British Brewers Inspired By American Craft Beer?

The BBC’s News Magazine has an interesting article, US Craft Beer: How It Inspired British Brewers, that gives an overview of the rise of craft beer in America. Despite moving New Albion Brewing from Sonoma to San Francisco, the article does get most of the history reasonably right. And it’s also nice seeing my friend Melissa Cole quoted.

But the article doesn’t really deliver on the title, which I don’t mean as a criticism per se. It’s just that it’s more about craft beer becoming “fashionable,” trendy even in Great Britain than about British brewers being inspired by our beer. Certainly some are, and by everything I’ve seen and heard, it’s happening more and more, but I’ve also talked to British brewers who are convinced that UK consumers don’t want our hoppy or extreme beers. Yet when I was at GBBF a few years ago, the American brewers section was crowded all day long for the entirety of the festival. And when I accompanied Matt Brynildson to Marston’s in Burton-on-Trent to brew a collaboration beer for the J.D. Wetherspoon chain, the brewer — a terrifically nice person — refused to put in as many hops as Brynildson’s recipe called for, and he ended up having to adjust it. Even so, it proved to be one of the most popular beers at J.D. Wetherspoon’s festival that year. So I think that British beer drinkers are more interested in American-style beers than their brewers tend to believe is the case. At least that’s my anecdotal take, anyway.

Matt Brynildson and Melissa Cole at a J.D. Wetherspoon pub in London.


  1. Neil Walker says

    While many UK brewers will produce specials and one-offs for festivals, they tend to produce what to me are now rather similar, somewhat bland ales for general trade – what I suppose US would refer to as session beers. Also, there is the question of price and the effect of beer duty and tax – it is not economic for many brewers to venture in to new territory.
    This is of course a generalisation and people will be able to point to many exceptions.
    From my own point of view, when I first tried US craft beers I found them very astringent and, quite frankly, unpleasant, fortunately however I perservered and now much prefer them to the more malty UK style.

  2. Steve Shapiro says

    Hope to add our anecdotal experiences to the discussion. First I have to find out if experiences can be anecdotal. If not, we’ll have to share anecdotes based on our experience.

  3. says

    I can’t accept Meantime’s ales as exemple – after tasting and having a talk with Alistair @ Greenwich Beer&Jazz festival few years ago. Sharp’s – owned by a multinational last year offers to the participants of EBBC Leeds not-so-american microbrews. For me it’s a mistery why my colleague from BBC omits the place of his compatriote Michael Jackson when she’s trying to explain the American Craft Revolution. Maybe she’s a specialist in fashion only.

  4. Tom says

    I just returned from a week in London. I found most hand pulled ales I tasted to be lacking flavor. When I visited 20 years ago, I fell in love with bitter and pale ales, so I was expecting an improvement over the bottles I’ve sampled the last few years.

    I found a few small breweries like Kernel and Brewdog producing flavorful beers, but they aren’t widely available.

    Surely my pallette has evolved, but I was hoping for more.

    I found the Euston Tap in London to be a great destination with plenty of selection.

  5. Gary Gillman says

    Based on my last visit to the U.K. (London, Leeds) three years ago, I found significant evidence of influence by American craft brewers. There were scads of golden ales, most with American-tasting hopping. They weren’t the majority but each pub especially in London seemed to carry one or more of these. I had two “brown” real ales of a more English description, which were cloudy in the American real ale style. 20 years ago you never found cloudy real ale in England. There were spiced beers (one with ginger from Cornwall), wheat beers (not U.S.-originated as such by a by-product of its influence IMO), a few strong stouts (ditto for influence) and more. Based on what I’ve read since then, it has only increased. There were still fine English beers like London Pride, Old Hooky and Young’s Winter Warmer, also cask White Shield, but these were facing new competition in a way I had never seen in previous years.


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