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The Yanks are coming

flyingdogThose nice people at R&R Teamwork have sent me some more beer samples (thanks, Anna Jane) – this time of some American beers that are now being imported into this country and are available in mainstream beer outlets.  One was from Brooklyn Brewery and the other two were from Flying Dog Brewery.  I have to admit that my experience of American beers is limited.  The first time I ever visited America was a holiday in 1980; we started out in San Fransisco, and we were pleasantly surprised to find a local brew called Anchor Steam Beer – unfortunately, once we moved away from the San Fransisco area we couldn’t get much else but Coors, Michelob, Budweiser and the like.  The following year I ended up working in Dallas, Texas for several months, and the choice was pretty much the same.  Don’t get me wrong, I quite like these light lager-style beers – occasionally – it was the lack of any alternative style of beer that was the problem.  Since then there has been a phenomenal growth in “craft” breweries in America, and some of the products of these breweries are now starting to reach us on this side of the Atlantic.

The three beers I had been sent were a lager, a pale ale and a porter.   I decided that I would sample all 3 in a single session, and in the best tradition of beer tasting I would go from weakest to strongest, which would also be lightest to darkest (or so I thought).  The first was Brooklyn Lager (5.2%) from Brooklyn Brewery.  Darker than most lagers I’m used to, even the premium lagers that we can get in this country.  It had a nice head, and a biscuity malty smell more reminiscent of a bitter than a lager, a full-bodied malty taste and was quite bitter – but still had that clean crispness that I associate with lagers.  To be honest, if I hadn’t known it was a lager, I probably wouldn’t have thought it was one.  The label declares it to be “the pre-prohibition beer” and “a revival of Brooklyn’s pre-prohibition all-malt beers”.  The history of Prohibition in America is something I know only a little about, but I believe that when it ended the tendency was for weaker, lighter beers.  If this is a glimpse of what beer was like before prohibition, I think it is a welcome return for a very characterful beer.  Available from Oddbins.

Next up was Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale (5.5%).  A spicy, very citrussy smell – overwhelming aroma of grapefruit – to the extent that I had to check the label to make sure that there wasn’t any grapefruit in the recipe (I take some medication that for some reason prohibits me from eating grapefruit or drinking the juice).  There was also a strong hint of grapefruit coming through the malty taste and the hoppy bitter tang.  I’m really not doing it justice here, as when I drank it I thought that it was one of the best (if not the best) beer I have tasted this year.  This definitely goes on the shopping list (available from Tesco).

Lastly, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter – 8.7% according to the bottle label, but 7.8% according to the website – sort yourselves out, guys!  This is a beast of a beer!  If you’re going to try it, make sure you’re prepared.  It pours like a stout with a lovely creamy head, and is black, black, black.  I was surprised that it smells of little other than malt – I was expecting coffee, chocolate, toast, etc. – but those tastes definitely come through when you drink it.  A creamy texture with the taste of stewed coffee, licorice, cigarette butts, bitter chocolate, burnt toast.  This is definitely a pudding beer – it could take on the christmas pudding and beat it into submission with no problem.  A real rival to the Classic Pale Ale for my best beer award.  Also available from Tesco.

These were 3 beers that were entirely new to me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to sample them (for free – which is even better).  The craft brewing movement in this country doesn’t seem to have the same impetus or sense of adventure as it does in America.  There are lots of small breweries starting up in this country, which is absolutely brilliant, and they produce some excellent beers – but mostly they are “me too” brews that conform to the more common styles – maybe they are simply giving the market what it wants – after all, they are businesses that need to turn a profit.  There are a few exceptions to this – Brewdog is one that springs to mind – who are prepared to experiment a little with their beers.  And it’s up to people like me (and you) to experiment a little in what we drink as well, in order to encourage them.

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