Reviewed: The United States of Craft Beer

The United States of Craft Beer

By Jess Lebow

Adams Media, 2015

On one hand, the task of creating a book such as Jess Lebow’s The United States of Craft Beer is extraordinarily difficult, and on the other hand, it’s really a piece of cake.

The hard way would employ a prohibitively costly and exhausting travel schedule, while the easy way can be executed simply by spending hours scouring the Internet. Sure, there’s plenty of work involved in the easy way—lots of writing, organizing and pestering busy breweries to send photos to accompany their profiles—but despite that effort and honest to goodness knowledge of the American craft beer landscape, that resulting tome still reveals itself.

While it’s beautifully illustrated with full color photos throughout, this book is really nothing more than an expensive listicle—you know, those click-bait online roundups of the country’s ten best IPAs, the Midwest’s nine best impy stouts, or the world’s top twenty sour ales. For someone new to the world of craft beer, this book has value. It’s a fun road trip across the country with insight into many breweries worth checking out, but for the seasoned beer nerd, The United States of Craft Beer is probably one to skip.

A beer traveler will find many solid brewery recommendations in this book, but each state is confined to but a handful of inclusions. Limiting a state like North Dakota to three brewery mentions makes some sense, but confining such fertile beer states as California, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina to five, three, five, three, and three respectively just seems negligent—even if the goal is to offer a simple overview of what the US has to offer.

Since it’s so easy these days to fire up a search engine to identify the top tier of any state’s breweries such as this book identifies, it’s amazing to me that a publisher settled for this pitch. To me, Adams Media is looking to cash in on the buzz that craft beer has created for itself over the course of especially this last decade. They’re like those beer knowledgeless cats that jumped into brewery ownership back in the nineties with the plan of easy money. That trend resulted in a burst bubble, but this one results in a backward step for beer publishing.

I’d like to see its size doubled, original photography, and profiles that read as though the information was compiled from sources deeper than the “about” page on breweries’ websites. Though this is a fun bookstore thumb-through, I’d like to have seen the publishers ask for more.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher.

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