Roman scholar Pliny the Elder is well known in the craft beer community. Credited with the creation of the botanical name for the hop plant, he provides the backstory for an eponymous Double IPA brewed by Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California. He is perhaps better known, however, for being the father of the encyclopedic work. Referencing this aspect his life, we find philosophical parallels to those uncovered when considering a new book by beer scribe Andy Crouch. As it just so happens, Pliny the Elder is also one of the many brews profiled by Crouch in Great American Craft Beer.
Getting a sense of the scope of the book, you feel as though you hold in your hands a single volume encyclopedia devoted entirely to craft beer. Indeed, Great American Craft Beer is constructed like a series of concise volumes, with a wide-ranging array of subjects receiving thoughtful attention. To name but a few, you’ll find background studies on the history of beer and the evolution of beer styles, as well as short essays on session beers, serving considerations, and even purchasing strategies. As you read, it’s clear that Crouch has set goals remarkably similar to those of Pliny himself who, in his original work, noted that such an undertaking involved the difficult tasks of bringing “light to the obscure” and “attraction to the stale”.
Ultimately, Crouch hopes to draw new converts away from the bland, uninspired offerings of big commercial brewhouses. In the largest section of the book, “The Style and Flavor of Beer”, he endeavors to open your eyes to the rich landscape of craft beer and its virtually infinite palate of enticing flavors and aromas. Realizing that distinctive flavors are what lure you to exotic dark chocolates, fresh roasted coffee beans, artisan breads, and tropical fruits, is the first step towards discovering these same flavors and many others in craft beer. In many ways a guidebook, Great American Craft Beer will help you navigate these barley and hop infused waters by allowing you to match up tastes you already enjoy with specific styles that feature them. With flavor profiles for nearly 350 craft beers representing well over 50 distinct styles, it would be a singular occurrence were you not able to identify at least one craft beer that inspired you to explore further.
Perhaps the most compelling discourse not only strikes a chord with craft beer devotees, but provides a sort of holy grail for those seeking to cross the bridge to better beer. “The One Beer” is that which first opens your eyes to the world of craft beer. The moment is significant enough that you remember not only the beer itself, but the time and the place where you experienced this revelation. It may seem like a romantic notion, but in truth the craft beer movement is all about passion and is very much a love affair. Just ask any who have found their affirmation, especially those who brew either at home or for a living. Much like life, the first step in finding “the one” is to simply open yourself up to the possibilities. Once you do, Great American Craft Beer provides the stepping stones to guide you on your journey.
Let the quest begin.
Where to get it: Available locally at Barnes & Noble, and Borders, as well as online at Amazon.com.
Local Note: Of the nearly 350 beers profiled at least 50 of these can be found at various times throughout the year in and around the Metroplex. Alas, Pliny the Elder is not among them, but many other world class examples can be found either on tap, or at your local craft beer retailer. For those seeking local flavor, Texas breweries are well represented by beers from Saint Arnold, Live Oak, Real Ale, Southern Star, and Franconia. Personal favorites profiled and available locally include Left Hand Milk Stout, Avery Samael’s Oak-aged Ale, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, and Live Oak Hefeweizen.
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