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What do Brits Think of American Craft Brewing?

Vintage American beer label.

Earlier today, we saw this interesting question on Twitter:

Now, there’s no simple answer, and, even if the British beer fraternity did share a single opinion, we wouldn’t be qualified to state it. Nonetheless, here’s our attempt to summarise the various camps.

1. People stuck in the nineteen-seventies don’t know it exists

Back then, there really wasn’t much ‘characterful’ American beer — check out Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer for a valiant attempt to find some. As far as British beer enthusiasts were concerned, American beer was all ‘cold fizzy flavourless piss’. Some people, though they profess to be ‘into their beer’, still believe this is the case, if our experience of conversations at beer festivals is anything to go by.

2. Some people seem to dislike America, let alone American beer

They deny any American influence on British brewing in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary; they fail to see what American beer has to offer that can’t be found better elsewhere; and find the people in 5, below, extremely irritating.

3. Some simply prefer British beer (or beer from elsewhere)

There’s no malice in it — they just like what’s local and fresh. The beer from here is pretty decent and increasingly varied and interesting — why look abroad? Many ‘real ale’ enthusiasts are probably in this camp. British  drinkers and brewers who had their ‘eyes opened’ by American beer before, say, 2007, when there were few examples of, e.g. strong, intensely aromatic British IPAs, have moved into this camp in recent years. (Brewers are sometimes motivated by a protectionist impulse: ‘Buy British!’)

4. Some feel very warm towards American craft beer

They’re interested in what’s going on in the US; will drink an interesting US beer in preference to a boring British one; generally like British beers in the US style.

5. Some think American craft beer and the attendant culture are where it’s at, and everything else is basically rubbish

The chaps at Brewdog have expressed this view, and are fairly open in their worship of Stone Brewing. We’ve spoken to other British brewers who were absolutely clear that their favourite beers and greatest inspirations are American. Many brew beers which seem to us to be obvious attempts to clone specific US brews. Some enthusiasts speak with almost religious fervour of beer enjoyed on trips to the US.

This is traditionally where people comment “I’m a 4!” and so on. Feel free to do so, or to suggest categories you think we’ve missed.

14 replies on “What do Brits Think of American Craft Brewing?”

I am a 4(c) the “c” standing for colonial. Will be over in NNY tomorrow taking a day off for shopping including good beer and cider. I suspect there is more 2 than folk care to be honest about both in this land of the Queen as well as yours.

4 is just 3 described in different words. Most 3s would drink an interesting US beer in preference to a boring British one, and a lot of them like British beers in the US style.

I think there is a 6th possibility, which is where I fit in. Brits living in America who mostly drink ‘craft’ beer but hold the whole hoopla around it at arm’s length for the most part, while wishing some craft brewers looking beyond pale ales with large amounts of C-hops in them (the American equivalent of boring brown bitter is boring IPA).

I like it, but when I’m down the pub it’s cask beer I’m after.

Goose Island IPA is one of my ‘desert island beers’, though come to think of it it doesn’t count as a ‘craft beer’ any more, though Brooklyn black chocolate stout is another favourite and that’s still ‘kosher’.

Not sure what that makes me, but anyway ‘I am not a number I am a free man’!

If you flipped it, there would be two answers: 1) Does Britain have craft beer, and 2) I don’t like warm, flat beer. Which is to say that Americans are as ignorant of the British beer scene as they are of, say, Pakistan’s.

Interesting, if (always going to be)awkward attempt to define this phenomenon. To cut to the chase, yes, I’d agree I’m at 4. 5 would be a little extreme but once you have been there. it seems less extreme a view than before.

It would be interesting if it were possible to gauge the proportion of each group.

As an Australian – and given that we don’t have much of a brewing heritage to preserve – the US has had a large (and generally positive in my view) impact on our own craft beer scene. I can see that it could be perceived as a threat in different circumstances but along with all the C-hop APAs and IPAs has come plenty of interest in beers from other nations and beer history. For all that, there’s plenty of 2 in some circles as well.

American beer was where it was at when Smokey and the Bandit came out. These days American culture isn’t what it was. They need to bring back the bandit. And the Dukes of Hazzard.

What about the ‘Don’t care where it’s from, provided I like it’ camp? That’s me!

I admire American beer in the same way I admire German, Belgian or Czech beer. That is to say it’s great, but it can never displace our own brewing traditions HERE. If American craft beer conquers the world like McDonalds it will be a massive loss to mankind.

That’s not to say I don’t think British brewers should make American-influenced beers. Some make very nice ones and that’s a good thing. I do, however, object to those who say that British beer is boring and we need to be more like America. No, we don’t.

I think I’m a 4 moving more towards 3 as our brewers catch up and overtake a lot of US ones especially in terms of freshness. Why pay more for stale beer?

While I enjoy America beers (and have numerous bottles of the stuff in my cellar) the thing that irritates me is the blind obsession that too many UK bloggers and beer geeks have with what comes out of the USA while ignoring the fantastic beers being made in Europe – all the way from Scandinavia to Spain. I once put this argument to a UK (very craft) brewer who accused me of being anti-American. I said by the same token he would be anti-European. A sensible response was not forthcoming.

Number Ones are the reason I’m seriously considering not renewing the CAMRA membership this year. Too much ranting in the letters page about ‘Colonial’ beers and JDW being the scourge of pubs. You’ve probably already debated JDW’s impact on local pubs, but at least there are four pubs in my town where I know I can get more than five different ales at any one time and they’ll be drinkable! JDW beer festivals are also possibly the reason many ale drinkers are now aware of ‘craft’, with guest brewers from USA and Europe?
I don’t know where I sit numbers-wise, a 3.5 perhaps, but I agree whole-heartedly with John Clarke. There’s a lot going on right now in the UK and in Europe which is just as worthy of investigation and celebration.

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