Why America Now Brews The Best Beer In The World
Flashing back about 25 years to the late 1980′s and craft beer in America was a fairly small business. If you wanted an American brewed Pale Ale, it was Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, a crisp German Style Lager and it was Sam Adams. A Porter, Stout, or Barleywine and again it was Sierra Nevada or Anchor. All solid craft brews and still around today. But beyond that, for a ‘good beer’ you had to start looking at imports. If you wanted a sour Lambic Style beer you had to search for an import from Belgium, a Smoked Lager, and you were looking for a German import from Bamberg. For crisp pilsners, you were searching for beers from Germany or the Czech Republic. If you wanted a dry stout served through Nitrogen for a creamy texture, it was Guinness from Ireland. When the Fall weather arrived and the craving for an Oktoberfest hit, it used to be Spaten or Paulaner. Today, in my local area, there are half a dozen breweries which release seasonal Oktoberfest beers. They taste great, and those are the ones I purchase. I can’t remember the last time I ponied up for a six-pack of imported Oktoberfest.
Back then I spent quite a bit of money on beers like Duvel, Hoegarden Wit, and Boon Kriek from Belgium. From Germany, I would buy Oktoberfests in the Fall, and Doppelbocks in the Spring. For session style beers it would be an English Ale from Fullers. Today, I rarely purchase an imported beer. They are still great beers, but when I can get something similar and much fresher locally, that is where I spend dollars on craft beer.
How did things change so quickly? I remember when Celis built their brewery in Austin, and how amazing it was to get a fantastic Belgian Wit which was brewed in the U.S. Thinking back, that was an early spark that lit up a frenzy of American Craft Brewers to start brewing Belgian Style ales. New Belgium in Colorado was one of the early players which has since grown dramatically, but it is some of the smaller craft brewers producing these styles which rival anything produced in Belgium today. The Bruery and The Lost Abbey produce amazing, complex beers, with phenomenal flavors. In a short period of time they have mastered barrel-aging processes and how to manage the wonderful wild yeasts which produce the flavors so prominent in their beer. The ability to source all the needed ingredients, like Belgian Specialty Malts and Belgian Yeasts, and create the right aging environments for the beer, has allowed craft brewers in America to create very special beer.
It’s not just the act of trying to reproduce classic styles, and being able to do it in great fashion. It is the art of innovation which has truly made America the best brewing country in the world today. Craft brewers are making bold new styles and experimenting with new processes. Barrel-aging in wine casks, bourbon barrels, gin barrels, and using local wild yeasts to ferment beer. Creating new styles like Black IPAs, White IPAs, and Imperial Red Ales. Mastering the art of adding chile peppers, cocoa, coffee, and local fruit to beer.
A list of the top 50 best beers in the world today would favor America. On the list would be beers from Russian River, The Bruery, The Lost Abbey, Cigar City, Founders Brewing, AleSmith, Bell’s Brewery, Cascade Brewing, Three Floyds, and many others.
Within a twenty minute drive from my home, I can get a fresh, locally brewed, great tasting, and true to style (when applicable); German Style Pilsner, Bohemian Style Pilsner, Belgian Wit, Berliner Weisse, Sour Red Ale, German Style Alt, Whiskey Barrel-Aged Porter, IPA, Imperial Stout, Barleywine, Hefeweizen, Schwarzbier, German Style Rye Beer, Oktoberfest, Maibock, Doppelbock, and so on.
A trip to Bamberg or Brussels to drink fresh-on-tap Smoked Lagers or Lambics is still well worth it, and world-class beer is still being brewed in these places. Some beers will never be replicable, like Orval and Cantillion Gueuze – and they hold a place in my craft beer favorites list, along with; The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, AleSmith’s Speedway Stout, Russian River Supplication, Firestone Walker Union Jack, 512′s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Double Pecan Porter, Allagash Resurgam, Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze, and so on.
There has never been a better time to be a craft beer fan in American than now. The tide has turned and international tourists are now making pilgrimages to the U.S. to get a taste of innovative and world-class craft brewed beer.