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. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,448) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Good observation about the spelling. Yes, the name of the beer is Vunderbar Pilsner. I suppose they did that for us non-German speaking Americans.


    P.S. The proper German spelling would be Wunderbar, right?
  2. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,043) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    50 million fans of peanut butter banana ale can't be wrong! :wink:
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  3. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    Can we re-run this poll and only open it to people who have travelled to say at least 5/10 states in the US AND at least 3 or more countries in Europe.

    I think the as entirely expected 'Aren't we the biggest and bestest in the US - hooooorah ! ' answers would dwindle a little !

    And this comes from someone who rates the US as their favourite brewing country btw!
  4. brewbetter

    brewbetter Initiate (0) Jun 2, 2012 Nauru

    The only reasons to even have this discussion are Cantillon and Hanssens imo.
    It's really not that easy to get Cantillon in Europe though. It is if you happen to live next to one of the stores that get distribution, but those are few and far between.
    I fall in this group. I stand by the position that USA is far-and-away the best country for beer.
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  5. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    As stated the US is my favourite brewing country also, however pretty much all the decent stuff being brewed in the UK never makes it to the US - you just get fobbed off with Sam Shits and the like.

    My point being, a lot of people who post on here have little concept of what goes on outside the US and what is actually being brewed elsewhere. You have to travel, and fairly regularly at that ( I'm not talking a one off trip or every 3/4 years) to truly keep on top with developments in Europe and the US.
    Zimbo likes this.
  6. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (211) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

  7. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,448) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    You are indeed a funny guy!:slight_smile:

    I thought it would be interesting to do a quick review of traditional (read: German) style beers comparing German brewery awards vs. US brewery awards. The results are:

    Germany: 18
    US: 22

    If you do a more generalized comparison of Europe and North America (Canada won 3 medals):

    Europe: 24

    North America 25

    The US did very good in winning medals for non-peanut butter banana ales!


    P.S. The above were for Categories 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, and 54.
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  8. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,043) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    The Elvis connection there was just too difficult to resist. Cheers!
  9. nrs207

    nrs207 Defender (687) Sep 8, 2011 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    This says a lot. I'd say USA too, but IPAs are my favorite style. The only imports I ever find myself wanting are lambics/gueuzes. Other than this style, I think America has too many amazing breweries. Not saying overall quality of breweries across the nation, but outside of sours, breweries like Hill Farmstead, Russian River, FFF, Founders, CCB, Firestone Walker, Bell's, The Bruery, The Alchemist (even though only one beer), and widely distributed Stone and Sierra Nevada. I could do a pick em with 3 of any of those and live happily ever after. RR ain't too shabby with sours compared to the Belgian counterparts. I'm definitely biased since I hardly drink lagers so I have little appreciation for many of the German styles.
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,448) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    An interesting interview with Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy at: http://www.citypaper.net/blogs/mealticket/the_meal_ticket_interview_cantillon_brewer_jean_van_roy.html

    “MT: Cantillon has a huge following in Philadelphia. People here love your beers.

    JVR It is incredible ... I cannot express the feeling here. There is nothing like it, even in Brussels.”

    Another interesting Jean Van Roy story:

    “Jean Van Roy, whose family runs Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels, made his first visit to the United States for Beer Week. As he was checking into his Center City hotel, the desk clerk noticed the brewery logo on Van Roy's shirt and launched into unsolicited praise for the tiny brewery's unusual, funky gueuze.

    A couple of hours at Monk's Café, where his beer was served alongside lambics from 3 Fonteinen and Boon breweries, Cantillon related the story with astonishment. "All of these years, no one in Brussels ever recognized me," he said. "I come to Philadelphia, and they know me. I love this town."

    Above from: http://www.philly.com/philly/restaurants/beer/20100611_Joe_Sixpack__As_Philly_Beer_Week_continues__here_are_some_fave_brews.html

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  11. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,412) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    For my thinking I only thought of styles for which comparison would be fair. For instance regarding UK beers, English Barley Wines, as they certainly travel well, and Porters and Stouts for the same reason. I gave the crown to UK handily for milds, bitters, English Pales, ESB, and Scotch Ale. As far as the bigger beers go, we have equal or better, and we have 80 other styles in multiple variations UK, and most of the rest of Europe, don't have.

    I don't need to travel to know that you don't have them better, one needs only read to see you don't have them at all. I was at a brewfest recently and counted over 30 styles among 100 beers. And that is a small number for fests, TAP NY had about 50 styles represented. And that is hardly most of the styles we brew here. In the last 2 months I have had a coffee pale ale, a coffee Black IPA, and a Peach Berliner Weisse ,all fantastic, and all brewed within forty miles of where I live I bet there are more and better Berliner Weisses brewed in the northeast corner of this country than in Germany and the rest of Europe combined. How many styles represented in any one country of Europe? Or in all of Europe for that matter?

    We are too lacking in tradition here to know better than to try our hands at all these styles. We are too lacking in tradition here to know better than to think we can do things better than Europeans. We are too lacking in tradition to know better than to combine styles and use ingredients that none but the most foolish non-European would think to use. We are too lacking in tradiition to know better than to aggressively breed as many new hop varieties as possible.

    I read things are changing over there, especially in UK and Italy. It is you following us now, and that is good.
    luwak likes this.
  12. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    That's such a quaint old American statement - I love it :slight_smile:

    Things have changed - you just need to be here to experience it - NO sorry - you don't need to travel - typical Beer Advocate US blinkers!!!

    Like I said we just send you the boring stuff you expect to come from the UK!

    I can see you are obsessed with 'style counting' and as ALWAYS the US win but really ... Scotch Ales DO NOT EXIST apart from in the mind of some beer judging men in the US!
    jmw, herrburgess and steveh like this.
  13. rrryanc

    rrryanc Disciple (311) May 19, 2006 California
    Beer Trader

    But what hides the flaws is flavor. It's extremely hard to hide flaws in water too....

    Also, if the flaws are hidden, then why's it matter as long as it tastes good. I don't really care how good the brewers are at their jobs, I care what the end product tastes like.

    I traveled a lot this last year to Europe (7+ trips) (and have been around a lot of the outside of the US in my years of living her), and the main difference for me was that a lot of Europe has no interest in good beer at all.

    Pretty much anywhere in the US you're able to grab at least a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or a Sam Adams Lager. And the idea of a small brewpub is extremely common.

    Now head to Italy, Spain, France or Portugal (4 of the countries I visited this last year). I found some decent beers in Italy, but by and large if you're not drinking wine there you're doing it wrong. They all have local, ubiquitous, and boring beers available.

    I don't love German beer styles, I think they're generally pretty boring beers, which definitely biases my opinion toward that brewing culture. I do appreciate that finding a locally brewed beer is way easier and much more a part of the culture there. Same goes for London. Actually found it hard to find reasonable beers at most pubs. And they have a tendency to have a ton of similar tasting beers - with the main distinction being able to get something slightly more bitter, or cask style.

    I only managed to spend time in Brussels in Belgium, but I do think they make some great beers (duh), and I also think that culturally they're far past a lot of the US when it comes to beer choices and selections at any random establishment - as well as the high end choices for the connoisseurs.

    But generally, I think you're better off in any random pub/bar in the US than most of Europe when it comes to craft beer. Given how much I'm traveling to Europe these days, I wish that wasn't the case (my Brussels trip was one of the better ones).
    luwak and brewbetter like this.
  14. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    France, Spain and Portugal (especially) are pretty low on the good beer stakes. Spain is starting to emerge a little, France has a small amount. You have hit on some of the most limited countries there. Parts of Italy, Roma especially are great now.

    In respect to your comment about pretty much anywhere in the US being able to grab SNP or a Sam Adams, ditto UK, Germany or Belgium.

    You'll get something of equal rarity/quality in most bars. I find a lot of the cask bitters in the UK on the dull side in average pubs not renowned for good beers, however I feel the same about SNP and Sam Adams - they are a default choice if there is nothing better, but don't really do anything for me.

    Which pubs did you hit in London?
  15. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (824) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    What about the twins oh thats 2 good reasons!
  16. epk

    epk Initiate (147) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    What hides flaws? Well, alcohol content was already mentioned. Dark roasted malts can hide off flavors. Hops and bitterness are another thing. And I mentioned esters because in top-fermenting yeasts (ale yeasts) which are fermented warmer, esters are more prolific and accepted to a degree for beers that would fall under that umbrella.

    And you misunderstand. That's the point - the flaws are hidden, it probably taste fine and you like it. The same flaw in a cleaner beer may be apparent however, and you may not like it.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  17. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,043) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    The only thing preventing Germany from "having" the latest/greatest barrel-aged Imperial whatever is marketing speak. All you'd need to do, for example, is rename Schlenkerla Urbock or Eiche "Beechwood/oak smoked, Bock/Imperial Bock aged in hand-hewn Franconian oak barrels" and then mention its limited availability and gravity-fed serving method...oh, and serve it by the 4 oz. sample to only those beer "advocates" devoted enough to camp out to get some, and voila! You just created 2 new "exciting styles." This process then need only be replicated for the 1000s of individualistic Keller-, Zoigl-, Zwickel-, Land-, and Ungespundete beers, not to mention the Braunbier, Schwarzbier, Helles, Dunkles, Dampfbier, etc., etc., each with their own idiosyncrasies, found within a 100 mile radius of Bamberg. I'm pretty sure the brewers there will leave that to the U.S. "experts" on such marketing speak, however, since in general they are themselves too busy brewing and enjoying these beers in centuries old breweries, shady beer gardens, and historic taverns to worry much about such adolescent posturing.
    DeutschesBier likes this.
  18. rrryanc

    rrryanc Disciple (311) May 19, 2006 California
    Beer Trader

    Ya, but people always talk about European beer, and then focus on the beer scenes in two of the smallest countries there. I certainly didn't go to Italy expecting great beer (though I did find some very good beers, which I was surprised by), but Italy, Spain, and France certainly comprised a good deal of both the people and space in Europe.

    Concentrating on UK, Germany and Belgium is like telling someone to hit up New England, CA and the Pacific Northwest. I guarantee you'll find more variety at the random bars there then I did in London, even in the touristy place.

    I didn't hit up anywhere notable in London, was there for a conference with non-beer people. I just remember feeling like most all of the beers I drank tasted very similar. Not bad, but largely unremarkable.
  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,448) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    You gotta give a hand to the Germans with their biergartens. I have seen the pictures, they look sweet!:slight_smile:


    I can’t wait until I win the lottery so I can sit under those spreading Chestnut Trees!

    I did make it to Wurstfest in New Branufels, TX. Sorta a biergarten but you can wear a Cowboy hat there. I was donned in a traditional alpine hat myself.

  20. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    That is London and the UK in a nutshell - you'll pick up a safe drinkable (if somewhat boring at times) bitter in nearly every bar.

    For the exceptional you need to hit on certain venues with prior research, exactly the same as when I travel in the US.

    If you're in London again, BM me and we'll hit 3 bars around a mile apart with around 100 quality Handpumps/taps between them!
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  21. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,176) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    I do find the style thing kind of amusing. Over here it seems like we love to give every single beer variant a new style name, while beers from Belgium, the UK, and Germany are lumped into these giant groupings and people say ”they only make 5-6 different styles." You can break things down as little or as much as you want depending on what kind of point you want to make.

    I don’t get why this has to be some kind of “we’re better than you” kind of thing, and I suppose that’s going to come from all sides – not just Americans. Ask a CAMRA advocate who makes the best beer in the world and I’m pretty sure you know the answer you’re going to get. Ditto with a Bavarian or someone living in Belgium, too.

    I think it’s cool that you can travel the world and get different, but good, beers in a lot of different places.
  22. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    The Bavarians are the staunchest supporters of their own beers world wide. I've spoken to some who won't touch other German beers from other Bundeslandes, and in Franconia who dismiss non Franconian beers!
  23. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,043) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    No doubt! I dealt with this for years. I'd even go one step further to where a member of the Stammtisch at Mahr's or Klosterbrau wouldn't be caught dead in the Schlenkerla or Spezial taverns. I am more surprised, honestly, by my fellow countrymen's aversion to the notion that countries with millennia of brewing experience and tradition can hold their own against a adolescent (at best) brewing culture in the U.S.
  24. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,176) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Yup, I find them to be pretty particular including one I met at Keesmann who told me that "Muenchen beer is awful - you don't want to ever get stuck down there." 2 minutes later he mentioned he enjoyed Miller High Life (a shockingly common import in Germany)...so I have no idea what to think of that.
    I've gotten strong reactions from some Englishmen that swear if something isn't real ale, it's not even drinkable.

    I love German beers to death, but even I have to admit that after more than a week over there I start craving an IPA just to shake things up. I think on my next trek I'm going to bring along some cans of Modus Hopperandi to reset my palate halfway :stuck_out_tongue:.
  25. rrryanc

    rrryanc Disciple (311) May 19, 2006 California
    Beer Trader

    I guess my point is that in the beer-centric parts of the US, you can hit up random bars and pubs and expect to get a wide range of offerings. That's the US-bias coming through, but I personally get bored drinking the same style after about 5-6 beers. Switching between an IPA, saison, bitter and stout as my preferences change? Yes please. Will all those beers be good, or even average? Probably not, but like you said to get the exceptional you need to hit the right spots no matter where you're at.

    That being said, I'll definitely hit you up the next time I'm in London. I didn't do my homework last time, and was pretty disappointed overall.
  26. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,043) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    I, too, start craving American IPAs in particular over there. They were always the first style I'd reach for on return trips to the U.S.
  27. mikebeachnd

    mikebeachnd Initiate (0) Jan 11, 2012 Illinois

    Same thing happened with wine. Europe invented it. US made it better.
  28. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,014) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I used to know a few native Germans who Holidayed in Florida and couldn't wait to drink Bud Light. I think it's a cross between drinking local and drinking something that is so washed out that you don't have to think about it.

    On the opposite side, I had a German friend, ex-pat, living in my area who wouldn't drink anything but a well-kept and served German import.
  29. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,014) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Not better, but maybe as good. Try a good French Chardonnay next to a California Chardonnay and I think you'll be happy to drink both bottles. I have, and I wanted to! :wink:
    drtth likes this.
  30. rrryanc

    rrryanc Disciple (311) May 19, 2006 California
    Beer Trader

    I guess I am missing the point. I don't see why people bring this up in arguments about better beers. I understand using it when someone claims that the guys at AB-Inbev are terrible brewers that are just creating crap.
    Is the unstated suggestion that brewers that brew high alcohol and/or dark roasted and/or hoppy beers because they're unable to brew cleaner beers?
  31. flayedandskinned

    flayedandskinned Initiate (0) Jan 1, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    In terms of variety and creativity, yes America surpassed Europe.
  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,448) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    I just want to echo what rrryanc recently discussed. I too cherish the diversity of good beer available here in the US (from US craft brewers).

    Last Friday night at a local beer bar I had:

    · Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner: a well-made German style Pilsner but too light tasting for my palate
    · Victory Braumeister Pils – Wet hopped: this beer was very, very good.
    · Free Will Pale Stout: this beer tasted more like a Northern English Brown Ale and it was excellent
    · Uinta Green Hopped Wyld Fresh Hop: a 4% IPA which was hopped with wet Simcoe Hops; this beer was very good.

    I also had a taste of Stoudt’s Alter Bier which is an Alt brewed with US hops (this beer was very tasty).

    I have had the chance travel overseas for business (granted this was a number of years ago). I would always seek out good beer bars on my overseas travels. I truly believe that we have the best (in quality and diversity) beers here in the US. Just my humble opinion.

  33. epk

    epk Initiate (147) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    I guess it's my fault, I wasn't really commenting on the thread's actual topic. I was just expanding on the note about hiding flaws in the general sense - not which brewers are doing which. I'd probably defend brewers from both sides of the argument.

    I'm certainly not trying to say brewers that make certain types of beer can't make another. Good brewers can brew any style they put their mind to, I'm sure. Victory is a nice example of a company that makes solid lagers and ales, both low and high gravity, of various IBUs and color.

    To be honest I don't put any stock into this sort of thread anyway. I didn't even actually do the poll.
  34. Barrelsnbeer

    Barrelsnbeer Initiate (0) Oct 6, 2012 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    from my experience in retail, i have tons of European tourist come through my doors in the summer time, all they ever want is american craft beer. ive also had more than a handful tell me they just dont get the vast selection of different flavor profiles as we have in the states. its also a question of availability too. americans lust after and sensationalize beers from other countries since we dont have them every day so Europeans do the same for ours.
  35. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,412) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    And you are obsessed with not counting the styles you cannot drink, because, as ALWAYS the U.S. win.

    Perhaps you will explain how it isn't exactly on point when discussing the better beer country to point out the great variety of styles we get to enjoy, the amazing variety of different flavors and ingredients we get to enjoy, the thrills we constantly get from our brewers creating such new and wonderful treats for us. To me, that means we enjoy better. Perhaps you will explain my mistake about this. Like I said, I can read, and that shows that you don't have near the styles we have, done well ,or otherwise. I explained how I arrived at my conclusion. When my youngest is through with school I fully plan to visit UK and Belgium and Germany. Amazingly, the reading skills I have allow me to know quite a bit about all these nations.

    And, sorry, I meant Scottish Ales (and I was being generous trying to think of some few styles you do better), though I believe the more geeky of you guys dispute even that distinction.
    cinghialetwo likes this.
  36. keithmurray

    keithmurray Meyvn (1,152) Oct 7, 2009 Connecticut

    That's the whole thing I have a problem with. Where exactly are american brewers being "creative"? 12+% DIPA's? Throwing beer into a bourbon barrel for a couple of months &watching people line up for it?

    I just want to see where brewers are being so "creative". My take on it is that brewers here in the US are more "EXTREME" than anyone else, which is a different ball game from being more "creative" than someone else.
    herrburgess and Giovannilucano like this.
  37. flayedandskinned

    flayedandskinned Initiate (0) Jan 1, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    Oh dude, come on now man. Look at what Vinnie is doing at RR with matching certain wild ales with particular wine barrels; Look at Sam at Dogfish Head and his insane, whacky ideas, the guy just brewed a beer with applewood ash in it. Look at all of the new hybrid styles of beer that Americans have come up with? So many in fact we are now influencing breweries over seas like Haandbrygeriet and Brewdog as far as pushing the envelope style wise and adjunct wise. Dude we over A LOT more than high alcohol content. Blows my mind that anyone on this forum can't see that we are definitely leading the world as far as flavor and creativity goes. Europeans are now taking notes from our brewing ideas and techniques.
  38. Giovannilucano

    Giovannilucano Devotee (452) Feb 24, 2011 New Jersey

    Such as the case of Italian craft beer! I have been telling EVERYONE the "secret" to the Italian craft is using ingredients foreign to the Italian palate and I believe this to be creative to a point!
  39. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,043) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Industry Beer Trader

    The official requirements of the U.S. Creativeheitsgebot are:

    1. Select an invented "base" style: Imperial IPA; American Belgian-style Quad; Black IPA; American Wild/Lambic-style sour

    2. Insert one or more of the following during the brewing or dispensing process (note: do NOT add to the rim of the glass): citrus/tropical fruit; coffee, vanilla, bourbon, chocolate; dark fruit, rum; other fruit/blueberry, raspberry, etc.

    3. Choose your gimmick: new hops combination/IBU level; Brett or other wild yeast; barrel-aging; limited release, rarity

    Follow the above steps and you, too, will be "creative." It's actually pretty simple.
  40. Giovannilucano

    Giovannilucano Devotee (452) Feb 24, 2011 New Jersey

    I have to kindly and respectfully ask: do you enjoy Italian craft beer? And as well do you respect European beer as a whole?
    cinghialetwo likes this.
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