I know I'll be roasted for saying this, but freshness in beer is grossly overrated. I've had lots of wonderful German, Belgium and British bottled beers in the USA and they tasted identical to the counterparts in Germany. It seems that if they're imported via Reefer Containers, they hold their freshness quite well. I've never tasted a German beer I brought to the USA vs. one I bought in the USA, but I doubt I'd be able to taste much difference. 2nd, I just a year old bottle of my own homebrew and it tasted exactly the way it did when it was 6 weekds old. It was a 4.5% Porter, in my cellar and spent a warmish summer their too, unpasteurized, bottle conditioned, and no detriment to its flavor. So what's this BS about freshness? As long as it's not been heat or light flashed for extended periods of time, it's grossly overrated. Damn, who's got that much money or time off? I don't. I'm a free-lance teacher; if I don't work, I don't eat, so I can't fly off and can't afford to travel to the ends of Europe. Good for you, you had generous vaction time. Wish we are all so damn lucky. Still doesn't mean I wanna do non-stop traveling to simply buy a bottle of beer. I don't disagree at all that experiencing the beer in "the environs of pub/tavern/beergarden cultures that were developed, and carefully protected, over centuries" is crucial to understanding how/where these styles came from, but God I also hate tourist. In my local backyard of FFM, we got the Korean/Chinese/Japanese/American (it's funny but the Americans are now the best behaved of that bunch) tourist overrunning the Äppler (Apfelweinlokale) and it sucks. So there's good and bad to both sides. Let's give a concrete example... I went to Edinborough to drink some Scotch beers, and it was great. Lovely cask ale pubs serving a Wee Heavy or 80-/ was sublime. I enjoyed the locals I could observe and was able to talk with. Can I get any of those beers in Germany? Hell no. Can you get them in the USA? Hell yeah. Is anyone even trying to make a similar style in Germany. Hell no. In America... I think so. Is it as good? Maybe. Are some taking those styles and innovating off them? I bet someone is. I want great beer, I want variety, I want convenience of buying it, and, I want innovation instead of the same tired stuff at every place I visit. What place does that describe best?