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Alcohol Belts of Europe (wikipedia.org)
166 points by pionerkotik on Aug 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 130 comments

I disagree with Hungary is in a Wine-Beer belt. Although Beer is in par with wine, the spirits (pálinka) is very significant. In the region I born, in every household that had some fruits had the argument whether jam or spirits should be made from the fruit. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A1linka https://welovebudapest.com/en/2015/02/20/19-signs-you-learne...

Serbia is also not in Wine belt. The traditional drink is rakija - which is the same as pálinka in Hungary:


The "belts" seems like made up thing, bending the actual facts to fit someone's story.

It looks like a made-up thing, because over here in Romania we (meaning the people in the countryside) mostly drink home-made “palinca” (so basically the same thing as the Hungarians) and what we call “tzuica” (a sort of plum brandy). The common people who live in the urban area mostly drink very cheep beer (the kind of beer that you can purchase in 2.5l plastic bottles) and some poorer people drink a thing that is pretty close to rubbing alcohol.

> some poorer people drink a thing that is pretty close to medicinal alcohol.

Or poor Romanians drink very cheap spirits produced by the Prodvinalco company, whose ingredient labels are always good for a laugh.

For example, on a bottle showing a pirate that might lead consumers to expect real rum, one finds in small print "Beverage made from alcohol of agricultural origin with rum flavouring". That is, it’s pure grain alcohol with presumably just an eyedropper’s worth of some kind of rum essence.

If you buy Captain Morgan's in the US, you get the same thing, industrially produced ethanol flavoured with rum essence. That's what "Bottled and finished in CA" means.

At least Romania has more honest labeling.

Do you have a source for this?

Captain Morgan, as we're talking about them, have a bunch of different products. Some are 100% Jamaican rum, and they say so on the bottle.

Their biggest seller though, Original Spiced Gold is according to themselves "a blend of rum and other spirits".

"Other spirits" is an industry euphemism for Grain Neutral Spirits, i.e. industrial alcohol produced using the cheapest base and distilled to 95%, which is something you then buy in bulk. Take a look at these guys, for example: https://ultrapure-usa.com/grain-neutral-spirits-options-sign...

Or take a look at this page: https://ultrapure-usa.com/services-2/spirits-brand-owners/ Want to launch a Gin company? Rum? Whisky? They're experts at white-labeling!

Yes, you have to read between the lines to understand how this works, because none of the large alcohol brands wants consumers to know how their products are actually made, it's all obscured by deceptive labeling.

Also, at the end of the day, ethanol is ethanol. The difference between Captain Morgan's Original Spiced Gold and actual Jamaican rum is like the difference between synthetic diamonds and real diamonds. Yes, both are 100% carbon in a diamond lattice with the exact same refraction index and hardness and properties. They sparkle the same, they look the same, only experts can tell the difference, but a lot of people still care about the difference.

> They sparkle the same, they look the same, only experts can tell the difference, but a lot of people still care about the difference.

If it’s for mixing with soda or Red Bull with lots of sugar sure the difference might not be noticeable (especially for grain based spirits). But if you drink for example a brandy like Cognac (which is distilled wine) you’ll have a hard time recreating it with artificial flavors.

> But if you drink for example a brandy like Cognac (which is distilled wine) you’ll have a hard time recreating it with artificial flavors.

There is already "cognac flavoring" that can be added to the cheap spirits that I mentioned in my post above. (It is also used for candies.) Few will notice the difference between low-end cognac and the imitation cognac.

Also, the ethanol producer I linked above have options so that you can buy "cognac base" by the truckload, that gives you actual distilled wine, not just industrial alcohol. It's just as bland and neutral as possible so that you, the buyer, can flavour it and pass it off as your own cognac.

There's generally more to a spirit than water and ethanol.

Brandy is made from wine, vodka is made from potatoes or grain. The one time I went to Romania I was given a lot of homemade brandy with fruit, all of which appeared to have been distilled from Moscato wine and then having fruit added. That's definitely not vodka.

Not necessarily and it depends on the region. If it's a wine region, yes, they usually make it from distilled wine. Otherwise it's made from fruit. Or both. For instance after one squeezes the grapes for wine, the leftover pulp and skin is used to make grape brandy (tescovina). Also leftover wine from filtering or from a barrel that was left less than half empty for a longer period and the wine oxydized is distilled to make wine brandy (vinars). They taste differently and are called differently. Tescovina has a more fruity flavour, while vinars tastes like pure alcohol with a mild grape skin or seed flavour. Other brandies in other regions are made mostly from fruit, either distilled once (rachiu, tuica) or twice (palinca) depending on the region. Usually in the north you have double distillation (like in Hungary) and in the south they distill it only once (like in Greece). And then of course there's grain alcohol but that's almost never home made but rather industrially produced. It's used to produce home made sweet fruit brandies from sour cherries or wild berries.

Listen to this guy, he speaks the truth :)

Are Vinars sounds a lot like Grappa, is that right?

Dunno about grappa, but vinars is distilled wine which is either consumed directly or used to make cognac by aging it in oak casks or with oak splinters and maybe adding some additional ingredients such as vanilla, black tea or Sambucus flower infusion. It really depends on the producer and the recipe, but home made cognac is made like that. Each producer obviously has their own recipe. The best I've had was just aged in an oak barrel for 15y. It had a mild amberish colour. The ones made with splinters or wood residue have a too pronounced oak taste.

Yes, or a kind of cognac -- also "vinars" comes from "vin ars", literally meaning "burnt wine", possibly a mirror translation of "Weinbrand" in german or transylvanian saxon dialects.

> The one time I went to Romania I was given a lot of homemade brandy with fruit, all of which appeared to have been distilled from Moscato wine and then having fruit added.

You are either wrong about this, or you were served something very unusual. Brandy in Romania is overwhelmingly produced solely from fruit, with no role for wine at all. I have witnessed the production process myself while staying in the countryside.

All I can say is that my girlfriend's father made the brandy from Moscato, and his parents made the same thing, and claimed it was made that way since before the Communists showed up.

I saw the fruit orchard and the vineyard.

However, you're missing the point as it relates to this discussion. Fruit brandy made from fruit is like wine, not vodka.

If you want to fight to the death that my girlfriend's parents and great-grandparents are atypical, that's totally fine.

There is a tradition within Romania of making distilled spirits from wine (vinars), but as I said, that is a very niche product and you just seem to have happened to run into it. Most of the country distills their brandy purely from fruit. In a lot of the villages that produce Romanian fruit brandy, grapes are not even grown by any of the families at all.

Here is a guess: It was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomace_brandy , törkölypálinka in Hungarian, created from the leftover fruit pulp after pressing the grapes for wine. That's what Italians call grappa. The other possibility is distilled grape juice, that is brandy, but brandy is much less common in Eastern Europe, they prefer to turn their grape juice into wine.

I just can't see how distilling mashed-up plums/pears/quince/apricot, in a still - mashed up for the single purpose of being distilled in that still - can be considered more similar to fermenting grape juice, than it is to distilling other things in a still (even potatoes). Hence my comment.

I don't know where your girlfriend's father is from, I'm guessing from behind the iron curtain somewhere based on the comment about the Communists. I'm sure he made good brandy from moscato. However rakija is not made from wine nor does it have anything to do with it culturally from a consumption standpoint.

> The "belts" seems like made up thing, bending the actual facts to fit someone's story.

Agreed. As a Norwegian, I can attest Norway is known for its appreciation of fine spirits like scotch and cognac.

That said, we’re clearly a beer-country. We make beer, we drink beer, we go out for a beer, and when people come over, we ask if they want a beer.

Vodka is only drunk by a smaller niche or Eastern European immigrants.

How we could ever be a “vodka nation” beats me. This looks like fiction.

Edit: I guess the illegal “moonshine” culture in the northern parts of the country could account for “vodkaism”, but that’s not really a striving culture these days, and definitely not mainstream.

Yeah, I am not sure of the Vodka belt for Norway. Though as others mentioned it may be more historic. Sweden does make Absolut though I'm not sure they are Vodka country either. My memory gaps from trips to see friends in Finland has convinced me they are Vodka country though, Koskenkorva and more.

The second map where Norway prefer Beer as of 2012 is probably true. I am not quite sure why there are two maps.

Though I agree moonshine was quite prevalent when I was young. Gallons of some dodgy near methanol drink bought of some Russian trawler...

My Norwegian family does seem to drink a lot of Cognac and occasionally some Aquavit.

I would say Norwegian drinking habits are not like other beer countries where they may have 1 or 2 pints a few times a week. It seemed in Norway more like once a month 8 pints or nothing for most... Though they are more cosmopolitan these days.

Do you have a aquavit / snaps tradition? I think it is likely that Norway, like Sweden, had more emphasis on these spirits traditionally, before 1950 or so.

"these days" is key. I think the map is trying to say that maybe 200 years ago, people mostly drank hard alcohol of some sort, not beer or wine. Do you know whether that is accurate?

And they've lumped by country borders, too. Could people grow hops in very southern Norway, perhaps?

They provide no sources for historical consumption. It looks fictional to me. I know there is a lot of fruit wines traditionally in lithuania, for example, but we have been lumped into the "vodka belt"...

Perhaps the Eastern European immigrants are drinking a lot of it.

I think that these belts make better sense in the west, than in south-eastern europe, maybe the gradient of climate is more complicated there.

The other famous trio are the olive oil/butter/lard belts, which again were fairly clear lines in the west (although obviously things have changed now). Data-points on what fat your grandmother used, in south-eastern europe, anyone?

Italy itself is split between butter (prevalent in the north) and olive oil ( prevalent in the South). Lard, possibly more used in the less coastal more mountainous central areas.

If you mean fat usage for cooking, etc. in Serbia it was mainly lard. Olives don't grow here and fat from milk is traditionally used to make "kaymak":


Supposedly there’s Rapeseed oil / Canola (for the sensitive) in the Baltic’s region

It says it's a fruit brandy, and traditional brandy is a spirit made by using wine. Things don't neatly separate into three groups, but it's not completely made up.

> It says it's a fruit brandy, and traditional brandy is a spirit made by using wine

This is a really good example of bending actual facts to fit someone's story.

Brandy is a spirit made out of wine. Fruit brandy just uses things besides grapes. It's not really vodka and it's not really wine. It's not a distortion of facts, it could fall under either designation.

> Brandy is a spirit made out of wine. Fruit brandy just uses things besides grapes.

Not really. "Fruit brandy" that people traditionally make and drink in this region is made directly from fruit, without the vine step. There is a brand of it that's made from vine called "vinjak", but that's not the traditional drink everyone is drinking here.

You can also make rakia directly from grapes. That's called "loza" and it hasn't got anything to do with vine.

Yeah, I am grossly oversimplifying things with my definition. For these belts, "wine" is used to describe anything made from fruit. They also mention cider drinking regions of the UK as potentially part of the wine belt.

Really there should probably be a fourth belt covering SE Europe, but as these are only used for informal discussion it doesn't really matter.

There's a real difference between vodka and brandy: most vodka isn't supposed to taste like anything, while all brandy is supposed to taste like something. Maybe you want to divide things differently, but I don't think you're the one to say what the facts are for everyone.

Fair point. The cultural value of rakija as an 'aperitif' drink is also quite different to the bingy approach to vodka, even though you could argue that in reality little separates them.

Someone else also mentioned the 'fruit-based' vs 'potato based' classification and that's all quite valid, but all it does is show that there should be a fourth category of fruit-based hard liquor on that map.

Same as Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia or anywhere albanians live. New generations will drink it less and less, and become beer countries as well

It used to be the same in Romania (we did tuica and palinca, same as pálinka), but lately people drink mostly beer in the summer and wine or spirits in the winter, it is a highly seasonal pattern. Same in Bulgaria, beer is very popular in warm seasons and it has a seasonal pattern.

It depends on whether you call the first belt the "vodka belt" or the "spirits belt." Their definition of the vodka belt is

>However, the general definition tends to include the following states as significant producers and consumers of vodka

Hungary doesn't fit that definition, and brandy favoring states would be considered part of the wine belt.

https://shannon-pub.ru/drugoe/statistika-potrebleniya-piva-v... here they say that as of 2016 Russians are drinking slightly more beer than vodka.

I think such broad generalizations over vast geographical regions are often a bit tainted.

Interesting that alcohol consumption is down ten litres from 2014 to 2016, but that might be because the economy isnt doing too well ; starting with the war in Ukraine.

  Hungarians invented the wine/soda combination known as
  fröccs and if you feel qualified to name all the various
  wine-to-water ratios, then you probably got your degree 
  in alcohol at a Hungarian pub. 
Are any of the fröccs any good? Do you just add soda to the wine or is there a seltzer style dispenser as shown in the illustration?

Watering wine is a historical thing dating back to the invention of wine. It makes bad wine taste a lot better. So I'm sure there's plenty of wine for which its fröcc tastes a lot better.

The seitzer style dispenser is the way to dispense the soda to the wine that is already in a normal tumbler or high ball glass. The wine is usually a dry white, e.g. rizling, not top-of-the-line. We have a saying “it's acceptable with soda” for “good enough”, comes from the fröccs.

The purpose of adding soda is to make it more refreshing in the Summer and allows to drink more without flipping over.

About the ratios: https://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fr%C3%B6ccs is a good list. bor = wine, szódavíz = carbonated water.

> Are any of the fröccs any good?

Not as in wine good, but on a warn day, soda and cheap wine taste fine. Same as for these moment (when I was young and piss poor), we'd buy "cooking wine" (cheapest shit on the shelf) and mix that one on one with cola. No matter how bad the wine, you can drink it easily and still get the added "benefit" of the alcohol.

I don't know if it's because of the wine belt or the warmer climate, but there is definitely a difference in drinking styles between Northern and Southern Europe.

While living in the Northern countries, I've seen an emphasis on the alcohol content and getting as drunk as you can, just for the goal of getting drunk. In Southern countries instead, there is more of an appreciation of what are you actually drinking, its taste and history. People still get very drink, but it's a more mellow experience, as they enjoy this dionysian rite.

Did anybody else have the same experience?

Most people in Romania have a beer in the summer as a cold drink, not with the purpose of getting drunk, and wine or spirits in the winter as a social occasion for bonding, also not for getting wasted. There is no social habit here of getting wasted in the weekends and having a bad hangover on Monday morning, but most of my colleagues in Newcastle (UK) do that. Huge difference.

Yes, generally speaking, the northern countries have had very strict restrictions on alcohol, which somehow developed an unhealthy attitude in that, once your job is over on friday, get as drunk as fast as possible, preferably until sunday.

But it's changing - now there's an appreciation of the taste of good wines, craft beers and liquors during the week, although still going hardcore during the weekend.

I don't know if it's for the better, but it's changing.

With craft beers it's usually still at the weekend and still mostly with the intention of getting the same level of drunk.

It just tastes better/different

You have it backwards, the drinking culture was even worse before the restrictions. They’d even pay workers in vodka rather than cash.

I loved this when I moved to Italy the first time. I was pretty young, but not really interested in getting drunk, like many of my peers in the US.

Saw that you lived in Padova, that's where I studied :)

One, perhaps entirely pseudo scientific, theory is that the mediterranean peoples have been exposed to alcohol for several thousand years, and have had developed a genetic tolerance that the northern Europeans do not yet have.

Compare to the Chinese, who have had alcohol for up to 8000 years, and have developed the anti alcohol "asian flush" gene.

This is not actually crazy. The prevalence of alcoholism is inversely related to how long most of your ancestors have been farming. And within Europe, the northerners have much more descent from the Indo-European invaders, compared to Mediterranean people -- this used to be a guess but we now have solid genetics. And we have known for much longer (from reconstructing their language) that the invaders had cows but not agriculture, before spreading out.

Yes but also, northern countries don't grow wine, and if they do it's very small quantities and generally not a great wine.

It's a rarity to find English, Polish or Danish wine, they exist but are overpriced for what you're getting.

Both beer and spirits are made from grains, which are much easier to grow there as well as easy to import. Thus vodka, whisky, beer.

Although many would disagree, there's way less to appreciate in beer and vodka than it is in wine. Beer doesn't even have distinct recognised regions and for vodka you can't even tell whether it's made from grain, rye or potatoes, unless it's a really bad poorly filtered one.

On the contrary the appreciation culture for whisky is alive and well. In central Europe, lots of home-made spirits from local fruits are made and people like to taste and compare also.

> Although many would disagree, there's way less to appreciate in beer and vodka than it is in wine. Beer doesn't even have distinct recognised regions

I know that this is an extremely subjective point of opinion, but haven't you met anyone who insists that all wine comes in two flavours, red and white? Do you really think it's fair to group beer with vodka?

The map deals with beer, vodka and wine. I'm not grouping vodka and beer, I'm setting wine apart.

You explicitly group vodka and beer when you say:

> there's way less to appreciate in beer and vodka than it is in wine

I strongly expect that if you tested drinkers' ability to distinguish different types of beers vs. vodka vs. wine, it would become clear that the above statement is patently false.

> Beer doesn't even have distinct recognised regions

Does this matter as much for beer as it does for wine? Given that, as far as I understand brewing, most of the flavour comes from the hops used, with some also from the type of yeast and cereal. These can all be transported to some degree before they're brewed together, so a beer's provenance doesn't matter so much as its style and particular ingredients.

The grain can influence flavor a lot, but that's more from how the grain was processed than where it was grown. I don't think I could tell American 2-row pale malt from British 2-row pale malt or Belgian pilsner malt, but they'll both be pretty different from Vienna malt, which is kilned darker. Small additions of "specialty" malts like roasted barley or various caramelized malts can also shift flavor quite a bit.

I experienced the opposite. But then again, I was living in the north, but onpy visited the south occasioanlly, where there were more tourists about.

This makes the common mistake of taking country as the unit of analysis. Like just about everywhere on Earth, European countries are too regional to generalize. In Southern Austria, it's beer and schnapps, with a healthy dose of either white or red wine depending on what's best grown locally.

A bit weird, the article refers to "traditional beverages of countries rather than what is most commonly drunk by the populace today", but then uses images compiled from modern consumption data. "consumption (in litres of pure alcohol) in 2010".

Traditional consumption largely follows from soil, and weather, affecting what grows. A less generalized article would be cool, showing cider regions in Germany, France and England as well as wine regions in Germany.

I don't think the generalization to whole countries suits the purported goal of traditional beverages well, nor does the classification of cider as a wine analogue.

Many countries even have their own internal alcohol belts. Austria has many wine growing regions where Wine dominates alcohol consumption.

Austria's vineyards are concentrated in the eastern part of the country, right? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_wine#Wine_regions)

That's wine production; is wine consumption also predominantly in the east, or do Austrians drink wine no matter where in the country they live?

Here is a light-hearted look at all the European belts, including the alcohol one.


I wouldn't be surprised if this was the source for the "historic" map, which to my eyes is entirely fictional and full of prejudice. In Lithuania, we historically have a culture of fruit (and berry) wines, but have been lumped into the "vodka belt".

And beer has historical presence too. Vodka wasn't a big thing till 19th century when Russian empire came.

As said in the article, these are traditional belts.

Nordic countries would be in the beer belt today, for example.

We don’t have any traditions associated with beer though in Sweden (where I grew up) but we have loads of traditions with schnapps. Schnapps is what we traditionally drink during Midsummer and Christmas, whether or not you drink beer or not during the rest of the holiday is a matter of taste and not tradition.

Light lager and wine is the alcohol we consume recreationally on normal days.

Literally the next image shows that Nordic is not beer-belt today (well 2010) but instead split with Finland and Denmark being beer while Sweden and Norway is wine.

I wonder if there's any research as to why that is.


> Finland and Denmark being beer while Sweden and Norway is wine

Finland and Norway are beer, Sweden and Denmark are wine.

They are clearly not traditional belts. To my eye they are entirely fictional. There are no sources. Lithuania wouldn't be considered a producer of vodka historically. The "large commercial production" of vodka they mention as a factor is only 100 years old in Lithuania. Historically lithuanians would produce drink fruit and berry wines - generally from their own produce.

I have a feeling that beer is overtaking every other alcoholic beverage in popularity everywhere.

I live in southeastern France. Definitely wine country, lots of reasonably priced, good quality wine is produced here. And while wine is still very popular, a lot of younger people now drink beer. For taste, we have a lot of craft beer shops popping off. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, high alcohol beer is replacing red wine as a cheap way of getting drunk. It is a trend I trend to see everywhere I go.

Interestingly, in France, it looks like rosé wine is making a comeback with women.

It's not clear what was the method to measure this. The article mentions "preferred alcohol," "drinking," "drinking pattern" and "production."

This can be misleading as many comments state below. For example, Romania is a big wine producer, it's most known for wine, but a lot of that wine goes for export.

For drinking, a one liter of vodka equals four liters of wine in terms of alcohol content. So a country that drinks 1.5x more wine in quantity over vodka isn't necessarily getting drunk on wine, because you may order a couple glasses of 2dl wine but hit 6 vodka shots of 0.5dl each so basically your main drink of the night was spirit even though quantity-wise you consumed more wine.

Often times, in central eastern Europe, you order beer which is half a liter but you get several shots with it.

For preferred alcohol, it's kind of like when you ask people if they prefer theatre to cinema, most will answer theatre even though they'll only go to cinema.

Or ask them if they prefer to read Economist or Buzzfeed. Nobody ever answers Buzzfeed, yet it is one of the most read media in the world.

So ask me if I prefer beer or wine, I'll say wine because I do. But when I go out I'll have a beer because it's cheaper allows me to sit in the pub much longer without getting drunk too fast and everyone else drinks it too.

This is hard to measure. But overall for main countries like Spain, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Russia etc. it's seems to be correct.

The correct way to measure this, in my opinion would be to measure which beverage delivers the most alcohol content for the said population for that will be its preferred alcoholic beverage.

I'm a bit sad our vodka culture in Poland is dying. A lot of people just replace it with drinking beer, usually cheap and terrible.

That doesn't necessary mean that heavy drinkers suddenly drink less alcohol (as some vodka-opponents would claim). They just drink longer/faster to ingest the same amount of pure alcohol in the night.

My take on this map is perhaps easier to judge by what is acceptable and common to have at lunch when at work or with family.

Would a glass of wine at lunch seem odd?

Would a beer with your lunchtime burger seem out of place?

Would a glass or two of vodka between colleagues be quite normal?

In that case, I suspect some countries would be more "prude belt"...

Norwegian here:

Even though we have a long history of moonshine, especially in the rural areas, we are most def. a beer-drinking country.

If anything, our taste of alcohol is more diverse than ever before, simply because there are more options.

When I grew up, people either drank beer or moonshine, because that's the only things we had available in my small village. Then the (state owned) alcohol store arrived, and moonshine completely disappeared.

I remember the first time I visited Russia, in the 90s, and was set back by the sheer amount of Vodka the Russians drank. Went to a party, and couldn't find a single beer. They were all drinking straight vodka. But IIRC, they've now been "westernized" on that front, and drink much more beer.

The article points out that Scotland actually falls into the spirit-drinking countries - typically whisky. Unsurprisingly this is almost entirely related to the climate of the countries and the crops that could traditionally be grown.

I'm not sure this is really reflected in reality, perhaps aside from the 65+ generation. I grew up in Scotland, and it was very much a beer drinking culture.

This is addressed in the beginning of the article,

>The alcohol belts refer to the traditional beverages of countries rather than what is most commonly drunk by the populace today, as in terms of drinking habits beer has become the most popular alcoholic drink in the whole world, including various parts of the wine and vodka belts.

This made me wonder what alcoholic beverages the vodka belt countries drank before the arrival of the potato from South America in the late 1500's.

Seems it was mostly beer and mead:


Interesting that the introduction of a single plant could have such an impact on cultural norms.

This is exactly the question that came to my mind (and that comes to my mind whenever I hear ‘potatoes’, ‘tomatoes’, or other New World imports mentioned as ‘tradition’ of some European country).

For example: I come from Italy. The number of times I’ve heard/read stuff about the supposed benefits of the “Mediterranean diet” being “recognised as far back as the Ancient Romans” and featuring some photograph of a platter involving fish and tomatoes... it just makes me want to flip.

When I saw sliced tomatoes on the table in the film The Gladiator it made me want to walk out of the cinema.

I think most Russians, when they get traditional, would scoff at the idea of potato vodka, equating it with something made from wood pulp. Distilling grain spirits was quite possible before potatoes were introduced.

Well, whoever wrote this doesn't know about whisky in Scotland. :D

One of the things I have noticed among immigrants from Eastern Europe is that very few of them drink much, if at all. It seems to be some kind of class thing. So it’s not surprising that in some of the wealthier Eastern European countries spirits are losing favor to beer

As an immigrant from deep inside the Vodka belt (Russia), it's not a class thing. Over there this is just how you hang out with friends, whether you like it or not. Not drinking vodka invites ridicule and jokes about you being in poor health (the only acceptable excuse to not drink vodka). Moreover, if you're a businessman, your business will often require you to get blackout drunk with partners. Like it or not, nobody gives a shit. "We drank vodka together" carries the same weight as "we broke bread together" might elsewhere as far as closeness, trust, and friendship is concerned.

Here in the US I haven't had vodka in years. The US right now has such great beer that drinking any other alcoholic beverage should be illegal. Possibly the very best anywhere in the world. Not even Germany/Austria/England come anywhere close to what you can buy on the US West Coast.

Even in Russia though the attitudes are changing. Anecdotally, meeting with my university friends a year ago we drank only beer, and they said they mostly drink wine (beer in Russia is pretty bad still, although the situation is improving).

My absolute favorite beers are Belgian Trappist style beers. I love good German beers too. But I’ve been preaching for years if you compare country to country, the US military super power is dwarfed by the beer super power that it has become. It’s not that other countries are bad or anything, but in the US there are just so many awesome breweries making world-class beer without batting an eye. I don’t like sours, but everything from sours, to IPAs (no other country is even remotely on the radar, not even the same universe), to stouts and Belgian triples the US has it all. If I go to a bar in Germany I expect great German brews, but if I go to a random bar in the US I get legit top-caliber IPAs, lagers, and stouts easy. It’s just too good here.

And not only that, but those IPAs are _different_ every day in some of the bars I go to. And nearly all of them are way better than what you'd commonly be able to buy in e.g. England, where this style of beer originated. Most people don't quite realize yet how amazing the US beer scene has gotten over the past decade or so. And other countries are starting to notice. I saw some Oregon IPAs on tap in a regular London pub when I was there about a year ago.

I'm not sure why Germany has the reputation as making great beers, it doesn't really. I live there and the range and quality are both poor. You'll do better immediately in the Czech Republic, Belgium or even the Netherlands. The UK and Ireland also have strong craft beer cultures now, though the US certainly has had a big head start over them.

> I'm not sure why Germany has the reputation as making great beers.

German brewers of mass-produced beer still stuck to the requirements of the German beer purity law when elsewhere, such as in the USA, brewers were putting rice and maize into their beer to cut costs.

As a brewer myself, it's not always to cut costs. Some of the best IPAs available legitimately require oatmeal in the mash (mash is the grain combined with hot water at a precise temperature to allow enzymes to extract and convert the sugars). In this case it's not done to cut cost, it improves the beer. Mass produced stuff like Budweiser isn't really beer IMO. It's something else entirely.

You are right of course that some added ingredients beyond barley, hops, yeast, and water can lead to good beers. The German beer purity law is too restrictive in that no added sugar is permitted, while this is a major part of the Belgian tradition. However, rice and maize are not those kind of ingredients.

I just came back from the UK and Ireland. The craft beers were pretty average compared to what I get in the US but I’m sure they’ll continue to improve. It’s honestly just average craft beer in the US. It’s been a few years since I was in the Netherlands so I don’t remember much but I don’t remember any good beers. Maybe they’re make good ones now but I didn’t have any when I was there.

Germany gets a good reputation because they make a certain type of beer extremely well, like Belgium makes Belgians extremely well.

It's not only left coast, you can get an incredible variety of great beer pretty much everywhere. Most of the breweries just keep small enough (e.g. New Glarus) that you can't really get them anywhere else. Sometimes it's even great nbeer, not that overhopped IPA crap :) (in case you didn't notice, I strongly dislike IPAs)

It's different drinks for different occasions. Young people meeting friends in pubs or discos don't drink wódka (usually) - they drink beer. And if they do drink wódka it's only a few shots beetwen beers.

Alcoholics drink hard spirits or cheap "fruit wine" if they are poor.

Everybody drink vodka (and wine, and beer, but wódka is the tradition) on big occasions like marriage or other big family meetings. But getting wasted isn't cool and very few people drink too much usually.

Really? I've never been as hung over as the day after I was drinking vodka with my polish counterpart software developers. Granted, they were still living in Poland, so not really immigrants, but they were probably amongst the 5-10% highest paid people in the country.

(Swede here.)

I can tell from experience that this may be due to them graduating from a technical university in Poland.

Young men[0] around here still bond via drinking lethal amounts of vodka. I know of at least one death caused by this.

[0] The gender imbalance in CS is so severe that I remember bragging to my friends how I was not only acquainted with both of the female students in our year at the Warsaw University of Technology, but also both of the ones that started studying CS in 2010 at the University of Warsaw.

On my first day in a new house, I was greeted with a mug of vodka by my (long time settled in Ireland) Polish housemate.

Yeah, that was a tough one to swallow, literally.

Perhaps it differs from country to country, most Eastern European immigrants I know are Jewish people who immigrated in the 90s. But most of the more recent ones are also not really drinkers

Everyone I know from Eastern Europe likes to drink Vodka, Cognac, Brandy (Plum), etc. They'll drink a beer if there is no food being served but I've noticed that when they picnic/bring out a bite or have feasts that a bottle of Vodka is on the table with shot glasses. If there is going to be serious drinking they bring out the Samohon or the moonshine of the Region.

Beer is more common in Spain among the youth imo (own subjective experience), what's different to Germany is that young people pass litros (1l bottles) around like joints. Lips don't don't touch the bottle when you drink..

1 liter beer bottles are more typically (informally) called litronas ;)

After searching for "Alcohol Belts of North America" unsuccessfully, I'm wondering if there really isn't a trend in North America (perhaps a bit of everything, everywhere?).

The only country which for some reason got classified in two belts also happens to be one of the happiest countries in the world, Denmark.

Poland is in beer and vodka belts?

The two images at the top are quite dissimilar with no clear explanation why. Different years?

First map is aspirational. Second is actual.

I don't think many people in Poland nowadays - aside maybe from college students - aspire to be called "vodka country".

My family hails from Lesser Poland and I've never seen vodka on any of the family gatherings - including weddings.

It just doesn't appear to be part of the local culture.

Of course the situation is very different in the eastern and north-eastern regions.

Peculiar. I was born and still live in Lesser Poland, and throughout all my circles, beer and vodka are two staple alcoholic beverages. Especially when we talk weddings - vodka is the one mandatory drink at a wedding. Everything else is optional, but there has to be wedding vodka, and besides providing an ample supply during the event, it's customary for the newlyweds to give a bottle to each guest couple as a parting gift.

Guess I extrapolated too much after all.

But then again both of my parents (almost) never drank vodka and they have wildly different backgrounds.

If no one drinks vodka in Poland, then why does any Polish hypermarket have a huge vodka section, nearly comparable in size to the wine section? Vodka is even sold at petrol stations, and not just cheap vodka for winos, but also premium brands as apparently people pick up a bottle on the way to visit someone.

Eastern Poland checking in. Vodka aplenty, but plenty of people rarely or never drink it. Most often people drink beer, but when it's time to party or celebrate an event, the vodka bottles come out. Other spirits and wine are rare, but I do see some flavored vodkas somtimes.

The first is a map of someone's stereotypes. No data is presented to back it up, and "traditional" is a meaningless weasel word.

I took it as the first map is of the stereotypes that led to the term "alcohol belts", rather than just stereotypes from an individual Wikipedia contributor.

The second map doesn't show any "belts", and is showing that the concept of alcohol belts doesn't match actual consumption.

As far as I know the most consumed alcohol in Spain is beer.

It’s right there in the second map. It is something quite recent; most probably due to the lower price of beer and less variance of quality.

FTA: ”The alcohol belts refer to the traditional beverages of countries rather than what is most commonly drunk by the populace today”.

Also, the second map, labeled ”Map of Europe with individual countries grouped by preferred type of alcoholic beverage, based on recorded alcohol per capita (age 15+) consumption (in litres of pure alcohol) in 2010” has Spain labeled “beer”.

Is it because one can have a cold beer as a hydration and cooling vehicle, while wine cannot fill that role?

There is a tradition in Spain of cooling wine beverages in the warm months of the year: sangria where wine is mixed with fruit juice, and more recently calimocho where it is mixed with Coca-Cola.

You drink green (as opposed to mature) white (grape color) wine cold, specially in the summer.

Oloroso muy seco para me. Does that count as wine or spirit?

I suspect from the copious British immigrants more than the native population

Not really, wine is only dominant now in the Castilla region as internal production quality improved thoughout all of Spain.

Wine usually is more drunk with food, not really as a standalone drink in Spain.

Google "Foreign population residing in Spain", you might find it enlightening.

Is there some sort of point to this classification ?

Vodka is the aunt of wine.

Reminds me of the Chumbawumba song "EU has a whiskey belt, EU has a vodka belt, EU has a wine belt"

EU never gonna keep me down?

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