Reviews of Great American Craft Beer…

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My second book on beer, Great American Craft Beer, is now available to the public and some press reviews and mentions have started to arrive. I’ll try to post them here as I come across them, sometimes with a little pull quote or comment as needed, but mainly for you, the reader or prospective buyer, to get a better sense of the book. A little more information about the book is available on the Running Press website and on Cheers!

Austin American-Statesman

The best book on the best American beer. Here’s your summer beach read: Andy Crouch’s “Great American Craft Beer”

My reading preference is a good book about beer, and I’ve got one for you: “Great American Craft Beer: A Guide to the Nation’s Finest Beers and Brewers” by Andy Crouch (Running Press, $22.95). Crouch is a…fine guide through the whole world of beer — its history, the brewing process, describing a proper atmosphere for tastings, style-specific glassware, the art of a proper pour and chef’s menus for beer dinners.

Crouch also aims to expand beer drinkers’ horizons while not turning them into bores, and he seeks to gently rein in the extreme beer trend…

Norman Miller, the resident Beer Nut for the Daily News Tribune and Gatehouse News Service

Crouch, who also authored one of my go-to beer travel books, “The Good Beer Guide To New England,” puts together an extremely informative book.

Josh Christie for the HopPress

On the first page of his new beer guide Great American Craft Beer, Andy Crouch writes “with the bounty of amazing beers available in every corner of America, never before has there been a better time or place to be a beer drinker.” Thus begins one of the best cases for American exceptionalism that I’ve read in years – not in the traditional political or social sense, but in the realm of brewing and beer. Great American Craft Beer isn’t just a new book to add to the increasingly crowded family of “beer guides.” The compendium is a love letter to craft beer in the US of A, and that there’s enough to fill a 300+ page book is a testament to a brewing movement that’s barely thirty years old.

If you’ve never read any of Crouch’s beer reviews, you’re in for a treat with this book. Beer reviewers are occasionally (and rightfully) accused of having a limited vocabulary when writing about beer, and the author is doing his best to expand our vernacular. Cotton candy hops, notes of graham cracker, “armpit stinky” – Crouch isn’t necessarily Gary Vaynerchuk, but he’s got the same panache for describing what he smells, sees and tastes.

Great American Craft Beer is a book that has some sex appeal for beer lovers from novices to experts. For beginners, Crouch attacks tasting technique, history and all kinds of beer minutia in a super-accessible way. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool beer geek, then yes, some bits on history and glassware are probably retreads. If you’re on a budget and own a bunch of beer guides already, you’ll want to leaf through Great American Craft Beer to make sure it has enough “new” material to excite you. Still, the wit in the writing, the wonderfully descriptive beer reviews and some of the pieces that are uniquely Andy merit a purchase in this reviewer’s opinion (and I know from beer guides).

USA Today

An interview with the Dispatches department about the book and the growing popularity of American craft beer around the world.

Library Journal

“Rather than an exhaustive treatment, this is a guide to available beer styles via a selection of choice examples of each. In an easy manner, Crouch discusses each beer, noting the flavor accents, color, aroma, and feel. He also includes a list of great beer bars and tips on beer selection. Verdict In recent years, beer in America has become more diversified as the craft beer movement has gained momentum, and Crouch gives the beer lover great suggestions to explore.”

Express – Washington Post

Author Andy Crouch treats beer like a fine wine, not something to gulp at a tailgate party. The book offers both a brief history of brewski and tips on properly enjoying a cold one, but mostly serves as a guide to hundreds of American craft beers — from the dark and roasty to the rich and fruity.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An interview about the book and the resurgence of craft beer in the South.

What’s Cooking on Wine

A recent visit to What’s Cooking on Wine, wherein I discuss why wine tourists to Sonoma and Napa should head up to Santa Rosa to enjoy the real Russian River treasures. Starts around 14:30.

“Andy Crouch does an admirable job of surveying the state of our favorite industry, the U.S. microbrews. His new book (Running Press, $22.95) is crisp, clean and a lot of fun to pore over. (That’s pore, p-o-r-e, not pour, p-o-u-r!)”

But the reviewer chides me a bit for not including some of his favorite local beers. While one or two of his selections appear not to have been in business yet (or for very long) when I wrote the book, I look forward to trying them soon. In the meantime, I’ve written a short piece discussing the criteria for what beers I’ve included in the book and which of your favorites I had to pass over.

In one of the more unusual non-reviews of my book, the local writer suggests you go and buy it based upon the quality of The Good Beer Guide To New England.

Everyone trying to promote craft beer deserves attention from my column. Or maybe I should say almost everyone. Some people just don’t merit any attention at all. But Andy does. If you get a chance, check his book out.

A number of books about craft beer have recently hit the market. Most are guidebooks or simple beer reviews that attempt to tell you the best beers in the world.

There’s a lot of shifting sand in the craft beer world today, especially in this era of expansion and changing ownership. Understanding styles and what makes one beer superior to another is more important than beer ratings.

That’s why my favorite book so far is “Great American Craft Beer” by Andy Crouch.


Concludes that “As a critic, Crouch has done a thorough job.” The reviewer takes me to task for the general state of books on craft beer, some of our design and editorial choices, and for spending only two-third’s of the book on beer reviews…

Tulsa World

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Great American Craft Beer: What’s Included, What’s Not…

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After a lot of pitching, discussing, researching, writing, editing, and planning, my book Great American Craft Beer, is now available for purchase. Available at on-line bookstores (clicking the link above will help direct some more of the money back to its author), the book will be making its way to bookstores around the country over the next few weeks. I actually just received my author’s copies yesterday but reviewers have had theirs for a day or two earlier and we’re already starting to see some reviews. I’ll set up another page to collect those reviews as they come in but for now, I just wanted to address one issue that has come up so far: the selections in the book.

There are around 1600 breweries operating in the United States today, a number that continues to slowly grow every year. Many of these breweries, especially the brewpubs, produce 10, 20, 30, or even more individual beers during the course of a year. No one has an exact estimate as to how many individual beers all American brewers produce but the neighborhood could be somewhere from 5,000-15,000. But considering that more than 2,200 beers from only 462 breweries will be served in the festival hall at this year’s Great American Beer Festival (more than 3,500 will be judged), I’d venture to say the total number of beers produced is probably north of 10,000.

With those numbers in mind, let’s talk about what is in the book. The heart of Great American Craft Beer includes profiles and tasting reviews of nearly 350 beers drawn from several hundred American craft brewers in dozens upon dozens of styles. I also profile 25 great American beer bars. These reviews are detailed and attempt to capture the essence of the beers and establishments, all while attempting to create a grander narrative about the importance of taste and flavor. So even if we take a conservative estimate of the total number of beers produced in America today, the entries into a book such as mine is always going to be to exceedingly small, probably less than five-percent of all beers produced.

So it is along these lines that I note early in the book that the process of selecting beers for inclusion was anything but easy. I addressed the issue because I was concerned that readers and reviewers might understandably take umbrage if their favorite beer was not selected. Beyond mere flavor, I also wanted to create some balance between the beers I profiled. Often was the case where I was faced with choosing from a dozen or more excellent style examples, knowing I had to whittle the number down to only six selections. In making my selections, I had to take care in assuring some geographic diversity (of course San Diego, Portland, or Seattle could have whole chapters dedicated to their famed IPAs), some balance between production breweries and brewpubs, and some consideration of how easy it would be to find a particular beer. Accordingly, I wrote the following in the section preceding the reviews:

Creating a list of the best beers from the litany of great American craft brewers turns out to be a pretty daunting and restless task. While the tasting part certainly has its moments, the winnowing process leaves a substantial number of excellent brewers out in the cold. In this guide, I’ve endeavored to present you with the very best beers from the top breweries in the selected styles. While not always resolute in my devotion to the doctrine of style guidelines, I have attempted to shadow their widely-accepted framework. You’ll find several levels of balance, ranging from geographic diversity to a representative equilibrium between beers produced by small and local brewpubs and regional and national craft brewers, whose beers are generally much more widely available. Along these lines, you may find that a beer from your favorite brewery has been left out. In reviewing more than a thousand beers from several hundred breweries, be sure to understand that this is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of breweries that don’t find their way into these pages. The reviews remain a snapshot of several excellent beers in a style, not the final word on the only acceptable options.

As it can be frustrating to read about an unattainable beer, I’ve tried to restrict the numbers of beers that you’d have a better chance at seeing Sasquatch than trying. I’ve also tried to create a balance between the beers produced by production breweries, whose products are primarily purchased and enjoyed off-premise, and brewpubs, whose beers are generally enjoyed in-house. As brewpub beers rarely get distributed too far from their central base of operations, beers from production breweries tend to outnumber those from brewpubs in the following pages. While a great deal of work went into crafting a balanced list of beers—with some consideration given to geographic diversity and product availability—it’s important to keep in mind that breweries frequently change their lineups and some beers may occasionally get dropped from portfolios, while others may transition from seasonal to year-round release. If your heart is set on trying a particular beer that you can’t quite seem to find, feel free to give the brewery a call for some assistance.

I hope that readers will keep these points in mind when considering my selections. Many hundreds of other beers certainly could have found a home in the book and I would have loved to include all of your favorites, but the realities of publishing don’t allow for that. Maybe we can work on a second volume next time. Cheers

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Fighting Taste Blindness…

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I have always believed that beer’s greatest asset is its accessibility. When it comes to other beverages, which will go unnamed, the drinker is often left with the sneaking suspicion that someone is playing a joke on them. Try as they may, other beverages prefer to stay at arm’s length from their clientele.

In contrast, beer is like that person you’ve met a couple of times who seems cool but it takes the discovery of a mutual love of the movie Slap Shot or the sound of vinyl records to realize how companionable you really are. After you’ve hit it off, beer opens itself up and invites you to join it for a round or two. At its best, beer employs the oft-forsaken arts of subtlety and nuance, all while presenting itself in a straightforward and easily understood fashion. It’s comfortable in its own skin and is happy to let you view it honestly, not via some externally applied pretension.

The great American essayist and food writer MFK Fisher once condemned our collective unawareness of flavor as being a “nation taste-blind.? The author of such quixotic books as How to Cook a Wolf, Fisher knew a thing or two about breaking through perceived barriers. Writing in the late 1930s, she thought Americans maintained an interest in food insofar as it allowed them to grow full and that they lacked appreciation for the true nuanced pleasure of consumption. I think the same view readily applies to the interest most consumers have for beer; it is but a means for becoming lightly intoxicated or even drunk.

As Fisher observed, most people remain taste-blind because they have never been taught to look for different flavors. Along these lines, I am often approached by passionate beer enthusiasts who lament that their friends simply “don’t get beer? or can’t connect with their particular level of interest in the drink. After listening to their grievances about failed attempts to “convert? their friends through mini-lectures on the history of beer styles and mind-numbing soliloquies on the brewing process, I always counsel a simpler approach. Most people drink simple macro-style lagers, not because they love the flavor only a sixty-four calorie beer can give, but because they haven’t yet experienced that moment where beer no longer tastes like “beer.? In a corollary to Fisher’s aphorism, our taste-blindness when it comes to beer relates to the coordinated campaign of sameness we have all been bombarded with since birth. Beer, on the macro level, is sold not by flavor but by jest; it is differentiated not by character but by degree of levity and penchant for often witless humor.

When I try and welcome new friends to the wider world of craft beer, I start by talking about coffee, bananas, chocolate, oranges, and cotton candy. The words extreme, decoction mashing, and bitterness unit never enter my vocabulary. I’m not trying to teach, I’m trying to take a silent machete to the underbrush obstructing someone’s flavor association faculties. Because when it comes down to it, people understand the flavors that they enjoy; they just don’t realize these can be found in beer. While most people don’t understand beer styles, they clearly appreciate whether they enjoy roasted coffee or orange citrus. With these basic points established, advocates of better beer are on familiar ground when they offer curious friends a sample of porter or India Pale Ale. Considering how well-founded these and many other flavor preferences are, it’s madness to waste the few true moments we have to help people transition from lives of taste-blindness to ones enriched by the full flavor of beer.

-Article appeared in Issue 40 of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

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