria this small college town has a better beer scene than San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia or any number of other American cities.

5. Dublin: While there is indeed history aplenty in Dublin, it’s all pretty one-dimensionally Guinness, apart from the few recent craft brewers in town. There are lot of great pubs here, but diversity is not this city’s hallmark. And given what Diageo has done to Guinness’ reputation and the beer itself, it’s pretty hard to justify Dublin as one of the ten best, beer-wise.

6. Mexico City: Ha, ha, ha , ha. Mexico City as a beer town. Stop, you’re making my sides split. The article suggests trying “Corona, the signature Mexican brew” could be the height of your trip. Now why anyone even drinks the stuff is beyond me, but that aside why on Earth would you go to Mexico to get one, when every 7-11 and corner liquor store has stacks of it? Well Sherman’s Travel suggests you can try the Dos Equis or the Bohemia, also ubiquitous north of the border. Ridiculous.

7. Montreal: Okay, I’ll buy this one. I’m not sure it quite makes my personal top ten list, but it would be close and given how bad some of the other choices are, this has obvious merits.

8. Portland: No question Portland should be on the list, and probably near the top.

9. Prague: Okay, I’ve got nothing against Prague but here’s how the articles sells it. After giving the dubious reason that it’s inexpensive it’s “also home to the original (and many would say better) Budweiser.” Um, Prague is the home of Budvar? Did I miss a meeting? Did the town of České Budějovice merge with Prague? Given that it’s at least 40 miles south as the crow flies, I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch.

10. Sapporo: The reason they chose this Japanese town is because you can “purchase [beer] from vending machines on the street.” Now that’s a reason to spend fourteen hours on an airplane, so I can buy a can of beer from a vending machine. No thanks.

What a joke this list is, and as much for what they left off as what they chose. There’s not one British city, not even London, where ale is king. How is that possible? And several (Berlin, Burlington, Mexico City and Sapporo) have absolutely no business being on this list. MSNBC should be embarrassed to lend their name on something this grotesque. I’d be curious how much it costs to pretend your advertisement is news.

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