Beer in the United States: Wikis


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An Imperial Pint of American craft beer

Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the United States. Within the United States, beer is manufactured by more than 1,500 breweries[1] which range in size from beverage industry giants to small brew pubs that sell their beer only on premises. Many people in the United States also enjoy the hobby of homebrewing. The United States produces about 230 million hectoliters (about 6 billion gallons) of beer annually and leads the world in beer production with regards to volume.[2] The number of breweries in the United States ranks first in the world.[3] Beer consumption by Americans is about 85 liters annually, which in 2002 ranked 8th in the world.[4]

There were about 1,400 breweries in the United States before Prohibition,[5] and they produced a variety of beer.[6] Prohibition caused nearly all American breweries to close[7] and all were forced to end legal production. After prohibition, the brewing industry was dominated by a smaller collection of breweries. In the late 1970s, American law changed in several ways that were beneficial to small breweries and the craft-beer revolution began.[8]

America produces beers in many styles. The most common style of beer in America is pale lager, which is historically related to pilsener. The English styles of pale ale, IPA, brown ale, porter and stout are widely brewed in America. Because of the distinctive flavors of American hops, American Pale Ale and IPA are considered a style of their own,[9] and many recognize American stout and brown ale as their own style as well. American breweries also produce ales inspired by Belgian beers. Steam beer is the first style of beer to originate in the United States.[citation needed]





The brewing traditions of England and the Netherlands (as brought to New York) ensured that colonial drinking would be dominated by beer rather than wine. Until the middle of the 19th century, ales dominated American brewing. This changed when the lager styles, brought by German immigrants, turned out to be more profitable for large-scale manufacturing and shipping. [10]The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company is America's oldest lager beer brewing company (1842). Names such as Schaefer, 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 originally based on several different styles of central Europe, but the Pilsener style, using mild Czech hops and pale, lightly-roasted 6-row barley, gradually won out.

Steam beer, the first style of beer to originate in the United States, evolved in San Francisco during the 19th century. It ceased to exist even before prohibition,[citation needed] but Anchor Brewing Company's flagship beer, Anchor Steam, is intended to be a re-creation of this style.


All legal American brewing came to a halt when Prohibition was imposed, though the temperance movement had already reduced the number of breweries significantly. Only a few breweries, mainly the largest, were able to stay in business by manufacturing near beer, malt syrup, or other non-alcohol grain products, in addition to soft drinks such as colas and root beers. Production and shipping of alcohol was largely confined to illegal operations, which could deliver compact distilled beverages — smuggled rum and domestic moonshine — more efficiently and reliably than bulkier products such as beer.

American Prohibition was repealed by degrees. First, the Volstead Act,[11] defining "intoxicating liquors", was amended in April 1933 by the Cullen-Harrison Act to provide that beer with a strength of up to 3.2% alcohol was not "intoxicating", and thus not prohibited.[12] Soon thereafter, in December of the same year, the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed Prohibition in general, but left the production of alcoholic beverages heavily regulated by federal, state, and local authorities.


Before the American beer industry could re-establish itself, World War II began. This further inhibited the re-emergence of smaller breweries because much of the grain supply was rationed due to the war. This forced 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. However, in recent years the major brewers have made attempts at developing premium beers in the European tradition such as Killian's Irish Red.

Resurgence of craft brewing

Changes to American law opened the doors to small scale breweries in 1978.[8] As a result, there was a large growth of manufacture and interest in beer in the 1980s. This interest continues today. 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, and regional brewers. However, the majority of beer sales in the United States are still for pale lager produced by national and international brewing companies.

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.

Beer and society

Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in America and accounts for about 85% of the volume of alcoholic beverages sold in the United States each year.[13] In 2003, three beer companies represented 82% of all the beer sold in America: Anheuser-Busch (51.9%), Miller (18.7%) and Coors (11.3%).[14] Domestically brewed craft-beer comprises 3.8% of the volume of beer sold in America.[15]

Types of American beer

Many styles of beer are manufactured in the United States. However, most American beers have their roots in European traditions.

The most familiar style of beer made in America is pale lager, which is the style of Budweiser, Coors and Miller. These beers are lagers of low alcohol content, straw color, and light flavor of malt, hops and carbonation.

Many American beers—including pale ale, IPA (India Pale Ale), stout, porter and brown ale—descend from beers brewed in Great Britain. However, the use of American ingredients changes their flavor. American pale ale and IPA are deep golden to copper in color, have a medium to high level of hops character, and have flavors of malt and, to a lesser degree, caramel. American dark ales include brown ale, porter and stout. They are moderately to very hoppy, brown to black in color and exhibit mild to strong characteristics of roasted malts and barley. Brown ale tends to be on the mild end of this spectrum, while stout is at the very roasted hoppy end of it. Porter lies in between. Beers descended from Britain dominate the craft brew market in the U.S.

American breweries also produce beers in the style of craft Belgian ales including saison, dubbel, tripel, and Belgian strong ale. The lighter of these (saisson, golden strong ale and tripel) beers have soft malt flavors and mild to strong "spicy" characteristics that come from yeast or the addition of spices. The darker of these beers (dubbel and dark strong ale) may have flavors of dried fruit that derives from the malts, yeast and sugar used to make them. All of these beers are high in carbonation and low in hop character. These Belgian-inspired beers follow their inspirations in beer light-bodied and drinkable insofar as their high alcohol content permits.

Malt liquor is another style of beer created in America. It is a high alcohol version of American pale lager.

Many American breweries enjoy innovating beer made with fruit, spices, chocolate, coffee and other ingredients that add flavor to the final product. These beers vary too much for accurate generalization to be made about their flavors.

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


  1. ^ As of August 17, 2009 - Brewers Association
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Foster, Terry. Pale Ale Brewers Publications: 1999
  7. ^ Foster
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Foster, Terry. Pale Ale Brewers Publications: 1999.
  10. ^
  11. ^ The Volstead Act of 1920 defined beverages containing 0.5% or more alcohol as "intoxicating", and thus prohibited.
  12. ^ Cullen-Harrison Act.
  13. ^ [1] Because beer is lower in alcohol than wine and spirits, beer represents a smaller portion of the total percentage of alcohol sold in the United States.
  14. ^
  15. ^

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