On the first Friday of every month beer bloggers around the world join together for The Sessions (which are also known as Beer Blogging Friday). There’s no entry fees or membership required, we all just write a blog entry on a pre-determined topic each month.
This month’s session is hosted by Adrian Dingle at Ding’s Beer Blog. His topic is the United States versus Old World beer culture.
‘‘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 coloured 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.’’
Much more succinctly he says ‘‘What the hell has America done to beer?’’.
What have those pesky Americans done to beer? Well they’ve done good and they’ve done bad.
Obviously the biggest good they’ve done is give the whole craft beer scene a new lease of life. Sure, there were a range of brewers over in Europe – most notably Belgium – but I reckon the renaissance of good beer that we’re experiencing here in Australia and others are likewise experiencing around the world, just doesn’t happen if the Americans don’t take the lead.
For better or for worse, the rest of the world takes many of its cues from the United States. So when a load of people in the United States started making and drinking good beer, that inspired others around the world to give it a go.
So we had brewers wanting to try something different to the lagers that are so prevalent here in Australia. And we had people who’d perhaps come back from a trip to the US, or knew someone who had, and got turned onto the beers that way. So they went and bought those new beers the new brewers were making.
Now, of course, taking our cues from the United States isn’t always a great idea. It means we start to think Miley Cyrus is a good singer for one, and it also means that a lot of old people like me start talking about ‘‘twerping’’ ignorant of the fact that anyone who is not a teenager who uses teenager words instantly looks like a dolt.
In the beer world, taking cues from America has led to the belief in some segments that ‘‘bigger is better’’. An IPA isn’t really an IPA unless it’s got a stupid amount of hops in it. A beer isn’t a beer unless it’s about 15 per cent alcohol. Funnily enough it’s the beer version of the stereotype that foreigners have of Americans – they’re just too loud and demand that everyone take notice of them.
Now I have been known to drink those high alcohol, heavily hopped beers – but just for the experience. It’s a novelty – drink it so I can tick it off the list. They’re certainly not beers that I’d come back to. God no, I don’t want to drink two beers, be punched in the face with hops and fall asleep drunk. I want some session beers, something I can drink three or four of and still be rational.
A lot of those beers exist here in Australia, but I can’t help but think the alcohol content is creeping up. Seems to be 6 per cent is now becoming the norm for craft beer, which I take as being a result of the US influence.
Which is a bit of a pity because I’ve always felt that high-alcohol beers are the easy option. All that alcohol hides any flaws. But a lower-alcohol beer, now that is a concept that allows the true skills of the brewer to shine. If they can make a three or four per cent beer that tastes fantastic, then you know they’ve got some special talents indeed.