There's a little riff I like to use when I host beer tasting about the relationship between British and American beer: "We have Cameron and Clegg, they have Barack Obama. We have Blackpool, they have Las Vegas. We have centuries of tightly woven and documented cultural history, they have Disneyland"
It's a cheap shot, but it serves to illustrate the point that the American brewing tradition has taken its European origins, run with them, and made a style all of its own. Double IPA, imperial pilsner, session beers at 6%abv - you get the idea. If it sounds as though I'm mocking, I'm not - I love the idea of taking something and tweaking it to turn it into an exaggerated version of itself. As a kid, I used to tweak CB radios to give more gain and power, and motorbikes to produce the same effect. I think that my homebrewing is an extension of this - producing slightly exaggerated versions of beers that I like.
It's always a little perplexing when an American brewery slavishly recreates a European beer style. The recent arrival of The Bruery's beers in the UK demonstrated that homage isn't enough - although Saison de Lente, Mischief et al are tasty beers, they are too close to the originals to justify the long journey from California - we can get that stuff fresher from Belgium. Equally, those brass-rubbed copies lack the brio, the chutzpah, the joie-de-vivre of the classic American pioneering spirit.
Happily, the two Pretty Things beers that we've just imported don't suffer from that lack of imagination. Jack d'Or (a 6.4%abv sweetly hoppy saison) and Field Mouse's Farewell (a 7%abv nutty, spicy biere de garde) are classic Euro beer styles filtered through the American craft brewer's imagination. That's not to say that they are just dry-hopped to hell, but there's just some something silkier, cleaner and more complex about them. That sounds like an oxymoron - cleaner and more complex - but for me, that's what American craft beer is all about - taking something and producing a slightly more beguiling, polished, shinier version of something. Hell, that's what America has done culturally for years - not for nothing has it got the reputation as being a country that went from barbarism to decadence without any intervening civilisation.
Check out Pretty Thing's website.
[DISCLAIMER - having imported them, I obviously have a financial interest in these beers doing well. But I also have a vested interest in retaining a bit of credibility as a writer. I think the two are in harmony here, but but I just thought I'd mention it. Should you wish to decide for yourself, buy the beers here, now, or at Beer-Ritz in Headingley, Leeds, from Thursday]