To international tastebuds, it meant bottled lagers like Budweiser, Miller or Coors - commonly regarded by self-respecting drinkers as bland, corporate and lacking in credibility.
But the explosion in "craft beers" has lead to quite a revolution in the American beer industry. It's actually pretty good stuff and for some weird reason very fashionable.
Somehow, beer from the United States has become not just widely respected, but achingly fashionable.
Visit a chrome-surfaced bar in London, Stockholm or Amsterdam and you're likely to find Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Odell's porter on tap.
"There's a hipster cachet to it," says Melissa Cole, ale expert and author of Let Me Tell You About Beer. "Craft beer is seen as sexy right now, there's no doubt about it."
But in my mind it's all gone a bit too far. When you go into a pub or bar in any beer drinking country, you can always find an array of very cold lagers. Simple, refreshing, no pretense. This is basically all American beer was for decades. Very cold Bud lights, Coors, etc. But try going into a "beer works" or "ale house" or some other equally pretentiously-named establishment and try and get a cold lager. Nope. I went into one of these places last summer that was very proud of the fact that it had 24 beers on tap and more than twice that in the bottle, all proudly displayed on a huge chalkboard above the bar. When the waitress came to take my order, I asked for a cold lager, didn't care which one. "A lager? I don't think we have that brand." I could have had any type of nut ale, chocolate stout, coffee IPA, blueberry bock or some other weird concoction (as well as some damn fine ales, don't get me wrong.) But the reliable simplicity of a cold lager has been entirely eschewed in favour of boutique beers. It's like going to a burger joint that serves potatoes wedges instead of fries.
Meanwhile the big beer makers aren't refining their core lager product to appeal to the thirsty, hot beer drinker of today. No they're creating monstrosities like Bud Light and Clamato. For shame.
I'm delighted to see American beer is getting the respect that it deserves overseas, but let's not throw the baby out with the beer water. via BBC News - US craft beer: How it inspired British brewers.