American (USA) Beers

Advent Calendar Day 5 – Elysian Immortal IPA and more thoughts on craft beer.


Some of the feedback I’m getting tells me yesterdays post might have been a bit controversial! It’s certainly highlighted the fact that some people are really precious over the term Craft Beer?

Perhaps a little contextualisation needs to be made from my point of view; this series of posts have arisen purely because someone bought me a Beer Hawk Craft Beer Advent Calendar. I thought it would be a good idea to post every day about each beer revealed in the run up to Christmas. Nothing has been staged, but I knew that whatever I encountered would throw up interesting little points. I didn’t know I’d get a bottle of FUBAR yesterday, but it tied in nicely with something I saw with my own eyes as a member of the public, several weeks previously.

This time yesterday I had no idea what was behind window number 5 neither, nor what I was going to say about it? My first thoughts may prove controversial once again, because despite this being a craft beer Advent calendar, todays bottle just isn’t craft beer! Not if you take the Brewers Association (USA) definition of a craft brewer, anyway. They say an American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. Independent is defined as, ‘Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer’.

That definition disqualifies Elysian Brewing Company from being a craft brewer as they were taken over by Anheuser Busch in January 2015. This deal precipitated the comment by Paul Gatza (then Brewers Association Director) in this article by Coral Garnick, “When a deal like this goes down, there is a sense of loss in the craft-brewing industry, as well as some of the customers,” he said. “Some people will certainly look at it as a sell out and a betrayal. But others don’t know, don’t care, or just care about what is in the bottle.”

So where do I stand? I’m open minded, if I’m honest. Elysian Brewing Company started out in Seattle in 1996. They’ve done over 350 craft brews since then and have four restaurants. Restaurants? Doesn’t sound like somewhere you go for a beer to me? In fact it’s almost the opposite of the food led managed pub called Vintage Ale House that Goose Island (AB – inbev) are opening in Balham (Morning Advertiser 05-12-16), which is probably a restaurant. Whereas the Elysian Brewing Company restaurants really do appear to be brew pubs with food, yet they call them restaurants. I’ve been in a few over the years and got put off Pumpkin ale for ever one Holloween (sic) in New York, Yuk! I can’t get over the full service concept neither, I don’t want to have to be shown to a table in a pub!

According to the Elysian Brewing Company web site, Immortal IPA (6.3%) is; a refreshing and hoppy, medium bodied IPA. A Northwest (USA) interpretation of a classic English style, golden copper in colour and loaded with New World hop flavour and aroma. It’s made with Pale, Munich, Crystal and Cara-hell malts. Bittered with Chinook, finished with Amarillo and Centennial hop to give an IBU of 62.

The aroma is toffee apples and really ripe melon. It’s pale amber in colour and there is a decent little head on it which laces onto the glass as you swirl it round. The toffee apple continues in the mouth and then goes to a juicy flavour before leaving a piney bitterness. It’s not a headbanger of an IPA, it’s far more subtle than that, and is actually a sensible, easy drinking beer. Although I like many of the extreme IPA’s, you’ve got to have some like this that you can drink whilst sat watching footy on TV.

Like it says on the bottle, it’s not an English style IPA, it’s an American take on an English style beer with lots of powerful malt and different hops. Like I often say, different isn’t wrong and this American interpretation of the style has given a lot to the beer world.

In five days I have had five really nice beers, good beers well made. In terms of whether they are craft beers then you have to make your own mind up. Before you do that you have to know what craft beer means, or maybe what it means to you, as clearly it means different things to different people. Despite the Brewers Association (USA) definition of a craft brewer if I hadn’t known that Elysian Brewing Company were no longer independent I would have instantly said US craft brewer, US style IPA, nice. Does a definition change that? If you’re reading this then please let me know your thoughts. Lots of you have done already in various forums, and I appreciate everyone’s views in my quest to define what craft beer is in the UK. The quote from Paul Gatza in the fourth paragraph is probably so, so true, in terms of the whole ethos around craft beer.

Verdict – Looking forward to my next beer and any dialogue it throws up. There hasn’t been a dark one yet? Will I be lucky tomorrow?

4 replies »

  1. Attempting to define craft beer in the UK is an utterly pointless and ultimately self defeating exercise I think. When I try a beer I usually ask myself “is this a good beer?” and “do I like it?”. Whether or not it might be a “craft beer” and/or made by a “craft brewer” are at best very ancillary to that and to be honest I’ve given up caring. Actually that’s a lie as it implies I cared in the first place. Which I didn’t.

    Interesting you’ve got the beer from Beer Hawk as they are also owned by AB Inbev.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was going to write a reply to your post yesterday when I had chance today, politely explaining why I was a little incredulous on Twitter about yesterday’s description of Tiny Rebel. However, after reading this it seems you don’t quite understand why people were (rightly) in shock of your statements.

    It is simply because you’ve dismissed the idea that a Best Bitter cannot, under any definition, be a “craft” beer. Assuming you are new to the stuff I wanted to explain politely why this seemed a little odd. But you’ve added to it today.

    I’m assuming – and I am assuming here – that under your personal definition of craft beer that traditional UK beer styles cannot be craft beers, i.e. Best Bitters, Milds, Stouts, English IPAs etc. Is this correct? And if so, what has made you draw that conclusion? Think of a brewery that you consider craft – let’s say Cloudwater for example as everybody’s heard of them. If Cloudwater brew a Best Bitter are they suddenly not craft? And how are you defining that considering most Best Bitters and just named Pale Ales these days for sale purposes?

    Today we have a beer described as an English IPA. However it is okay because you’ve decided it’s quite nice? You are also quoting much from the American Brewers Association’s definition of “Craft.” Can you tell me if it mentions that certain beer styles are not and can never be considered craft beer?

    I feel like I don’t have all the facts here to help. However, as far as I am aware, there are no limits to what is a “craft” beer (and yes it is a needless term) based on style. I dont’ mean to offend and am sure you won’t be as you are “open-minded” as you state

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mark,

      I’m not offended at all and welcome considered debate. I’m finding it interesting how the Advent calendar is drawing out various aspects of the modern beer scene. Not just here but across other social media formats.

      Without going into lengthy detail, which may come out as the Advent Calendar gets opened: My response would be to say that I consider the excellent, and exciting Manchester brewers who are Cloudwater to be in the absolute vanguard of progressive brewing in the UK at the minute. I very much enjoy their beers, which are brewed in a variety of styles and with many influences; British, USA Craft style, Belgian, French, German, etc. By doing this, they (and others) are pushing the boundaries of modern brewing styles and techniques. And I only had to use craft once in there.


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