Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Book of Beer

Tom Acitelli – The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution (Chicago Review Press)

I often proudly proclaim; “the older I get the less beer I drink, but the better beer I drink,” the secret is quality over quantity. Instead of quaffing pails of the watery thin stuff like I used to, today I choose from a huge variety of tasty, amber and dark brews that offer a range of flavors. No I’m not a beer snob, pontificating about an “oakey nose” or “hints of dark chocolate” I’ll leave that to the wine snobs. I just like the fact that I get to sample a huge selection of highly quality brews.

With that as the back drop I was intrigued to learn that I had truly come of drinking age in an era of real revolution and huge growth for what is labeled craft brewing. Author and beer-lover Tom Acitelli tackles the tale of the history making revolutionaries who grew the craft brewing industry from one lonely outpost in 1975, the San Francisco based Anchor Steam, to more than 2000 craftsmen who ply their trade today; in the book The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution.

When you look back at America’s history of brewing, it started out as a very locally driven industry; with many larger cities having a number of brewers and taking on an almost neighborhood by neighborhood quality. If you lived in a certain section of town, you were a dedicated follower of the local beer, which was “always” better than the other guys neighborhood brew. That local tradition disappeared with the advent of huge, mass-produced and shipped “national” beers slowly but surely shuttered hundred of local brewhouses.

Acitelli outlines in great detail the start of the revolution that spawned not so much a re-birth of local beers, but the birth of a new attitude; that locally brewed, small batch beers could find fans (and buyers) on a much wider scale than just the neighborhood and could compete side-by-side with mass marketed and distributed products being poured out of the huge national brewers. It was seemingly largely driven by beer tourists, those folks that traveled the world and sampled beers that were crafted in a variety of styles.

The colorful cast of brew-happy and driven personalities who really got the ball rolling for the legions of brewers to follow, are what make The Audacity of Hops the interesting tale that it is. My suggestion is find a comfortable chair, crack open your favorite libation and enjoy the story.

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