We Make Beer

We Make Beer

The craft beer movement keeps growing and new stories emerge daily about brewers and their beers. Sean Lewis relates several of those stories in his new book We Make Beer. Lewis brings a reporter’s perspective and also shares personal viewpoints. This is Lewis’ first book but he has written for Beer Advocate magazine and is a skilled writer.

The craft brewers Lewis visits and writes about range from small operations just starting out to the two biggest craft brewers, Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada. He finds that some are rather casual about their brewing while others exercise strict control of their beer making. Is it okay if particular brew varies in taste from batch to batch? Depends.

Because Lewis lived in Massachusetts when he began the book and in California when he finished it, those two states’ brewers get the bulk of his attention. But he also writes about breweries in Birmingham, Nashville, Austin, Lancaster/Ephrata (Pennsylvania) and Papillion (Nebraska). The craft beer scene in Portland, anchored by Deschutes, gets its due, too.

Sean Lewis author photo_ Credit Victoria Knowles

(Sean Lewis photo by Victoria Knowles.)

Lewis offers inside looks at the brewing process and the brewery business. There’s enough detail about what goes in and what comes out of a brewing tank to satisfy most serious beer geeks. Those of us who may not care so much for the technical stuff can enjoy meeting the individuals who make beer and learning about their motivations and passions.

He spends a few pages of the book addressing the 2011 sale of Chicago’s successful craft brewer Goose Island to AB/InBev. The sale “felt like a betrayal because Anheuser-Busch had long served as the face of the enemy,” he writes.

(I’ve spoken to Goose Island and A-B folks who defend the purchase, saying the main differences are stricter safety standards, better consistency in product and wider distribution. A-B also has the power to aid in sourcing raw materials plus capacity to handle demand in other locations that can’t be met in Chicago, they say.)

Lewis mentions in a footnote that naming a favorite beer is “an impossible question to answer.” But, he writes, “If I had to choose one beer to drink for the rest of my life, it would be Firestone Walker’s Pale 31.” I’ll be checking this weekend to find out if anybody in St. Louis has it!

Click HERE to purchase We Make Beer from Amazon.


Boiled Peanut Hummus at Saw’s

My family always parched peanuts at our house. When I moved back to the South in the mid-80’s, I became aware of boiled peanuts.

Near my radio station on Jacksonville, Florida’s west side was a tacky-looking roadside stand that sold boiled peanuts. When we vacationed in the Smoky Mountains we saw boiled peanut stands in several spots in North Carolina.

I finally tried them and did not like ’em. Why would someone boil peanuts and make ’em mushy? I always liked my peanuts crunchy.

Boiled Peanut Hummus

Last weekend, on Easter eve, a friend and I stopped at Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham where they offered Boiled Peanut Hummus (pictured above). It was delicious! (Yes, those are bacon bits on top of the hummus.)

The peanut flavor was perfect and went great with both stout and saison craft brews. (It might’ve been a better idea to have offered pita bread or toast points—something less flavorful and salty than potato chips—on which to spread the hummus.)

We also enjoyed Saw’s Sweet Potato Fries which were among the best I’ve ever had. They are big.

Sweet Potato Fries

Of course, this is a BBQ joint, so on my next visit, I’ll be tasting some of their ‘cue. Maybe the Chicken Stuffed Tater (a baked potato with green onions, bacon, chicken and BBQ sauce). The guy sitting next to us at the bar was digging into one and it was huge.








Fish Market, Birmingham

Last month I finally had the opportunity to eat at the Fish Market in Birmingham. I met the owner George Sarris at Railroad Park in B’ham last year and my dad had told me that his restaurant was excellent.

Fish Market

I took my dad out to dinner (for his 85th birthday) at the Fish Market (dining area pictured above) and it was good (and plentiful). Our visit was just a few days after a Birmingham News feature on the restaurant and just a couple of days before the Fish Market was featured on a Bizarre Foods segment that spotlighted Birmingham. (Included in the Andrew Zimmern visit was a stop at Jim ‘N’ Nick’s, a barbeque joint, at whose Gardendale location I dined in May.)

Fresh fish

At the Fish Market you can go to the counter and order from among the many fish on display (above). You can also select a live lobster or a live trout (below). Or you can opt for table service (as we did).


My dish was a grilled red snapper and barbeque shrimp combo, pictured below.

Grilled Fish

My dad ordered (and loved) a fried fish platter. He also enjoyed his gorgeous Greek salad with feta, pictured below.

greek salad

If you enjoy raw oysters, The Fish Market has several different types of oysters available at their oyster bar.

Should you find yourself in Birmingham, Alabama, check out the Fish Market. On 6th Avenue South, between 21st and 22nd Streets. Official address is 612 22nd Street, 35233.

If you didn’t click the link to the Fish Market’s website at the top of this post, click HERE for a (quick) fun video intro from owner George Sarris.