Let's start with the positives. I'm an optimistic chap, after all.
- Everywhere I went, had something drinkable. The includes non-beer orientated places like a hotel bar, Applebee's and TGI Friday. I was more surprised that this was true in Wisconsin. New Glarus seem to have got their Spotted Cow into every bar in the state. Good on them. I've had more exciting beers, but I was more happy to down a few Spotted Cows. It was good to see a local beer so readily available.
- Cask beer is widely available in New York. Every beer bar stocked it and every pints I had was in decent condition. That's not a simple or as self-evident as it may sound. Cask beer is tricky to look after and it appeared pubs were making the necessary extra effort.
- Good beer is starting to enter mainstream consciousness. A colleague who wasn't a craft beer drinker and hadn't left the East Coast for 15 years knew of New Glarus.
- My experience of liquor stores was more limited. I only went in the one. It was way out in the distant New Jersey suburbs. But it had a resonable selection. More interesting beers than I had chance to sample in a week.
- Not all beers are dominated by C- hops. I was taken aback by the accessibility of beers like Weyerbacher Old Heathen. Rather subdued, in fact, for an Imperial Stout. I rather liked the more easy-drinking beers that I tried.
- The hop bombs aren't as crazily bitter as I had expected. 90 minute IPA I had feared would be more of a challenge to get through. In reality, it was in the same ballpark as the Bitters of my youth. Things like the original Barnsley Bitter.
- Specialist beer bars offer a reasonable variety of draught beer. I mean not all the same basic style, which is what you often find in Britain. Though, if I were to compare Blind Tiger with, say, Wildeman the latter would come out on top for the breadth of its beer selection.
- The locals are pretty friendly. Even in New York, I struck up conversations with a varity of fellow customers. Including the very nice cheese man.
Now for the not so good.
- TV's. Bloody TV sets everywhere. I can't think of one bar I visited that didn't have a TV. That includes the first-division beers place like Blind Tiger. It's annoying, distracting and creates on obstacle to social interaction which is, after all, what pubs are about.
- Deafening music. Many pubs I drank in had the music way too loud. At one in the afternoon and just a handful of drinkers in the bar and the music was at disco level. This didn't apply to everywhere. Blind Tiger and d.b.a. both kept the volume at an appropriate level.
- Not enough weaker beers. Ignoring the cask English beers, Rattle 'n' Hum had almost nothing under 7% ABV. And lots 9% plus. I only had one beer there, because I couldn't find a second that was weak enough. It was a hot, sunny afternoon, over 30º C. Just thinking about an Imperial Stout gave me a headache.
That's enough about the USA for now. Back to my usual indigestible fare of ancient brewing manuals and 19th-century legislation.