Great beers take their influences from all over the world. These five brews are made in American, but they wouldn’t exist without the influence of great brewers in places like Belgium and Germany.
Twenty years ago no one would have dreamed of saying this, but these days the United States damn near seems to be the center of the beer world when it comes to quality, innovation, and invention. Groundbreaking beer efforts didn’t start here, though, and many of our best were inspired by styles pioneered elsewhere. The witbier, for instance. A beer as ubiquitous as Allagash White actually has its origins in the small but beer rich country of Belgium, where the witbier style was created and brought to modern popularity by Pierre Celis. White is more common than rude drivers but three times as enjoyable to be around. Swimming with flavors and aromas of banana, bread yeast, pound cake and a touch of clove, it’s among the best American interpretations of the Belgian witbier style – and lucky for you, there are few places where it’s NOT on draft.
Flying Fish Belgian Style Dubbel
Some international influences on American beer come from fairly unusual places. Take the abbey dubbel, for instance. You don’t think of pious monks in France and Belgium as being the sort to inspire beer brewers, but abbeys have actually long been a place where great beer has been brewed. The dubbel is a rich, chewy style that originated in the Westmalle abbey in 1856, and which has since become a staple for American craft brewers like New Jersey’s Flying Fish. That (underrated) brewery’s abbey dubbel is a deep brown, sweet beverage that brings to mind black breads, toffee, brown sugar and plums. Mild alcohol warmth and sweet nuts round out the finish. They may not make it in an abbey, but they don’t need to. Be sure to pair this one with a meal.
Troegs Sunshine Pils
When it comes to countries that have influenced the brewing world, perhaps none has had more significant influence than Germany, home of brewers so innovative they’ve managed to invent dozens of styles while working under tight rules that once limited them to just a few key ingredients. Their biggest export, however, was not a complicated one: the pilsner. Most of those ordinary beers from the big industrial brewers are pilsners, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a boring style. Sunshine Pils by Troegs is proof that it can be the opposite. Light, crisp, and refreshing, with lightly fragrant, lemon-tinged hops and a delicately balanced body of crackery malts, this is a beer that goes down easy but which also rewards attentive drinkers who pay attention to the craft that went into it. Widely available, look for this wherever Troegs is tapped.
Ballast Point Habanera Sculpin
American brewers are an innovative bunch, willing to take inspiration from almost any corner of the globe – sometimes even from arenas that have nothing to do with beer. That’s why it’s no surprise to find an American beer which prominently features chili peppers first cultivated in the Amazon basin and now most commonly found in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula region. We’re talking about the popular habanera, and this beer is awash in them. Using Ballast Point’s delightfully bitter Sculpin IPA as its base, this beer is unafraid to deliver some heat. Every sip is laced with it. It’s even evident in the aroma, which smells more like something you’d dip your nachos into than a beer. That’s not a bad thing, though, especially when the chili heat is tempered with juicy citrus and IPA bitterness.
Dogfish Head Red and White
German inventions may dominate the world’s beer supply, and influences on American craft beer come from all corners of the world, but arguably no country has influenced the current craft beer explosion more than Belgium, a country known for brewers who don’t believe in rules. Ignoring the rules is what Delaware’s Dogfish Head have founded their reputation on, so it comes as no surprise that when brewing something fairly traditional – in this case, a Belgian style witbier – the end result bears no resemblance to what the style is “supposed” to be. In this case, this witbier is partially aged in Pinot Noir barrels and on oak staves, imparting fairly bold, wine-like flavors of grape, oak, and dry sweetness. Nice wit spice and apricot fruitiness make themselves known, too. Further separating it from tradition is its imposing 10 percent ABV. This beer is one of a kind.