Thursday 9 December 2010

Brewed in the USA

I’m sat in the departure lounge of Newark Airport. It’s 7PM here but way past bedtime back home. I am looking forward excitedly to the prospect of an 8 hour flight followed by a 4 hour sub zero drive back followed by 4 hours of work in the brewery tomorrow. The purpose of my trip as you may know was to make Doom Bar in the US and it's mission accomplished although not quite on the scale I would have liked.

I have also had the displeasure of driving the best part of the way into New York thanks a Sat Nav which couldn’t pronounce the word route (rout) and was seconds from being thrown into the Hudson River or stuck up the car hire rep’s “tail pipe”. Over the 3 days I have been in the US I’ve met brewers from 3 breweries and sampled about 40 different beers. It is good to see that it isn’t only British brewers who suffer from flavour faults and hazy beers. 30 out of the 40 beers I tried had hazes which would have been out of spec in most breweries. The low points for flavour were:
  • An under-carbonated, oxidised spiced “lager” which tasted like mouthwash
  • A pilsner which tasted only of diacetyl
  • A golden ale which was so badly oxidised that it tasted like it had been filtered through chip paper
  • A tripel which tasted of autolysed yeast
  • A Flemish-style red ale which had so much diacetyl on it that it made me feel sick
  • A boiled cauliflower-flavoured lite beer
Two of the beers I tried were probably the worst I can remember. One was indescribably woeful. I name no names as it may have been a problem with the kegs but I suspect not. I was drinking with Johannes the Brewmaster from Eibauer in Germany who was even more fastidious about acceptable flavours and he couldn’t find a drink that he could finish. The bar staff thought with good cause that we were insane.

I did try a few good ones as well. Harpoon IPA, Six Point Otis and Jack & Ken’s Ale were very good indeed.

An exciting aspect of the trip is that I have been asked by the US marketing company to brew 50 Hop IPA in the US for the American market. Organising delivery of 50 different hop varieties to a brewery the other side of the Atlantic may present a challenge.


ZakAvery said...

Sounds like a blast - I'm pleased you made it there. I'm sure the return leg will be faultless (snigger).

I visited Sixpoint a couple of years ago, and thought they were very good then - they seem to be doing good things.

Alistair Reece said...

An American pilsner that tastes of diacetyl - pretty much describes the vast majority of American attempts to brew a pilsner (Victory and Devils Backbone being the notable exceptions).

arn said...

Nice to read an honest report of some US beers, reading blogs you are sort of given an impression that theres not a bad beer in the US craft scene sometimes.

Alistair Reece said...


There are many, and most of them are lagers - though to be fair, the good lagers I have had here are very good. I admit a decade of Czech lager may have jacked up my expectations though.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

I often wonder if the point of dispense is the culprit in the US, I was in one brewpub in Vermont this year and the beer was awful, as dead as Elvis in the loo in 1977 (though without the peanut jelly sarnies), while elsewhere I taste one pint of Sam Adams in that nice glass and it was lovely and then another in a rubbish ordinary glass was back to Elvis lying prone in the loo. Maybe the amount of beers in the US (which is still the most exciting place on earth to drink beer) is reaching a stage where this sort of thing is going to be a problem. As an aside, Italy is exciting but in one brewpub I struggled to enjoy the beers proferred, high carbonation and yeast infection running across the palate like some 70s streaker at Twickenham.

Beard Beer Blogger said...

Sad to hear you disliked some of that east coast beer, I hope it doesn't sour you to American craft beer. If you want a better beer experience you need to make your way at least as far west as the midwestern states, with the best beer being largely found in the rocky mountain states and the western coastal states. Personally I have found very few beers brewed on the east coast that I have found acceptable. Adrian, is partially correct in that few pub/bar owners in the states have any idea how to pour a beer, perhaps that was part of the problem.

Stuart Howe said...

Thanks for the comments gents, You must remember that commercial brewers are picky bastards and flavours inoffensive to beer enthusiasts are repugnant to us at trace concentrations. Commercial brewers are also hung up about beer clarity when most drinkers don't worry about it too much. The two especially offensive beers were sampled in a restaurant so turnover from kegs may have been the source of the issue although in my experience VDK on its own is seldom a symptom of poor keg handling.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I have had conversations with US brewers about clarity. Basically the answer was they dont care about it. Big dry hop hazes used as an excuse for all sorts of other haze issus.
I have heard certain punters seeking out hazy beers as they think they taste better. I think the opposite but there you go.

We get alot of American entrys to the BrewNZ Competition. Oxidiation is always a huge issue, and afterwards there is always alot of backlash from certain beer bars / punters who routinely drink heavily oxidised beer and cant understand why we fault there beers because of it.

MicMac said...

In my not at all recent experience of East Coast drinking, there were some cracking beers to be had, incl decent lagers - Stoudt's, Victory, Dogfish, Flying Fish, Brooklyn, Yards.

Lew Bryson knows the score -

I was however straight-facedly served a pint of yeast in one place - not cloudy beer, just yeast!

Sam said...

Did you get Doom bar in the US??? It's my husband's favourite beer and I would love to get him some over here.... We are in New Jersey.

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