The United States of Craft Beer, by Jess Lebow, offers a broad survey of the craft beer scene in the U.S. Organized alphabetically by state, Lebow’s new book names his pick for top brewery in each, followed by one to three additional breweries of note. Although the author makes his case for best brewery in each state with clear prose and interesting anecdotes, his choices will no doubt inspire as much disagreement as passion about the topic.
For those of us who take our beer seriously, as Lebow obviously does, there will be disappointment among some readers that our personal favorites are missing. After all, opinions on taste are subjective. There will be no consensus on which craft beers are the best. However, that is not the purpose of the book.
Subtitled ‘A Guide to the Best Craft Breweries Across America,’ the intent is to emphasize the phenomenal growth of craft brewing over the past 20-plus years of American beer history. In doing so, Lebow demonstrates that good local beer is available in every State of the Union, and that is good news indeed! The author is a long-time home brewer, and his personal history with the process largely informs his approach to the book. This pays off in his detailed description of the origins of his top picks, many of which are the result of a desire to take home brewing to the next level.
By including every state in his survey, Lebow limits the space that might have been used for exploration of the many excellent breweries that dominate the top echelon of craft beer makers, which are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, California and Colorado. But rather than pick a nit off a gnat, let’s celebrate the notion of a nation-wide renaissance of beautiful beer!
Craft brewing in America is embarrassment of riches that is only likely to expand, if the recent purchase of craft breweries by the big national corporations is any indication. Here’s my recommendation for how to use this book: Buy a used van, throw a mattress in the back, grab The United States of Craft Beer and hit the road! Fifty states later, you will be wise beyond your beers! — Review by Jeff Thomas, RFT Contributor