When the adventurous Pilgrims set foot on American soil in the early 17th century, they brought with them more than just dreams of exploring the new world. They brought with them language, culture, ideas, and tradition—beer being one (if not the most) important! From the humble beginnings of beer in the Americas, the United States has evolved into a global powerhouse of craft beer innovation and creativity. In this article, The Session will journey from early pioneers brewing, through Prohibition, to today, where uniquely American beer styles have flourished.
As the European settlers began arriving from the East, they quickly recognized the importance of beer as a staple beverage in their new land. The colonists, primarily of English, Dutch, and German origin, brought with them years of brewing expertise. They brewed not only to enjoy the drink but also because it was a necessity! Safe drinking water was scarce, and the beer they brewed offered a more sanitary drinking option. With the colonies growing and more people making it to America, brewing became a vital part of the local economy. Numerous local breweries began emerging, with many of the styles resembling their European counterparts: English ales, German lagers, and Dutch brews. America was alive!
All this new land excitement came to a screeching halt, however, in 1920 with the enactment of Prohibition (a topic discussed in a previous Session article!). For 13 years, breweries were forced to close their doors as they could no longer make a decent buck! Many were unable to recover, even after Prohibition ended in 1933. This led to new, large, commercial breweries taking over the beer landscape, producing generic lagers that appealed to a broad audience. Brewing innovation had been temporarily squandered. Beer enthusiasts were left longing for unique flavors.
The yearning felt by so many reached a tipping point in the 1970s, led by pioneering individuals and small breweries determined to challenge the mass-market status quo. These enthusiasts sought to revive the art of traditional brewing methods while experimenting with new ingredients, creating new beers with American character and spirit. Cheers to these brave individuals!!
Today, the USA boasts an astounding range of craft beer styles that have gained international acclaim. The first is the American IPA, a hoppy beer style known for its citrus, pine, and resinous flavors. The bold bitterness of the American IPA has captivated drinkers globally. The Session can’t leave out the robust, full-of-flavor American Imperial Stout or the unique taste of the American Sour Ale either. All three distinctively American styles have gained international respect and adoration.
We at The Session are anxiously looking forward to the future of craft beer in America, expecting continued growth and evolution.