Beer in the United States preceded European settlers and was brewed by Native Americans using herbs and other flavours, however the arrival of the British and Dutch really drove ale as the predominant drink for some time. This changed with an influx of German settlers to the west coast who brought with them the bottom-fermented lager type beers.
When Prohibition hit in the 1930s all breweries were of course shut down and even though some opened again afterward it was under very strict legislation so only megabreweries could survive. These Behemoths made the likes of Miller and Coors and dominated the American beer scene with their mass produced muck for a further 50 years.
Thankfully though this has all changed and America has undergone a true craft beer revolution such that some of their breweries now challenge the very best in the world. Goose Island, Brooklyn brewery, Sierra Nevada, Flying Dog and Anchor are the most well known, although the west coast has produced some real gems like Rogue, Pyramid and Stone Brewing co.
American styles of beer tend to be lighter than most with the lager-style “Steam beer”, Wheat beer and India Pale Ales very much in the ascendance:
Wheat Beer – also known as White Beer. Far and away the most common style is the HefeWeizen which is an unfiltered wheat beer, although different varieties are available Celis White and Blue Moon are the most celebrated American styles
India Pale Ale – Any decent American brewery makes a damn good IPA more bitter and stronger than your regular pale ale and usually above 5% abv. Named after the English style as regular pale ale couldn’t survive the journey by boat to India during the colonial era, so hops and extra alcohol both acted as preservatives to boost the shelf life! Goose Island IPA, Rogue Dead Guy, Flying Dog Doggie Style and Sierra Nevada Pale are classic brews of this type
Steam beer – A lager beer, originally made by Anchor Brewing Company in California by German settlers. As the wort cooled in the production, a mass amount of steam was released during the creation of this pilsner imitation and the locals simply came to know it as Steam beer.