Once upon a time, jokes about American beer made by Europeans and Canadians were both plentiful and cutting. (Fans of British comedy will recall the Monty Python sketch comparing the drinking of American lagers to the act of "making love in a canoe.") Sadly, this derision was, for the most part, deserved. Back in the 1960s, Americans in pursuit of boldly flavored domestic brews were faced with arduous searches.
Then along came young Fritz Maytag, part of the famous appliance family. In 1965, he chose beer over dishwashers when he bought 51 percent of San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company. Driven by a desire for fuller, more richly flavored beers than the mild-mannered pale lagers that dominated the market at the time, he set about transforming it from a "pretty decrepit brewery," as he put it, into a model for the burgeoning microbrewing movement. Following his lead, small breweries sprouted up throughout the country, and by the mid-1990s, many had outgrown the diminutive "micro" label and become known as "craft breweries."
Today, there are approximately 1,400 breweries in the country, according to the Brewers Association, an industry organization, and exponentially more brands. Even more significant, numerous beer experts, including the esteemed British beer scribe Michael Jackson, consider the United States beer market the most exciting and innovative in the world today.
But with so many brews to choose from, any beer lover could use some help narrowing down the field. To this end, we present a handful of our favorite domestic bottles from breweries large and small, grouped by style. Use them to begin your own American beer quest for the best.
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