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 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.