Why we've fallen in love with American Craft Beer

American craft beer is great. Not only has it inspired breweries like BrewDog, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, The Kernel, DarkStar, Marble and Summer Wine to push the boundaries of 'British Beer', but it's also vastly improved the bottled beer selection that's on offer over here. I mean sure we aren't drinking it quite as fresh as our trans-atlantic cousins, but damn those hops still taste good!

There was a great article on The Guardian website recently about American craft beer making inroads over here and for once i've been forced to agree with a national about beer; it is getting wider availability in the UK. A recent trip to The Stew & Oyster cemented my feeling that normal pubs and bars in the UK are starting to broaden their bottled beer horizens, and the perfect way to do that is with some tasty American craft beer. If we can get more pubs with good British cask beer on the bar, bottled US craft beer in the fridge, and maybe even some UK or US craft keg available too I'll be a very happy bunny.

So on to the beer that got me thinking about the US craft invasion, and how it's inspired and pushed forward breweries in the UK, Victory Hop Devil.

Victory Hop Devil is a great example of why I fell in love with American beer. It's the antithesis to boring beer. Bright, brash, bold, super hoppy, tasty and damn drinkable. It even looks a bit gaudy. I love it.

The beer pours a rich amber orange, very clear and clean but with a fairly thick hop haze and an ever so slight tinge of red, like someone's pippetted a single drop of cherry juice into the glass. The aroma is a mix of sharp citrus marmalade and pine resin, with a faint touch of caramel sweetness.

The flavour is initially slightly sweet and fruity with hints of orange and underripe mango, before it becomes extremely dry and bitter with a spicy, stinging attack of orange pith dryness, resinous pine and just masses of complex hop bitterness, in the finish there's also a faint edge of sweet Cointreau booze from the medium-high (in US terms) 6.7% ABV.

The hop flavour of this beer is the star of the show, and there's a nice balance between orange peel, grapefruit and loads of pine that combine to create a huge onslaught of complex bitterness. Its got that classic American IPA flavour, more resinous than floral, with a herbacious spiciness rather than the um bongo fruityness that hop forward British IPA's like Punk display. Maybe it's the fact these hops have had chance to settle but you get a lot more spicy, resinous hop flavour and bitterness than you do fruitiness and aroma with these American craft beers.

It's not a new beer (brewed since 1999), but it's one that most British beer drinkers won't have tried, and as an inroad to big American IPA's it's not a bad place to start. Available from Beer Ritz in Leeds (if your quick), and often from the online retailers such as AlesByMail, MyBreweryTap and BeerMerchants.

Give it a try, and long may the invasion continue!

4 comments:

  1. They used to sell that and Golden Monkey at Safeways before Morrisons got hold of it, along with a load of other great beers — I also like their brooding imperial stout Storm King and their hefty take on a Baltic porter, whose name escapes me at the moment.

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  2. Didn't know about Safeway, what a shame they no longer sell it!

    It's a perfect example of the reason the American Craft brewing scene is so important to modern British beer. Without the brashness of beers like this we wouldn't have BrewDog and the like.

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  3. ther beer buyer was Glenn Payne who used to invite us to twice yearly beer tastings of their beers, I remember Mark Dorber of the White Horse brandishing a bottle of Goose Island IPA in my direction and raving about it, this must have been about 2001 or even earlier — I’d been to the US in 96 and discovered their beer scene but it was great to get it over here.

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  4. The test of a good beer is often its lengevity, and Goose Island IPA can still stand shoulder to shoulder with any American beer I'd say. A great beer!

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