Being a beer geek in America is sort like being a political wonk—it ain’t easy to monitor a perpetually shifting landscape that’s often volatile and unpredictable. You finally get your hands on some Heady Topper, but now everyone is telling you Tree House and Trillium IPAs are where it’s at. You slay some “whales” like Bourbon County and KBS, and then suddenly those have been downgraded to “shelf turds"; the geeks say you should be pursuing Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout instead. With now over 5000 breweries in America—you might not yet have even tried anything from many newer stateside breweries— who has time to look outside the country for edification and intoxication?
A wise drinker looking for something a little bit different.
Most people still wrongly presume that international, and especially European beer, is staid and boring. That it’s a land of ESBs, pilsners, and abbey ales built from recipes dating back to the time of the Crusades. Fair enough. The Chimays and Weihenstephaners of the world are indeed what mainly still line the shelves in the “European” section of our friendly neighborhood beer stores. But there’s actually a whole new wave of world-class breweries quietly building reputations across the pond.
No, we’re not even talking about the first wave of international craft breweries, now-famed spots like Mikkeller and Nøgne Ø, who first brought the “Americanized” style of beer abroad. Now, a second wave of top-notch breweries has recently emerged, trying to keep pace, if not outdo, the current American trendsetters.
Where once America looked to Europe for inspiration—see: beers like Boston Lager, Allagash White, and even Blue Moon—now Europe has begun mimicking us, aggressively dry-hopping and utilizing barrel-aging every which way they can. Many international breweries have even begun putting their own old world twist on new world beers, prompting American beer fans to sit upright and consider buying “imports.” Many American breweries have a desire to collaborate with these European upstarts to see if they can maybe learn a few new tricks too.
Here are ten of the hottest international craft breweries you should be paying attention to.