The United States of Craft Beer: A Guide to the Best Craft Breweries Across America
Author: Jess Lebow
Publisher: Adams Media
Beer saved the world once, did you know that?
After prohibition ended, the beer industry helped pull the American–and eventually global–financial markets back from their Depression-era slumps. I had never considered this before, but author Jess Lebow did—and his obvious passion for beer comes through in his writings. When he describes a brewery, it isn’t simply a presentation of facts; he tells the story of each place, relaying the history of each in a way that is entertaining enough to keep your attention and interesting enough that you want to turn the page. Lebow brings a little humor to the history throughout (look for the Newhart reference when describing Three Floyds).
United States covers old and modern breweries alike. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of breweries covered—this isn’t simply someone’s wish list of beer-makers spanning decades—this was a true guide that I consider up-to-date and thoroughly researched. Lewbow talks about some of these brewers as if they’re old friends, relaying stories that feel as if they passed through the network of drinkers, pubs, breweries and homebrewers that spans the nation. In other words, he’s giving us a picture of a culture of beer. The author evokes pictures of backroom poker games, friends coming together to make something special, families sharing a passion—these are the stories of the landscape of American craft beer.
The book itself offers three elevated breweries per state, spanning all 50 states (hence the title). Lebow delves further into one that he prizes above the rest, doing a brief rundown of their history and a full listing of their products paired with a “why they’re great” section. Lewbow is thorough here as well, but the way the breweries are presented sort of sits on the page as a massive block of text—nothing breaks it up. Between all the ABV percentages and the names of the beers themselves the copy begins to swim a bit while you read it. This style of listing is repeated with the two runner-up picks in each state, as well. Nice touches, though, include a glossary of beer lingo to help new-to-the-scene craft beer aficionados learn the language of the culture, and an at-a-glance style fact box for each state that gives you a brief overview of the brewery and its home.
Verdict: Jess Lebow takes an authoritative stance on guiding us through the best breweries in America, and backs up his choices with stories and histories that provide context to some of the most interesting beers we can drink.