Drunken Speculation

Session #79 – USA versus Old World Beer Culture

sessionsTime once again to tackle the Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday: a monthly opportunity for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their unique perspective on the same topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic, and creates a round-up that lists all of the participants.

This month’s topic, hosted by Adrian Dingle at Ding’s Beer Blog, is USA versus Old World Beer Culture.

Adrian phrases the conundrum thusly:

Anyone with any inkling of my online, in-person and blogging presence in the American beer world since 2000, will know that the whole of my beer experience in that time has been colored by, sits against the backdrop of, and forms the awkward juxtaposition to, my English beer heritage and what has been happening the USA in the last few years. Everyone knows that I have been very vocal about this for a very long time, so when it came to thinking about what would be a great ‘Session’ topic, outside of session beer, it seemed like that there could be only one topic; ‘What the hell has America done to beer?‘, AKA, ‘USA versus Old World Beer Culture‘.

As a (relatively) recently returned tourist from the States, there is one thing that I find immediately synonymous with the words ‘American’ and ‘beer’: pumpkin.

pumpkin-beer-2012

Pumpkin is the one piece of imagery from the American craft beer scene that has persisted and continues to reside with me since returning from my trip stateside. It is – at least in my mind – the single most recognizable yet misguided influence that America has brought to the international craft beer table.

Admittedly, my visit was in October of last year and I can only assume that the flooding of liquor stores with pumpkin ales was in no small part due to the all important American Halloween tradition. At least I hope so.

As an Australian, I find the whole premise of pumpkin beers downright weird and an affront to my personal palate and accepted taste-bud traditions. Alas I must concede, you north-American folk clearly can’t seem to get enough pumpkin on your palates – from ice-cream to lattes, pies to pale ales. At every bottle-o (liquor store) my partner and I chanced upon the common theme seemed to be pumpkin ales enjoyed half the market share. Indeed, it seemed any regular grocery item you could now get in pumpkin spice flavour – muesli bars, flavoured milk, jell-o, bagels, almonds, pop tarts, and even the humble old tea bag – wasn’t safe.

No doubt the Americans have achieved much more with craft beer than adding a bit of pumpkin flavouring – the craft beer movement being heavily “Americanised” (spot the spelling irony?) – but sadly I feel this is going to be their lasting legacy.

6 comments

  1. I can’t recall where I saw it, but I remember reading last year that the pumpkin beer was the highest-selling seasonal brew, which certainly helps drive the deluge of pumpkin beers you saw and we continue to see.

    As more breweries pop up and widen distribution, it’s simply a case of catching up. More breweries means more pumpkin beer because that’s what people are interested in paying money on.

    I am not one to talk, since I am a serious pumpkin addict.

    Cheers!

  2. TastingNitch

    The first year I lived I Australia, I went out of my way to go to a beer boutique in Brisbane (an hour’s drive from where I lived) before the end of October, looking specifically for pumpkin ales. The store keeper had no idea what I was talking about.

    “But… Halloween without pumpkin ale just… isn’t right.”

    America has added a lot of other (good and bad) flavors to the beer market. We might be known for our wild creations, creations that are becoming tradition but every country has their quirks. Much like the (eastern) Australians need to call Bundaberg rum- rum.

    XOXO

  3. Pingback: Session #79 – The round up and a few rebuttals | dingsbeerblog

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