Andy Crouch is a beer lover and a very talented writer on the subject of beer. American beer has been given the short end of the stick for decades, largely due to prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s. American beer, and craft beer specifically, has been on the rise for the past 4 decades, and is finally beginning to gain the recognition it deservers for all the homebrewers, microbrewers and beer enthusiasts who have struggled to resurrect American beer from the doldrums of mediocrity.
Andy Crouch, for those unfamiliar with his writing, is well equipped to give us what we like. Crouch puts it out there like it is: punchy and to the point. He expands upon the vocabulary of the average beer reviwer but doesn’t get carried away, and speaks a language that we can all understand. In other words, to read a beer review written by Andy Crouch is a privilege, and this book is packed to the gills with them. I still find myself turning to the internet in many cases to attempt to determine if an unfamiliar high-end bottle of beer is worth my money, and I spend a while sifting through a number of reviews on RateBeer or BeerAdvocate before deciding whether or not to trust the feedback I’ve read. There are so many reviews and reviewers out there that I feel that I need to read quite a few to calibrate my own gauge before heading out to the store.
Andy Crouch has done the hard work for us, highlighting some of the best that America has to offer. Crouch does not contend that these are the end-all be-all of American beer, this is simply a guide to some of the best that America has to offer. He instills a confidence that if you were to order one of these beers, you would find a top example of the style, and not only that, but that you will see just what American craftbrewers are capable of.
Alright, sentimentalism aside, what is this book all about? Andy Crouch has compiled a book for the beginner and the fanatic. Sure, if you’ve been a craft beer fan for a decade or more, some of the information in the book may seem a bit simplistic, but thanks to Crouch’s brevity, you won’t be bored for long. This is not a book only for the seasoned beer fanatic, this is a book for the cautious beer fan, the freshman, as well as the experienced beer lover, looking to see just what’s out there that they might have missed.
Crouch gives a background of beer in America, taking us from colonization to the craft beer movement. He does this in a staggeringly small number of pages, giving us the Cliff Notes of American beer. The bulk of the book is reserved for a guide to a wide variety of beer styles, in each case highlighting some of the best that American Craft Beer has to offer. Crouch put himself through a grueling number of tastings in order to decide which beers to profile in this book, and you may be surprised to see how few of the holy grails of american beer made it in this book. After all, this isn’t a book dedicated to the rarest, most sought after beers in America, this is a book dedicated to style and education, seeking to educate and liberate the timid beer drinker.
If you’re a skeptic, wondering if you can trust Crouch to match your tastes, I would suggest you flip through the book. I live in Maine, a state with magnificent local breweries, but a tragic shortfall for national brand selection in our local 6-pack shops. I was surprised that I found myself able to fall into sync with Crouch’s notes on the national brands I have had the opportunity to try. His reviews are blunt and to the point, but not without a lack of descriptors that are capable of painting a vivid picture for those who may never have the opportunity to taste some of these beers in their lifetime.
Crouch doesn’t stop there however, he continues on to provide insight for the novice beer enthusiast on freshness, glassware, tasting, pairing with foods, and respect. I would venture to say that there are very few who couldn’t learn something from Great American Craft Beer. Beyond all this, the book is gorgeous. Full color throughout, and it has heft to it, making it feel special. As the dust jacket says, there is a beer out there for everyone, and I encourage you to find it. You’ll be glad you did.