Has American Craft Beer exceeded European Beer.

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BreakingBad, Nov 19, 2012.


Has American Craft beer surpassed European beer?

  1. Yes

  2. No

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  1. BreakingBad

    BreakingBad Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2012

    I know people idolize European beer like there is some magic voodoo that makes it taste amazing but I feel that they are afraid to experiment with really big beers and just stick to old recipes (don't get me wrong some of those recipes are damn good). What do you guys think?
  2. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,460) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    Funny to think that Europe is following America into the new era of craft experimentalism, but that is exactly what is happening. They shit on us as ignorant upstarts and big-flavor-loving, anti tradition, noobs, but the beer lovers over there are starting to demand the same innovations and big flavors we Americans now enjoy.

    We have bigger country, better ingredients, less jaded consumer base, our beers are better, our beer culture not so much.
  3. doopiedoopiedoo

    doopiedoopiedoo Initiate (0) Oct 2, 2010 Netherlands

    Not surpassed. Just added a new dimension.
    I like what American brewers are doing, pushing the enveloppes not being bothered or held back by tradition.
  4. mulder1010

    mulder1010 Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2008 Australia

    I would say near equal. US brewers can not match the best Euro lambics and sours and the Euros can not match US IPA's. Imperial Stouts are totally different as both areas have different taste profiles
  5. StJamesGate

    StJamesGate Poo-Bah (3,920) Oct 8, 2007 New York

    Does big equal good?

    Any fool can dump more hops into a DIPA, it takes real skill to get flavor into a 3.8% session beer.
  6. HenrikO

    HenrikO Initiate (0) Jun 19, 2011 Sweden

    I dunno about that. In the craft beer circles I know about (mainly the UK and Sweden, to a lesser extent Norway/Denmark), US craft brewing is idolized and looked up to - and rightly so, overall I think the best beer in the world today is made in the US (this is not to say that other countries don't make good beer, it's just that the US is ahead of the pack in terms of overall level of excellence). In ten years of living in the UK I haven't heard anyone shit on US beer and brewing, rather the opposite. All the best craft brewers over here (e.g. Kernel, Magic Rock, Summer Wine) often cite US brewers as their main influences.

    But to say that "European" brewers are "afraid to experiment" is also wrong - the variety and range in Europe is as great as the one in the US. The UK is often seen by outsiders as being very "traditional" but that simply isn't true anymore, there are many breweries here that routinely experiment, use weird ingredients, mix yeast strands and what have you. Even a _very_ traditional beer country like Germany has a growing craft beer scene. And some of the most exciting beer in Europe today is IMHO made in Italy, which has seen a (heavily US-influenced) craft beer boom in just a few years.

    For a lot of people, US beer equals Bud and Miller Lite and of course those people will say that US beer sucks - but I don't much care about their opinion since they don't know first thing about what's going on in US brewing overall. In the same way, I find I can easily dismiss people who think of "European" (it's not one country, folks, it's 30+ different ones, all with their own beer and brewing traditions) brewing as being somehow "too traditional" - it just demonstrates they don't know very much about what's going on in European brewing.
  7. mychalg9

    mychalg9 Champion (808) Apr 8, 2010 Illinois

    In terms of variety, I'd say yes. They do a few styles and they do them best, and I don't think we can match their quality of those styles, nor am I even sure if we want/need to.
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  8. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Champion (858) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Germany still crushes it with lagers when compared to the US, and hefeweizens for that matter. There's been some solid American hefeweizens the last years, such as Kellerweis and Dreamweaver. As mentioned above, the best place on earth to get a fine lambic or gueuze is Belgium. Also mentioned in a previous post, the US hasn't exactly come out with a variety of sessionable offerings that are complex from 3% to 4% like the English have (not to mention the multitude of bars that use cask as a gimmick and have no idea how to do it properly). Therefore, I think you could say it's equal, but definitely not surpassed. The US is unmatched with IPAs and big beers, but there just isn't enough of the former to say they've surpassed Europe.
  9. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,255) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    No. And the proof is in the pudding. No American brewer can make a reasonable facimile of a German Pilsener or a German Dopplebock or a German Hefeweizen. American brewers may certainly be more EXTREME vs. their German counterparts, but they aren't exceeding them in terms of quality or consistency.
  10. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,075) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    When I lived in Europe I was constantly told by people -- the large majority of whom had never explored U.S. craft beer -- that European beer was superior.

    Now I live in the U.S. and frequent the BA message boards where I am told by people -- the large majority of whom have never explored European beer at its source -- that U.S. craft beer is superior.

    If anything, no one has surpassed the other; rather the type of ignorance that used to be the exclusive domain of European snobs has come full-circle.
    zid, brikelly, Tom_Gilman and 29 others like this.
  11. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,460) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    Agree with everything you say, and glad to see you don't feel European nations shit on us. There are many nations in Europe, each with their own traditions, and it is good to see some traditions that fell by the wayside (lambic, gueuze, hoppy IPA's, others) are being revived behind the popularity of them in USA, and new traditions of boundary pushing are being explored, also behind the impetus of American fine beer lovers and fine beer brewers. Italy and UK stand out, but the rest of Europe is blossoming as well under the light of American excellence, as we did originally under the lights of European excellence.
    pixieskid likes this.
  12. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,509) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    Not to quibble with your main point, but the two styles I underlined are exactly where we are actually making inroads- so let's give credit where it's due. A couple of examples- Rammstein Blonde and SN Kellerweiss for hefes and Sunshine Pils and Pikeland Pils are more than reasonable facsimiles of their continental counterparts- they can definitely hold their own. Now if you had said Helles and Dunkel, on the other hand we'd be in more full agreement.
  13. mulder1010

    mulder1010 Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2008 Australia

    if you take the context of what BA is the US is near equal. In the larger scheme the US is still way behind. Agree on the German styles in a big way.
    RobertColianni likes this.
  14. brewbetter

    brewbetter Initiate (0) Jun 2, 2012 Nauru

    Regarding Beer Culture:
    More and more Americans are drinking beer that is not light lager while more and more Europeans are drinking beer that is light lager.

    Regarding Beer:
    In terms of variety and innovation, I think it undeniable that America is now the leader.

    In terms of interest in brewing, with so many small breweries and so many individuals brewing themselves, I think America is now leader.

    In terms of quality of beers available, I think it is up for debate, but America is getting better. I still give the edge to USA, but having to follow beer releases, fly across the country, or trade for something doesn't count as really available in my book.
    gentlystewed and whodeyvols like this.
  15. FlakyBiscuit

    FlakyBiscuit Initiate (0) Sep 11, 2012 Pennsylvania

    I think America has developed a beer culture of its own and makes it tough to compare. We have so many styles and so much experimentation that it makes it fun to go try all these styles. Some are hits and some are misses. I would say that the tried and true classic beers are still European made. I have been fortunate to travel to Germany and Belgium. The beers in those countries are amazing and define the styles.
  16. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (836) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    American beer culture has a lot to do with watching sports in person or on TV. In fact i'll bet that 50% or more of the beer (swill & craft) is drunk in front of a TV. I don't think that is the case in Europe.
  17. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    First problem with your poll; you are comparing one country with a conglomeration of countries with different traditions, people, beer cultures and brewing abilities/techniques.

    Secondly, there is no reason to say one is "better" than the other. We are comparing apples to oranges and one thing that I don't think enough people realize is that the saying "the grass is greener on the other side" is one of the most profound and relate-able sayings I can think of.

    Europeans (people I personally know from France, Germany, Scandinavia, Netherlands) are always on the lookout for fresh IPAs/DIPAs, BA/Imperial Stouts in general and especially from the states.
    On the other hand, I have friends in the states that pine for Lambic/Gueuze, Abbey styles, Saisons, Biere de Garde, etc.

    In regards to the poll my answer is NO, because I don't think there needs to be a comparison nor do I think that the point of this thread is all that clear/well thought out...
  18. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (369) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    i don't think beer is a competition.

    if it were, Amercans succeeded in surpassing the traditions of European beer in most every way. American brewers are generally much more adventurous and American beer drinkers (5% of us anyway) are willing to try different ideas.

    we have a long way to go though when it comes to accepting beer as food and culture. we also have this odd idea that all people who speak German, Flemish or English with an accent worship beer with historic measure.

    it's just beer.
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  19. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Google strongest beer in the world (the other beer site has a list of the strongest) and take a look at who is producing the "really big beers"...
  20. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (369) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    wow, you have compared all the German and American pils, dopples and hefe's? an there is not even a reasonable facsimile among any of them?
    maybe you don't get out much. or worse, you are certain you have.
  21. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    You'd be surprised at how many sub-par US breweries/beers there are...if you added up the 50 most popular/loved/sought after breweries in both the US and Europe(since the OP designed this thread by that parameter) I think we would be surprised at who was "better".
  22. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

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  23. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,346) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    That would primarily be because, in the US, brewers are not legally permitted to "freeze distill" their products (beyond the token 0.5% of volume allowed for US style "ice beers"), nor are such products able to be sold as a "malt beverage" (the US legal term for all beer).

    For instance, Brewdog's Sink the Bismarck (imported by Anchor) is registered with the US TTB (# 12045001000250) as a "DISTILLED SPIRIT", class #699 - "OTHER SPECIALTIES & PROPRIETARIES".
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  24. marquis

    marquis Crusader (760) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    There's no reason why it should be. Brewers and plant are no better in one country than another, the old brewing countries have different cultures so brew slightly differently.Germany and the Czech Republic excel in what they do best, the UK has a vast range of tasty low gravity beers and many pubs which know what they are doing in the cellar regarding cask ales.
    It's good that America has revived many long forgotten beer styles and with new varieties of ingredients the spectrum is wider than ever before.But these ingredients are used just as much outside the US as in.Most Americans understandably take the view that as the US beer scene is developing out of all recognition it's running ahead of the rest but of course a lot of this progress was simply catching up ! And the rest of the world hasn't been standing still while this happened. The micro revolution began here don't forget (we now have over 1000 "craft" breweries in the UK), there was change in the offing a few decades ago.
    Sorry CaveDave, a glance at the homebrewing section will dispel the notion that you have better ingredients. Domestic malt is recognised as bland and many homebrewers use imported expensive malt. Hops are a different matter though for some beer styles the older European varieties are still unbeaten.
    Penultimately, we are discussing matters of taste and opinion.I rarely for example drink bottled beer and the sight of rows of exotic bottles does nothing for me. I've also got through my phase of wanting strong or extreme beers.Interesting but I just like my pints in a lovely pub with good company.
    Finally, America is a big and populous place.It shouldn't be compared with any individual country but with say Europe as a whole.
  25. Mavajo

    Mavajo Initiate (0) Feb 10, 2007 Georgia

    The Europeans still have two things on the States: Lambics and Belgian Trappist beers. No one in the States has given the Europeans a legitimate run for their money in either category, IMO. Even the best State-side imitations are just that -- imitations.
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  26. Archemedies

    Archemedies Initiate (0) Dec 8, 2011 Massachusetts

    Give Jacks Abby another year or two. They are mainly just creating lagers, but have dwelled into other German styles like rauchbiers, schwarzbiers and pilsners. They are killing it here in MA. Kiwi Rising, an imperial pilsner, which just got rereleased a few days ago is out of this world. We are quickly catching up on German styles.
  27. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Huh well then that is exactly the reason, didn't know that...thanks for sharing.
  28. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    The three styles you just listed are lagers...
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  29. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Not all "Trappist" beers are Belgian...besides, Trappist is not even a style.
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  30. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,255) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    Hey Bill,

    Maybe saying there was no 'reasonable facimile' was being a bit harsh. But in accordance with the sentiment of the post, have I had an American brewed beer that was in the vein of a German or Belgian style beer and thought "this is just as good or better than what is produced across the pond", that answer is simply 'no'. Americans have yet to surpass them in terms of quality or consistency.
  31. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,387) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The American breweries do well in some of the lager categories at the WBC. There was a video from German TV that covered the state of the German beer industry after SN got a Gold for a Pilsner in 2010. The top 3 doppelbocks were all from America in 2010 IIRC.
  32. HenrikO

    HenrikO Initiate (0) Jun 19, 2011 Sweden

    Oh, I know that there are many sub-par US breweries! I've had far too many generic, boring, and often downright bad "American Brown Ales" in my US travels, for example. But I stand by my original opinion that the best beer in the world currently is made in the US (which of course does not mean that ALL US beers are better than ALL European beers). There are simply so many breweries from the US I would classify as "world-leading".

    I wouldn't say that the US is necessarily miles ahead though, just ahead. Europe is catching up fast, and watch out for Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
    drtth likes this.
  33. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,250) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    In some ways yes, in others, no. Overall - probably...but we have a looooong way to go in other ways.
    The sheer variety we have is pretty fortunate, though. There are large areas in Europe where you're essentially encountering Heineken clones, but then again there are places like Bruges or Bamberg that are something special, too. Just as similar, BMC still rules a lot of this country but we have places like Portland and Asheville as well.
    hopfenunmaltz likes this.
  34. Errto

    Errto Initiate (0) Oct 20, 2009 Connecticut

    Yes, but that doesn't mean it'll taste good. Sure, there's a new(-ish) crop of craft beer drinkers who think the stronger and hoppier the better, end of story, but my experience says hardly anyone stays in that state very long.

    Making a world-class big beer I don't think is any easier than making a world-class small beer. There's room in the world for both.
  35. aasher

    aasher Poo-Bah (2,703) Jan 27, 2010 Indiana

    Americans had passed the rest of the world awhile ago. We make everything and at a high level. just look at all the high quality IPAs coming from numerous local markets. The Germans are limited to ten or so styles. The Belgians are limited to ten or so styles. The English are too traditional. This isn't even close.
  36. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (369) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    fair enough. its an opinion after all.
  37. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,075) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    There are a handful. Problem is, they are following the German brewing practices very closely, not only in terms of their ingredients, styles, and processes, but also in terms of distribution. World-class German-style beer is almost exclusively consumed as fresh, and as close to the source, as possible. Brewers like Olde Mecklenburg in NC and New Glarus in WI understand this, and refuse to distribute beyond their immediate area. If you can find their products fresh, I think you'll find that a handful of U.S. brewers have managed to replicate world-class German styles here. Now, have they actually *surpassed* the best examples from Europe instead of simply matching them in quality and consistency? Despite my love for these brewers, I'd still say no.
    steveh likes this.
  38. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,250) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    While I don't necessarily disagree with you, I'm pretty sure the brewers in those countries could just as easily say that we usually just throw a boatload of hops and a high gravity yeast at everything. We then muddle out the problems by aging it in a bourbon barrel and declare it "rare" to justify a higher price.
    If we're going to generalize, it does go both ways.
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  39. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Yeah and look at all of the low-quality IPAs coming out of numerous local markets...

    In regards to German/Belgian/English: just because they have historical roots and practices, doesn't mean there aren't progressive breweries in those countries.

    An example of each and that doesn't include a dozen world class breweries I could name of the top of my head from "Europe":
    German; Freigeist/Braustelle
    Belgian; De Struise
    England; Kernal
  40. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Way easier to hide flaws in strong beers than in low abv beers.
    BigCheese likes this.
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