Reflections on US beer culture vs. UK beer culture

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Look at it. LOOK AT IT. This is just the selection of beer in a smallish grocers in Ohio…


Now I’ve been back for a few days, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the differences between the UK and those folks who talk kinda funny over there in the US

  • They get a better beer selections than we do.  And I’m not just talking about numbers here.  I’m talking about variety of styles.  When was the last time you went into a pub or supermarket in Britain and found much more than stout, bitter, ale, lager and cider?  The US seems to have an insatiable appetite for style.  I can’t remember ever seeing an Imperial Stout or a natively-brewed WeizenBock Dubbel in any supermarket over here
  • Soft drinks are soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are alcoholic drinks: cross-over, alco-pop rubbish is not that popular over there. I think I saw the odd hard lemonade for sale occasionally, but they don’t occupy anything like the shelf space that they do in the Britain.  Can’t we grow-up a bit?
  • People in bars seem to drink craft beer and at sporting events they happily suck up litres of Coors, Millers or Budweiser; whereas over here, people suck-up the crap stuff everywhere. There is a craft beer scene in Britain, but it’s embryonic and needs encouragement
  • The UK have an emphasis on drink as a conveyor to oblivion, Americans seem to have grown out of that by their mid-twenties – even though they still get pissed, they seem to drink for the pleasure of drinking good stuff  (unless they’re at sporting events, where they do drink litres of crap stuff)
  • When you order food you get huge glasses water without asking…even if you already have beer.  Which is nice as you can absent-mindedly drink it while you consider which beer to order next and space things out a bit
  • Free re-fills of coffee, soft-drinks, etc.  Enough said.  Probably compensation for people that can’t or aren’t allowed to drink!
  • Drinking and driving is still illegal but seems to be broadly ignored.  Over here more than a pint has most people nervously checking the rear-view mirror all the way home.  I’m not saying that drinking and driving is clever I’m just pointing out the difference.
  • US craft beer is strong.  Sometimes painfully so.  6%+ is the going rate.  They may not sink the quantity that we do, but they make up for it in strength.  And their pints are smaller…literally!
  • Some bars sometimes give you two or three tasters (shot glass size) of other beers when you order…which was a nice touch
  • In terms of the sheer volume of micro-breweries and in relation to size of country we’re about even, breweries pop up like acne on a teenager both sides of the water…it’s just a shame that not all of ours are producing distinctive, original flavours and styles (English Saison, anyone!?)  and not just the standard bitter, stout, ale, lager and maybe a not too provocative IPA.

Now I’m not criticising our UK beer culture here, far from it.  I’ve grown up on it and I love it.  I just think that as we move to an inevitably more crafty position, we could take a leaf out of the US’s book and apply some of their methods…what do you think?

I only had a week out there and the above is what I noted, maybe you have a different angle on the whole US/UK beer scenes..?

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