My wife and I just went on what was quite possibly the best brewery tour we'd ever been on (and believe me, we've been on a lot of them). It was at London's Meantime Brewing Company, a 13-year-old craft operation that takes its name from the fact that it's situated in the chronological capital of the world, Greenwich.
When tour leader Alex (a quite dynamic guide) learned we were from the States he couldn't stop gushing about the U.S. craft beer scene and how the U.K. is about 15 years behind the American movement. Wait a minute. BEHIND? A great deal of American craft brewers took a cue from classic styles from Britain (as well as, of course, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic) when developing their own products. Beer travelers from the U.S. trek across the pond to drink cask-conditioned Real Ale. And a lot of the U.S. craft brewers offer cask versions of their own products, again a nod to the classic British tradition.
But now there are breweries like Meantime whose offerings are heavily influenced by the styles popularized by American craft brewers—those same styles whose ancestors were European and tweaked and reinvented over time. American pale ale is of course a descendant of English pale ale. The same goes, of course for American IPAs, which evolved from British India Pale Ales, which were more aggressively hopped and had a higher ABV to preserve them for the 18,000-mile pre-canal-era voyage from England to thirsty colonial troops in India.
The walls of Meantime's tasting room were filled with bottles from around the world with a disproportionately large section devoted to U.S. craft brews. Others visiting the brewery were eager to tell us how much they loved beers from the likes Brooklyn Brewery or Stone.
And it's not just the U.K. The brewing boomerang has flown back to Belgium as well, with U.S.-influenced styles like Belgian IPA emerging.
It's hard to believe that not too long ago Europeans considered American beers a total joke. But who's laughing now?