The Great American Beer Fest wrapped up this weekend, and once again some of the top brewers and luckiest people in the world were gathered together to share and taste more than 3500 beers from over 1300 different breweries. Mendocino Brewing was there again, and it was great to see some new breweries on the scene. According to the Brewers Association, 35 percent of the breweries at this year’s event were first-timers—another testament to the growth and community of craft beer.
Paying back the flavor
The impact of U.S. craft beer is reaching farther every year, both economically and culturally, and German brewers in particular have been highlighted as they look for new ways to compete in the beer market. The media attention is driven a bit by irony, I think, because for years Germany had been known as one of the top beer-producing regions in the world. Many of the earliest and influential craft brewers in the U.S. today say it was their first taste of German beer that inspired them to explore richer flavors on their own.
“I went into the US Army at 18 and was eventually shipped to Germany. The first thing I did on my arrival in Frankfurt was to try some German beer. What a full, great taste! I grew to love the full flavors and the flavors of malt and hops. My beer tastes had changed.”
-Michael Laybourn, one of Mendocino Brewing’s founders
Times have changed, though, and the same cultural standards that led Germany to create some of the world’s best beers are now restricting creativity and growth. Oliver Lemke, a Berlin-based brewer who has been traveling to California, Colorado and New York to learn how U.S. craft beers have taken over the market so quickly, shares the emerging view of many German brewers.
“We Germans were convinced we’re making the world’s best beer but meanwhile, beer diversity suffered. Craft brewing is a lucrative and interesting niche and it was a mistake not to do it earlier.”
-Oliver Lemke, owner of Brauhaus Lemke
U.S. craft beer exports have increased 43 percent since last year. International brewers have begun collaborating with U.S. craft brewers; bars in Madrid, Prague and Copenhagen are serving beers from California, Oregon and Alaska; and hoppy IPAs are becoming more popular—and more intense—all across Europe.
Mendocino Brewing has been expanding as well, and recently began exporting to Mexico. Almost the entire flock has been sent south, including Talon Smoked Double Porter, Black Eye, White Ale, Red Tail and Eye of the Hawk. The inaugural shipment was met with a big party and a crowd of happy beer lovers.
What do you think of the increasing influence of U.S. craft beers in other countries? Will it add more diversity or undermine classic brewing traditions and tastes? Let us know in the comments below!