Wednesday, 16 May 2012
American Craft Beer Week!
I think I've mentioned that I work on cruise ships and that gives me the opportunity to travel a lot. Well, I just did a quick fill-in contract that took me to 8 different European countries in 3 weeks.... my beer adventures from there will be blogged soon :-)
While I was away there was an excellent radio programme on BBC Radio 4 about craft brewing in the USA called The New Beer Frontier. I finally got to listen to it this week (the internet on cruise ships is a bit sketchy) which falls in line quite nicely with American Craft Beer Week.
Here's a summary of what I found interesting in the programme:
Originally, American brewing was influenced by British brewing techniques but this changed in the 1850s when an influence of German and Czech styles took over. In fact, brewing in American became almost entirely German oriented, with meetings even been held in German. Prohibition (from 1920-1933) skuppered the industry and when it was revoked, after WW1 a happy eye was not cast against an industry that was German run.
American brewing soon found the innovation of bottom fermentation, which led to the popularisation of lager beers that lasted longer but didn't have very complex taste (I'm looking at you Budweiser!)
The Craft Beer scene that we know and love today really took off in 1979 when home brewing was declared legal practice. Also around this time air fairs were slashed so more people were taking trips to Europe and experiencing the beers available there. The Americans came back from their European adventures and wanted to replicate the amazing flavours they had discovered.
In the 1980s, Boston was the place to be to taste new and exciting beers - Harpoon Brewery being one of the main culprits.
The Americans are now experimenting with many different styles and techniques. New World hops are giving beers bigger, fruiter flavours and aromas and breweries like Cambridge Brewing Co in New York are trying out barrel ageing with wine, spirits and port wine barrels.
There are a few breweries mentioned in the programme that I need to look up the next time I am drinking beer in America. The programme is still available on iPlayer here if you want to listen for yourself.