Roots Abroad, But America Calls
Cross-cultural beer pioneers
The States may be a land of creative brewing opportunities, but it has a relatively young brewing tradition—more wide than it is deep—lacking the ages-old tradition and degree of mysticism found in Europe’s brewing culture.
As Purcell, of Three Taverns Brewery, puts it: “There’s a different experience when you’re drinking a Belgian beer than when you’re drinking other beers from around the world. … There’s a mystique around Belgian beers, and it speaks to something deeper inside of me.”
So while Americans may have that “Why not?” attitude and freedom to try a new technique in the brewhouse—like starting a barrel-aging program or building a koelschip—it will take patience and many years and mistakes to come close to the Belgian mastery of brewing something as complex as a gueuze.
Says Pauwels: “There’s one thing about making gueuze generation after generation—they grow into this. They know by trial and error how to do this right. They’ve been through a long learning curve, while in the U.S., we want to do it right and we want to do it right from the get-go. Well, there’s a reason why it took them generations to do this right.”
Yet, as Bouckaert of New Belgium points out, many Belgians, and Europeans in general, are now looking to America’s constantly growing and evolving beer scene.
“Belgium really has created a lot of inspiration for American craft, but at this stage I see it as a reverse: Americans are crafting way more inspiration for Belgians,” he says, citing hoppy beers coming out of Belgium, like the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA, a crossover between an American IPA and a Belgian tripel.
Matysiak said he has heard of several smaller German breweries going down an experimental path.
“I hear more and more of that especially the smaller really artisanal breweries and brewpubs are starting to be more experimental and trying to recreate themselves. … Brewing small batches of coffee porter and IPAs, and using American or Australian hops that were totally unthinkable 10 years ago,” he says.
It’s an infinite loop of inspiration, tradition and history, and America’s unchecked enthusiasm and creativity. Sometimes, it all comes together in harmony.
Heather Vandenengel is a nomadic beer writer and the News Editor for All About Beer Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @heathervandy.