Informative overview of the economic and cultural transformations surrounding the world of beer.
Craft Beer and Brewing magazine senior editor Holl (The American Craft Beer Cookbook, 2013, etc.) is a passionate advocate for beer as both libation and lifestyle. He feels fortunate to have built a career as a beer judge and critic, and he argues that beer remains misunderstood despite its acknowledged popularity. The author shows how this popularity developed over the last few decades thanks to iconoclasts like New Albion Brewing’s Jack McAuliffe, who resurrected knowledge lost during Prohibition. As he writes, “a brewing culture exists in America today that not only creates and supports local drinking communities but has launched a global phenomenon.” Holl first captures this as narrative: During the 1980s and ’90s, the “microbrew” and “craft” categories blossomed despite push back from corporate-controlled brewers like Budweiser and initially skeptical food-scene chroniclers. Such controversies have persisted. “It’s easy,” writes the author, “to criticize the ‘big guys’ and the ‘traitors’ that are no longer ‘craft’ or ‘independent.’" Still, it’s undeniable that the breadth and quality of American brewing today constitutes a renaissance. Holl writes enthusiastically about such facets of beer appreciation as the science behind the sensory experience of beer and its core ingredients (yeast, water, malt, and hops) and the varied methodologies employed by brewers to resurrect neglected forms and try radical new taste combinations. He writes perceptively about current trends, noting that such marketplace competitiveness has an unsettling side: “Chemical flavoring is having a big impact in beer these days.” He also addresses the social aspects of enjoying beer, including the benefits of pub culture versus drinking at home, and some persistent issues regarding diversity and retrograde imagery in marketing; he notes his own editorial pleas for inclusiveness resulted in abuse from thin-skinned trolls online. The book is clearly written and only occasionally pedantic; this is leavened by good observations and nuggets of obscure brewing information.
Will appeal to neophyte beer drinkers and foodies generally.