I think it’s fairly safe to say that the average non-American associates this country’s beer scene more with Miller Lite and Budweiser than any particularly unique beers. But a craft beer scene definitely exists here and more than that, it’s thriving.
As Eater National points out, “we have thousands of super-innovative, passionate brewers and drinkers to thank” for that fact, who have created “a national fabric of beer”.
So, what is American craft beer all about and why should you care? Craft beer, according to my beer-loving husband, is about delicious, rich flavour and complexity; it’s about small breweries and experimentation; it’s the opposite of mass production and it’s about a desire to try all kinds of beers and to expand on traditional beers and improve them. It’s also popping up everywhere.
As a country of increasing locavores, why would we demand anything less from the brews we drink, than the food we eat? Craft beer has to adhere to certain standards and guidelines, according to which a craft brewer produces less than 2 million barrels per year and is independently owned. In other words, when it comes to beer, craft is the opposite of mass market industrial. And to that, we beer drinkers are saying cheers.
We, as consumers, are becoming far more conscious on a macro level of where our edibles come from, be that fair trade coffee, farmers’ market greens, or organic meat. Similarly, more and more Americans are discovering locally made, hand crafted beer.
Europe can scoff no longer, as America is doing more than catching up in the craft beer realm with new companies launching almost every week and the industry holding onto 6% of total beer sales in a $28.4 billion market. Holy pale ale.
What’s so good about it then? Here are some of my favourite craft beers and what I love about them. Bear in mind that I only started drinking beer in the last year so if my tame palate can handle these, so can yours. A beer connoisseur might scoff just slightly at my selections, but like I said, I’m new to beer and these are what I like. I’d love to know what you like too! Oh, and in the spirit of keeping it local, these are all from the Midwest. Find some craft brews from your region here.
1. Bell’s Oberon (Michigan)
This is the perfect summer brew, in my opinion. It’s an American wheat ale that tastes fruity and spicy. Super easy to drink, super delicious.
2. Lift Bridge Crosscut Pale Ale (Minnesota)
Lift Bridge says: “Well balanced amber pale ale accentuated by multiple additions of floral Cascade hops and our unique introduction of grapefruit zest to compliment the citrus notes of the hops.” I say, yum.
3. Summit Extra Pale Ale (Minnesota)
A Minneapolis classic; and in my husband’s words, a beer that has “mass-market distribution [in Minnesota] but craft beer quality”. I always thought this beer would be too hoppy for me but then I tried it whilst eating a plate of cheese and crackers and it was the perfect accompaniment.
4. New Glarus Spotted Cow (Wisconsin)
Hands down, my favourite beer to date. It’s a cloudy farmhouse ale that is fruity and ever so slightly malty. It irks me greatly that you can only buy this beer in Wisconsin but it just makes it all the more special when I get my hands on some.
5. Surly Furious (Minnesota)
This one is in here for my mister. I’m not quite on board with Surly Furious yet, but for the sake of anyone reading who is exasperated by my mild tastes, this one’s for you. He describes Furious as a wonderfully hoppy beer that is both bright and tart in flavour. A warning though: everything else you drink after it has the potential to taste bland. This is one powerful beer.
And there you have it. Thirsty yet?