Monday, August 20

Ethiopian beer

Ethiopia has a pretty wide selection of beers, which go for about 50 cents and usually come in the 33cl bottles we get in the US, as opposed to the pint-size bottles more common in Kenya. The most prominent is St. George, a pretty standard but decent lager, bolstered by the nice logo featuring the ubiquitous mounted saint :

My favorite beer was probably Hakim Stout. I'm pretty sure I've had this one in the US, although I was only able to find it once in Ethiopia. Beer and flavor don't mix in Kenya, except for the Guinness, which is a little different here and which I don't really care for. So I probably would have been thrilled with anything dark.

My standby was Meta, which has a bit of sweet honey-flavor to it. I'm pretty sure I've had this one in the US too, since I remember having a flavorful lighter beer. On a side note, there's a billboard on Bole Rd, the main thoroughfare from the airport, advertising DC's Dukem restaurant. They also have an ad in the Ethiopian Airlines in-flight magazine. On my last full day in Addis I took a trip out of town to the Meta brewery (more below).

Dashen is a standard, inoffensive lager. I passed the brewery on the outskirts of Gonder, but didn't have time to check that one out.

Bati is pretty mediocre lager:

Harar, which comes from the Muslim town of the same name in the East, is also a pretty standard lager. The same guys that make Hakim Stout:

Bedele is again, nothing too special, though it does have a monkey on its logo:

Castel is also nothing too special, it's main claim to fame being its slightly higher alcohol content. The Pilsner of Ethiopia, for those of you who've been to Kenya.

So, on my last day in Addis, with Caitlin gone, I figured I had little better to do than go check out the Meta brewery, about 30 km out of town, especially considering the integral part Meta beer had played in my trip. I caught a minibus to another minibus to another minibus which took me to the town, where I was dropped in the pouring rain. I hopped in a three-wheeled mini-taxi, which took me up to the brewery restaurant, where a few locals were having lunch and a girl appeared to be having a small birthday party. They said they had no draft beer there, but pointed me to the workers' canteen. On my way I ducked into a guard booth to get out of the rain, and shared a coffee with the guards.

The canteen was bustling with the Meta Brewery workforce. I sat down with a group of mechanics and shared a couple of draft beers. One, I was told, is poor form. Then a foreman took me to the main office to see if I could arrange a tour. After waiting and leafing through some beer trade magazines, I met the general manager, who asked me if I'd been to Kenya breweries, and who wouldn't let me see the factory, since I'd forgotten my passport, and they don't want to show their secrets to just anyone.

I went back to join the workers - though I didn't see them doing much working - for some injera. I answered the obligatory questions about what I think about there culture with the usual vague praise - though it is quite praiseworthy. Then we talked politics. Ethiopians love talking about their culture, and also like to talk about how they're fed up with their government. Meles Zenawi's EPRDF government doesn't have much support in urban areas outside of his Tigrai region, and it's not hard to tell. Many Ethiopians also expressed their frustration at the government wasting its resources on fighting America's terrorist enemies in Somalia.

I hitched a ride back to Addis on the worker bus, which conveniently dropped me right next to my hotel. I had a coffee with one of the workers that got off with me and bought a few CDs of "Ethiopian swing", a pop music featuring Middle-Eastern-ish melodies and lots of horns, though I find it more appealing than Arab or Turkish pop.

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