Hop across the pond: The best American beers

 

It used to be simple: there was Budweiser and Miller and Coors and they all tasted of, well, not very much at all.

How times have changed. Brewing has undergone a remarkable (and well-documented) renaissance across the Atlantic. No longer is the phrase 'American beer' a cue for saloon-bar sniggers across the UK. Many of those self-same saloon bars probably stock a pretty handy selection of transatlantic beers these days.

A cavalcade of American suds has flooded into this country: pioneers Anchor and Sierra Nevada have been joined by the likes of Brooklyn, Flying Dog, Odell, Ska, Bear Republic, Red Hook, Widmer Brothers, Lagunitas, and – available for the first time this month – North Coast Brewing.

Not all of the American beer being sold over here is out of the top drawer, though, and even some of the good stuff might not be at its best, having had to travel so far to get here (always check the brewed-on date, if you can: hop potency, a key component in many US ales, diminishes over time).

There are some names you can rely on. The likes of Odell and Brooklyn, whose brewers were first inspired by British tradition, can be trusted while – as a general rule of thumb – beers from craft-beer centres such as Northern California (Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Bear Republic) and Colorado (Odell, Ska) are worth seeking out.

And then there's Goose Island, an excellent Chicago brewery owned by AB Inbev, who also make Budweiser. 'The King of Beers' may still be reliably straightforward but elsewhere, thankfully, things have got a lot more complicated.

Three to try

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

The name gives it away: there's plenty of chocolate character in this complex sipper. Ages well. 10.6 per cent, 35.5cl bottle, £3.75 at beermerchants.com

Ska Modus Hoperandi

At its fresh best, this superb IPA is dominated by piney, resinous hops. 6.8 per cent, 35.5cl can, £3.09 at beersofeurope.co.uk

Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale

From one of the world's greatest breweries comes this lemony, zesty, golden treat. 5.2 per cent, 35.5cl bottle, £3.11 at beerritz.co.uk

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