Friday, September 6, 2013

What America Has Done to Beer: The Session

Anyone with any inkling of my online, in-person and blogging presence in the American beer world since 2000, will know that the whole of my beer experience in that time has been colored by, sits against the backdrop of, and forms the awkward juxtaposition to, my English beer heritage and what has been happening the USA in the last few years. Everyone knows that I have been very vocal about this for a very long time, so when it came to thinking about what would be a great ‘Session’ topic, outside of session beer, it seemed like that there could be only one topic; ‘What the hell has America done to beer?‘, AKA, ‘USA versus Old World Beer Culture‘.
- Our Session Leader, Ding

More than climate or genetics or anything else, drinking behaviour is governed by culture. And that culture is created by the laws that govern it.
- Pete Brown

I still like that. Pete probably thought of it over a decade ago but it still rings true. It is also likely reversible and transposable, too. Culture and beer create law in a way as well.
- Alan McLeod (Source)

What has American done to beer? We've made it more awesome.

Allow me to explain:

Americans doing beer is like Americans doing anything else. We put a man on the moon, because we could. We put turnips in cask ale (yes, I've seen this, and it turns me into this person). We eat crap,

and we drink it, which is why Bud Light is the top selling beer in the States.

We make a wide array of beer styles in the States, and we make them better than you. Our Kolsch-style ales -- take a bow, Schlafly! -- can beat out the German ones in a blind taste test. So can our witbiers. Thanks, Allagash White! And with about 2500 breweries, and more on the way, American beer has something for everyone.

The reason you can add hops to a beer to make it taste or smell like a wide array of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other plants? American experimentation. That's our culture. We want more, and we want more extreme. We went with high gravity stouts and India Pale Ales, check the infernal Beer Advocate and Rate Beer ratings, and we've swung the other way, too, hence "session IPAs" and low ABV sour German ales. That is to say, we make messes, and we clean them up. Most of the time.

The reason you can get an excellent robust porter made in Sweden isn't because of Alain Pugsly's hard work in the UK, it's because he came to America, and we spread the gospel of craft beer, of good beer. We're a cultural amplifier.

See this?

That's because of America.

How much of this is sustainable? Quite a bit, I reckon. No doubt there is bad craft beer out there, and the marketplace will sort that out soon enough.

Oh, and your drinking culture. It's not great, either. Tu quoque. Safeway Lager in the park? Three litres of it! What's the most popular beer in the UK? Carling? Crap lager, just like here, just like everywhere. And maybe that's our "fault," but American beer is slowly trying to right that wrong. To wit, the great state of Oregon, where "Oregon-made craft beer comprised more than 17 percent of all bottled and draft concoctions made in the state." (Source)

There's another phrase for a session at a pub, by the way: binge drinking. Let me google that for you:  It ain't pretty.


  1. I love this post. I think tears are welling up in my eyes right now. It could be the ragweed...nope, it's this post.

  2. Nice heat map. #digitalhumanities