Great radio yesterday on the Food Programme about US beer’s influence on Brit brewing (hear it here). Lots of mentions of hops and barrel ageing (plus gruit, which I found particularly satisfying having recently sat down and broke bread and drank beer with Anika at Gruut), great breweries and the pebble-in-mouth tone of the best beer writer about. I liked the fact that the programme explained things, especially with CBC’s solera system (incidentally the first US brewpub I visited back in 1996). Yet British brewing, I have often felt when we talk about the American influence, cannot afford to sit back and pat itself on the back — hops and more hops yes, but when you go to the US there is more to their beers than just hops and barrel ageing. When I went round Vermont a couple of years ago (read here) I had some of the best Alt I had tasted outside Dusseldorf; a Doppelbock made with yeast brought back from Andechs; a beer that had been aged in wine barrels and a Svetly Lezak that I could have sworn came from a small country brewery in Bohemia rather than a small place called Bristol. Hops are all well and good and I bow to no man in my love of a hoppy beer, but where are the lagers, the Alt, the Kolsch, the tripels, the Schwarz, the Gose, the lambic? Before we start putting the laurels on the head of British beer let’s remember that the US guys have set up bases on Mars while we seem to be still on the Moon (even though we once had pretensions for Mars and still might have in the future).
Oh and before getting too carried away about this past weekend, don’t forget that cider and Alice Temperley got fabulous coverage in the Times on Saturday but on the other hand it is behind a paywall (as is some of my work so I’m not making a big thing out of it).