I cracked open a bottle of 2011 Yeti. It's good. I have been burning through my cellar collection since arriving in the South. My next book review is a brewing recipe book. It will be hard to review if I don't brew, and it will be hard to brew if my Kegerator still has 100 bottles of beer inside. I also need to clean out the deep-freezer I am using for cellaring so I can court fermentation that is not beaten by the temperature waves of Georgia.
This seems like as good of time as any to share a few of my thoughts about my most recent read, The Craft Beer Revolution, by Steve Hindy. Shortly after my arrival in Georgia, Christine contacted me to find out if I wanted to review Steve's book. Having been a fan of Brooklyn for years I said why not. Unknown of course to Christine was that while time is a fascinating feature of the cosmos, and something I have studied a bit about, along with string theory, and physics, I don't really get any of those subjects that well. Case in point, mid sentence my son just woke up and ran outside to tell me that my loaves of bread were entombed in a beeping 460 degree oven. Judging from the crust I would say I have a long ways to go with this time thing. I just finished the book. I am pretty sure Christine was aiming for all reviews to be complete before the material went public domain. My wife asked me how I could possibly remember what I read. I assured her I took good notes. The same notes that lie before me and slightly resemble hieroglyphics written by a drunk scribe.
The moral of the story however has nothing to do with time or poor handwriting. It is simply this, never judge a book by its cover. The Jacket of Steve's book is something straight out of 1990's internet wallpaper. This combined with my recent disappointment in this past winters Black Chocolate Stout - any favoritism toward Brooklyn Brewery was long since gone when I cracked these pages. Books, like people, are not all made alike. Some of us can run four minute miles, some of us made it into the US Coast Guard and rescue people in ice cold seas suspended on a thin cable strung from a rotor craft tossed by the winds of the sea. Then some of us Joe's are pretty pleased that we make a killer apple pie, or a juicy BBQ chicken on the grill. This book is the Ironman of beer books.
I really felt schooled about beer history by this book. Maybe you know the feeling, you think you understand a subject well, maybe hold some very strong views, and someone much more experienced than you bursts your bubble and you feel a bit humbled. No book I have ever read has had this effect on me, it is without question one of the best books I have ever read, and clearly the best beer book I have ever read.
Steve starts at the beginning with the pioneers. The guys who struggled and told everyone whatever you do don't start a brewery. Many of these guys did fail but they laid a foundation for something better. Steve gives them their due credit and he gives a balanced view of the role of the big brewers in helping the little guys get started. Something that until reading the book I had no knowledge of what so ever. I thought I knew a lot about Brooklyn Brewery but I learned tons of things I never knew, and I gained a much greater appreciation of breweries I am familiar with like Great Lakes Brewing.
Having spent a fair amount of my life at Brooklyn Brewery I had no idea that their brewery in Williamsburg opened in 1996, just one year prior to my moving to Brooklyn. I did not know that Tom Potter was bought out. Other events that are discussed in the book I remember well. While the focus of the book is by no means Brooklyn Brewery, it does paint a nice picture of the brewery's story. The bottom line is that this is the Bible of craft beer. No other book even comes remotely close. He details the origins electronic and printed beer media, like Celebrator, All About Beer, Ale Street News, and others. He discusses the origins of all the brewers associations, current and past. You need to read this book. It's just that simple. Ever want to know the history of any of the major players in the craft beer world today? Just read the book.
Granted the book is told from Steve's point of view. But I strongly think that he does his best to tell the honest to goodness truth of all the players. He covers the shenanigans of Jim Koch and his contract brewed empire. He talks about his experiences with everyone from Charlie Papazian to August Busch IV. He also discusses some very interesting political aspects of beer that I think anyone that gives a crap about craft beer needs to read and seriously think about. I am not sure how I feel about what he says, or if I just don't want to fully accept it, but he makes some really good points.
So back to this time thing, my bottle of Yeti is about empty and my family would like to know where I have been for the past three hours. As a side note, as a general rule aging imperial stouts two to three years does wonders for them.
Thanks to Christine and the staff at Palgrave Macmillan for allowing me to savor such a great book for the past six months. Do yourself a favor and buy this book. It's not just a good book. It is a must read for anyone that wants to fully understand craft beer, its roots, and its future.