America’s craft beer industry is booming. Not as day goes by that somebody, somewhere, either opens a new brewery/brewpub or writes up a business plan to start a new brewing operation in the future. With more breweries comes more beer- related merchandise and more media and a good example of the latter is The United States of Craft Beer: A Guide to the Best Craft Breweries Across America, a book written by Jess Lebow.
50 States of Beer
The United States of Beer follows a standard format throughout. It lists each of the 50 U.S. states, in alphabetical order, followed first by the brewery author Jess Lebow considers the best in the state. This top brewery is discussed briefly, with some background information and reasons to back up the top billing. Right after this, the book moves on and describes two other noteworthy breweries in the same state, with a small amount of information on each. There is a road atlas- style map for each state as well, to place the reader in a road trip state of mind. And each state’s listing ends with a small summary of essential facts, including the state’s capital city, beer consumption per adult, and other tidbits of data.
Beer books often present their own unique angle and this book is decidedly on the side of general information. It lets you know who founded some of these top breweries, when the brewery opened, what the tops beers produced are, and why they deserve special recognition. You get to learn about the names and vital statistics for each of the year- round beers. You get to know about the people behind the success. You get to learn often interesting trivial facts about these top rated breweries and what they do that gives them an edge over the competition.
Editing and Consistency
United States of Craft Beer is written in a reference/conversational manner. It’s easy reading, free from unpronounceable words, and it contains enough facts about each brewery and its beer/style of brewing to keep the reader interested. But there are some issues with this book and those with a penchant for following the rules of writing and editing will notice one problem immediately: The book’s editing. The most obvious error is the author’s use of plural pronouns such as “they” or “their” when referring to a brewery. A brewery is s single entity and thus the pronoun should be “it.” I realize that most of us use plural pronouns when we speak about companies, so as you read, it actually sounds acceptable. But I also know that the English majors among us will hear the sound of chalk screeching on a chalkboard every time they read one of these misused pronouns.
Probably a greater issue, however, is with consistency. Remember when I said that the book follows a standard format, with a top brewery listed for each state followed by two runners up? Well, it follows this format for most of the states, but not for all of the states. There are some that list only two breweries: The winner and one runner- up. Rhode Island and South Carolina are two examples. You can’t tell me these states don’t have enough breweries to come up with two runners up because every state (especially nowadays!) has a good number of breweries. Along with the consistency problem, I also noticed a few factual errors in the book. A good example is the fact summary at the end of the state of Montana’s listing. It says that Montana “ranks third among the states in craft breweries with a total of 39.” The number 39 might be correct, but the third place ranking is not.
Plan Your Trip
The United States of Craft Beer is a book designed to celebrate the amazing artisanal craft beer industry and the specific breweries responsible for bringing this delicious liquid to stores, bars, and restaurants each day. I like the book’s use as a reference guide as it does, indeed, include some excellent and well- deserved breweries among is top three for each U.S. state. Not everyone will agree with the author’s selections for the top three breweries, but that is part of the book’s fun: thumbing through the pages, discovering new breweries, looking for places to visit or beer to try, and then deciding which breweries you would select among your personal top three.
With more than 3,400 breweries in the United States and forecasts for continued growth, America is enjoying a beer industry renaissance that shows no signs of slowing down. The United States of Craft Beer is a nice reference guide to the cream of the malt beverage crop and while it does have some flaws relating to grammar, consistency, and accuracy, it’s still a fun guide and it makes a great conversation piece with a fellow craft beer lover over a pint of your favorite beer.