Strength and intensity. American brewers aren't minor key kinds of guys. They brew like John Philip Sousa. Beers are rarely brewed below 4.5% and a good many are stronger than 7%. When we make hoppy beers, we make damn hoppy beers. (Some of our beers that aren't supposed to be hoppy are damn hoppy, too.) Our sours are really sour. Our imperial stouts are liquid fudge.
|Now, that's intense.|
Maybe it was coincidence, but I have to say I don't think that the good Doctor Alworth's point about what makes American beer beer American, could have been made better than having Zymurgy Magazine release its list of what it deems as the top 50 best American-made craft beers. Granted, the above quote is a snippet from his blog—just one of five criteria needed to be met to qualify for a beer to wear the red, white and blue—but it rings Liberty Bell true when reading through Zymergy's list.
33 of the 50 beer chosen by the magazine are IPAs, Double IPAs and/or Imperial IPAs and Stouts. 80% of the top 10 are also IPAs—and 10% is one pretty strong Breakfast—if not Imperial—Stout. The other 10% is Arrogant Bastard, a Strong Ale. Speaking of strong—the average strength for the beers on the list is 9.4% ABV—the lowest being Deschutes' Black Butte Porter at 5.2% ABV; the highest is Goose Island Bourbon County Stout at 15% ABV.
Subtle, generally, American beers are not.
I do have to say, I like Jeff's use of the word intensity. I may have to co-opt that phrase when describing American beer from now on.