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The United States is one of the countries of North America and claims as its date of independence from Great Britain July 4, 1776. In spite of its relative youth compared to other countries, it has a rich beer heritage, the dark period of 1920 to 1933 notwithstanding.

While only 13th in the world in per capita beer consumption, the United States had 1,444 breweries of varying size operating as of 2006.[1]



The brewing traditions of England and the Netherlands (as brought to New York) ensured that the colonies would be dominated by beer drinking rather than wine. Until the middle of the 19th century, ales dominated American brewing. This changed when the recently developed lager styles, brought by German immigrants, turned out to be more profitable for large-scale manufacturing and shipping. Names such as Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz became known through the breweries they founded or acquired, and many others followed. Czech and Irish immigrants also made their contributions to American beer.

The lager brewed by these companies was not the extremely mild lager now associated with modern US megabreweries. Instead, the classic American pilsner was a significantly stronger beer, both in flavor and alcohol.


See also: Prohibition


Before the American beer industry could re-establish itself, World War II began. This further inhibited the re-emergence of smaller breweries, and pushed brewers to use lower-cost ingredients that were not rationed. For more than fifty years after the end of Prohibition, the United States beer market was heavily dominated by large commercial breweries, producing beers more noted for their uniformity than for any particular flavor. Beers such as those made by Anheuser-Busch and Coors Brewing Company followed a restricted pilsner style, with large-scale industrial processes and the use of low-cost ingredients like corn or ingredients such as rice that provided starch for alcohol production while contributing minimal flavor to the finished product. The dominance of the so-called "macrobrew" led to an international stereotype of "American beer" as poor in quality and flavor. The term, "Budmilloors," became popular among many beer aficionados to describe these mass-produced beers. However, in recent years the major brewers have made attempts at developing premium beers in the European tradition such as Killian's Irish Red and Budweiser Select.

Resurgence of craft brewing[]

Due to the resurgence of the commercial craft brewing industry in the 1980s, the United States now features many beers, offered by over 1400 brewpubs, microbreweries, regional brewers such as The Firehouse Brewing Company (San Diego), Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA) and New Belgium (Fort Collins, Colorado), and contract-brewed brands such as Samuel Adams. In much of eastern Pennsylvania including Philadelphia, an order for "lager" is assumed to refer to Yuengling Traditional Lager, a flavorful beer from a regional brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania founded in 1829, making it the oldest American family-owned operating brewery, surviving prohibition. Similarly, in California, an order for "pale ale" is assumed to refer to Firehouse American Pale Ale or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

While in volume the macrobrews still dominate, smaller producers brew in a variety of styles influenced by local sources of hops and other ingredients as well as by various European traditions. The success of the commercial craft brewing industry has led the large breweries to invest in smaller breweries such as Widmer Brothers, and to develop more complex beers of their own.


Portland, Oregon, has earned the name Beervana by having more breweries than any other city in the world, with 33 breweries just within the city limits. The McMenamin brothers alone have over thirty brewpubs, distilleries and wineries scattered throughout the metropolitan area, many in renovated theaters and other old buildings otherwise destined for demolition. Other notable Portland brewers include Widmer Brothers, BridgePort Brewing Company and the MacTarnahan's Brewing Company. In 1999, "beerhunter" and author Michael Jackson called Portland a candidate for the beer capital of the world because the city boasted more breweries than Cologne, Germany.


Hophead in American slang is a beer drinker who favors highly hopped brews. Hopheads often take great pleasure in India Pale Ales, Double India Pale Ales, and other beers created in the hoppy West Coast style. The term can be used either by one who claims to be a hophead, or perhaps in a derogatory manner by one who is less affectionate towards hoppy beer. A good example of a beer targeted at hopheads is Stone Ruination IPA or Hopfarmer IPA.

{The slang term "hophead" has only recently been applied to beer drinkers; the original meaning, and a still current use of the term, is as a derogatory term for a drug addict.}


The American craft brewing movement was profiled in the feature-length documentary film American Beer which was released in 2004. Breweries featured in the film include Dogfish Head, Victory Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Anchor Brewing Company, New Glarus Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Bell's Brewery and others.

Types of American Beer[]

The American Association of Brewers has identified the following styles of North American origin:

  • American-style pale ale
  • American-style strong pale ale
  • Imperial or double India pale ale
  • American-style amber/red ale
  • California Common (traditionally called "steam beer," though that term is a registered trademark of the Anchor Brewing Company)
  • Imperial or double red ale
  • Golden or blonde ale
  • American-style brown ale
  • American lager
  • American-style light lager
  • American-style light amber lager
  • American-style pilsener
  • Dry lager
  • American ice lager/Ice beer
  • American malt liquor
  • Maerzen/Oktoberfest
  • American dark lager

The American Beer Judge Certification Program lists the following styles as being "American" in its style guidelines:

  • Lite American Lager
  • Standard American Lager
  • Premium American Lager
  • Classic American Pilsner
  • Dark American Lager
  • American Wheat beer or Rye Beer
  • Cream Ale
  • California Common Beer
  • American Pale Ale
  • American Amber Ale
  • American Brown Ale
  • American Stout
  • American India Pale Ale
  • American Barleywine


External links[]

WikipediaLogoSmall This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at American beer. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Beer Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0.