One of the many delights of traveling the United States is the wide variety of beers to sample particular to a region. The regional styles of beer emerged through a number of factors, most notably the history of brewing in the region. Climate and availability of ingredients are other key factors in why regional styles evolved. The rapidly growing microbrewery scene adds new variety and innovation to the beer drinking options.
Beer styles in the Pacific Northwest are highly influenced by the grain and hops growing regions in Oregon and Washington. The style of beer is American, although highly influenced by traditional English and German brewing traditions. The myriad of innovative brews in this area share the common characteristic of being heavy on the hops.
Certainly where it all started, one of the traditions our founding fathers brought with them from the mother country was brewing. New England beers are typically made in the English tradition. Ales rule in this part of the country and the variety is endless. You will find a few Belgian style beers in the Northeast as well. Beers in this region tend to be smooth and contain a very traditional balance of hops and malt.
The history of brewing in the South/Southeast is sparse. Microbreweries are not as plentiful in this part of the country, but that is rapidly changing. This area of the country tends to favor lighter beers served ice cold, perhaps due to the hot, humid climate of this region.
The migration of Germans to the Midwest in the 1800’s influenced the brewing traditions in this part of the country. The largest brewers in the United States are still in the Midwest. Beers in the Midwest are typically brewed from cold fermented lagers. Wheat beers are also a favorite in this area.
The brewing style of the mountain areas of Colorado, Nevada and Idaho, are difficult to describe, as a variety of styles are available and no one style seems to prevail. In this area, you will find American Originals, German Lagers and English Ales. Assertive, malt-forward brews tend to be most popular with the après ski crowd.
California beer makers lean toward radical and exaggerated styles. California beers tend to be heavy on the hops and include a variety of edgy and different flavors. True to California itself, the beer scene is diverse and not easily defined.
Not really South and not really West, Texas is a region all its own. Texas is the only state to declare its own state beer, Shiner. Brewing in the Central Texas area is highly influenced by the prevalent German heritage. Microbreweries are popping up all over Texas, with Austin and the Texas Hill Country area dominating. Coastal Texas areas lean more to lighter, well-iced ales.
Whether a traditional brew or an innovative microbrewery original, the variety of beers available to quench the thirst of the curious traveler are endless and exciting. Get out there and find your favorite brew!