But as far as I'm concerned, I think there's a very valid argument to be made that America is the current master of beer brewing. Since the first day I set foot in the United States, I've been on a foamy journey of discovery that has never failed to impress me.
First off, though, let me set the record straight: When I'm talking about 'American Beer' I'm not referring to Budweiser, Miller or Schlitz - the post-war, mass-produced abomination that most people think of when they they hear the words 'American Beer.' That stuff is an insult to beer-making - a tasteless, watery concoction that uses cheap, subsidized rice to bolster the traditional recipe of water, barley, yeast and hops.
I'm talking about the microbreweries that exploded in the last decade or so - exploring the stunning array of beer-making possibilities and adding a uniquely American twist to traditional British, German and Belgian brewing techniques.
Here are my top three reasons for thinking American beer is better than British:
- It's more flavorful. Americans like their beer cold - icy cold. For that reason, most brewers make singularly robust recipes that have sharp, hoppy notes that can be enjoyed even at frigid temperatures. By comparison, British beer - often served lukewarm - is fairly tasteless.
- It's more refreshing. There's that cold thing again - but also a uniquely American twist on traditional recipes. British real ales tend to be flat. American palettes, weaned on Budweiser and other fizzy brews, still value the lightness and carbonation of lager and Pilsner. This has led many American brewers to combine the flavor and character of 'real' beer with the refreshing qualities of watered-down horse urine like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Natural Light.
- It's got character. From my personal favorite, brewed from Thomas Jefferson's original recipe, to modern twists on Belgian Wheat Beer and a host of I.P.A.s, American brewers are willing to try all sorts of exciting things that British brewers simply aren't. It's indicative of the fundamental difference between the American and British mindsets. Brits hold tradition to be sacred - especially when they're talking about beer. Americans, on the other hand, are willing to pus the envelope - with often spectacular results.
- Yards Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale: Yards is a brewery in Philadelphia, and this is one of their 'Ales of the Revolution.' Taken from Thomas Jefferson's authentic period recipe, it's a classic English style ale just marinating in flavor. While it's fairly flat, like many British real ales, it compensates for that by being a real piece of history.
- Sam Adams Boston Lager: This wonderful lager was my first introduction to American beer, and for that reason remains my sentimental favorite. Rich and hoppy, with a deep amber color and the refreshing lightness of lager, it's the epitomizes everything I feel is superior about American beer.
- Brooklyn Lager: Made by a little brewery down in Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn Lager is a winner in my books because it has many of the same traits as Sam Adams - it's light and refreshing, while packed with rich hoppy flavors and character.
- Sam Adams Noble Pils: A seasonal beer by the Boston Brewing Company, Noble Pils is a light Pilsner-style lager made with five different types of hop - making it packed with flavor, while deliciously light and refreshing. Unfortunately, it's not available all year round - since this is one of my favorites.
- Dale's Pale Ale: Made by a small brewery in Colorado, this flavorful pale ale is packed with hoppy taste and packs a punch at 6.5%. Not the cheapest of beers - especially considering it only comes in a can - it's nevertheless a real treat and one of my favorites.