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danlad 07-07-2009 11:04 PM

US Expectations of Beer
Now I must admit before I began hanging around here my knowledge of US beer was basically Bud and Miller, and I'd bet the stuff we get here is just branded stuff brewed in a silo in Luton like an awful lot of mass produced stuff in the UK. I try not to be a snob, after all it has its place well chilled, in a beer garden or at a music festival, on one of the few summery days we get here.

But what are the expectations generally of what US readers think a quality brew should be?

There frequently seems to be threads around that slag off beers that are too flat or don't have any hoppiness that come from recipes that seem pretty close to what I'd call a damn fine ale! Conversely there are lauded recipes that seem to me to be insanely hop heavy, so much so that I'd be wary of attempting them cos I'd have to leave them 18 months to mellow out.

I tried a Sierra Nevada pale ale a while ago and found it literally a bitter and somehow hollow experience. No accounting for taste obviously :) There is though a specialist beer importer in Edinburgh with a pretty good range. So, my question I suppose is what US brews would you recommend to me to explore these American takes on beer styles and I'll look out for them?

(Incidentally there are a few beers now here that seem to be trying to latch on to the whole American tart and citrussy hops thing I read about on HBT, which is interesting.)

ajwillys 07-07-2009 11:20 PM

The number one point I would make about US craft beer is that there is no style or specific ingredients that make a quality brew. Other than the Bud's and Miller's (which is not good beer!!), there are no hard guidelines for typical American beer. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which you mentioned, might be the quintessential US craft beer, at least in many people's opinions. For our pale ales and IPA's, American beers usually have a distinct citrusy taste from the hops. In general, I think they lean more toward the hop side than the malt side in just about every category. If you are looking around at a bottle shop, some of my favorite american breweries are:
Dogfish Head
Left Hand
Sierra Nevada
... and there are many more.

It's impossible to tell you the best brews in the US. Perhaps if you mentioned a particular style you were interested in trying, we could point you to a good example of a US made beer.

Just for reference, here's the list of the top 50 craft brewers in the US. (Just look at the first list).
Brewers Association Releases Top 50 Breweries List

ChshreCat 07-07-2009 11:24 PM

You may also experience the same problem with US beers as we often get with European brews. By the time it gets here, it's spent a month on a ship getting overheated and tossed around, then it sits in a dockside warehouse with the sun shining on it, then it goes on a train or a truck and gets banged around again, then the back of a store where it's improperly stored. Once you buy it, it's already past it's prime and well on it's way to ruined.

elkdog 07-07-2009 11:27 PM

Yeah, we're kind of on a hop kick here these days, though Belgian beers are getting a lot of attention. The average US reader on this forum probably tends toward beers that are a bit crisper and hop-forward than most UK beers. I love a good hop bomb, but at the same time, a lot of us brew UK style beers, and like a good balanced or malty brew. I actually got into home brewing because I love English beer, but it's expensive and of variable quality after the trip across the pond. As with many things, the US is a melting pot when it comes to craft brews. People are brewing German styles, English styles, Belgian styles, and pushing the envelope to create new beers, too. Our macros are boring, but American microbrews are a hell of a lot of fun right now.

The list above of major breweries is a good one for craft brews. A lot of us could suggest more, but those are the most widely distributed. I would add Samuel Adams, as they helped get the craft brew movement rolling here- their Boston Lager and Boston Ale are fairly classic American beers, if not our absolute best work.

danlad 07-07-2009 11:27 PM

I know it is a wildly varied thing in the States (now I do anyway...) like it is elsewhere. My question is probably a bit like an American asking 'what European beer is nice?'. But I'm after what you'd consider to be a couple of quintessential examples, those that a majority would agree to be a good pint worth crossing town for.

If you are all helpful I might even recommend a few from round here and conduct a comparison on your behalf.

Spunkmeyer 07-07-2009 11:33 PM

I would say try Anchor Steam, if only to experience a California Common style beer, which is one of the few original U.S. contributions to brewing.

arturo7 07-07-2009 11:35 PM

I think we tend to be hop heads here in the States. It seems that once you go down that path there is no turning back.

Regarding that list, I'm surprised to see Anchor and Stone so far down. Guess I'm biased to the West Coasters.

danlad 07-07-2009 11:39 PM

As an addendum to the mention about influence coming back this way, I recently had a bottle of German beer crediting a US brewer if my pish poor German is anything to go by. Sadly I've already soaked off the label and filled it with homebrew...

danlad 07-07-2009 11:42 PM


Originally Posted by Spunkmeyer (Post 1419981)
I would say try Anchor Steam, if only to experience a California Common style beer, which is one of the few original U.S. contributions to brewing.

Now this kind of exemplifies my comment about the influence that is coming our way - by the clone recipes I see what US brewers think are British styles are actually quite different! I would like to compare say what a US pale ale brewer thinks is equivalent to a UK one. I suspect that the US version is actually more innovative/different than you think!

mosyslack 07-07-2009 11:50 PM

I would think that the US beers tend to be crisper, less yeasty flavors, and more hops...like what most others have said. There has been a huge interest (lately) in the Belgium style beer and brewing methods. From what I remember, the European styles tend to focus more on the malts.

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