A year ago, Lew Bryson wrote this in his email newsletter The Occasional Pint:
I'm also kicking around ideas for the next book. New Jersey Breweries is already in planning stages, but what's down the road is a bit obscure. I've thought about doing a rye whiskey book, or a bourbon book. At the urging of a lot of people, I did think about "New England Breweries," even did some preliminary investigation, but I've since learned that another writer, Andy Crouch (who also writes on beer for Mass Beverage Business), is in the late stages of just such a book; a crowded market is no good for such a niche book.This new was a bit of a big thing for me. As you know, I am a big fan of Lew's beer travel books and, as you also know, I spend a fair amount of time in New England. So I hoped this was a book for me.
And it was. Andy references the works of Bryson in the forward and then - very sensibly - generally adopts the format that Lew has laid down for others. The book is logical, informative and practical as an actual field guide to the beers as opposed to an atlas to what you might find in the region. This makes it a book to throw in the backpack or glove compartment.
Consider this real life situation. Last month I roved along highway 9 east west from Albany NY to Portland Maine. I had to stop and graze along with the family and ended up in road houses due a lack of time and information as well as a need to hit big box sports stores for Red Sox stuff. Little did I know, then, stopping on a whim in Keene, NH that I did not have to go to a Chilis as I might have attended at Elm City Brewing of which Andy states:
An above average menue that ranges from burgers to steaks and seafood. The kitchen makes its own desserts on-site, including the Chocolate Stout Mousse.Fortunately, I am retracing my steps in July and will be at Elm City, oh, about 8 July at 11:17 am. Maybe right after I avoid the Madison Brewing Company in Bennington, Vermont, whose website is a little less informative than it might be and whose beers Andy honestly advises are not up to the mark. Now, keep in mind that you won't find everything that calls itself a brewery in the book as Andy wrote me by email the other day after I mentioned a contract brew called Endurance Pale Ale:
Hey Alan - Endurance is not in the book because I chose to cover only brick-and-mortar breweries, and not so-called "beer marketing companies" (of which there are many in NE). Though Mercury's refusal to answer my calls didn't help either...Best,Quite right. A snazzy flash front page does not a brewey make. And, in addition to great information about the real breweries to be found, Andy has also provids the history of each brick-and-mortar brewery, the story of how the good folk got together to create the business and the brews as well as data on what is available, the equipment used and his favorite brew. Handy stuff even with Mercury, the only brewer not to answer Andy's inquiries - despite which barrier he still manages to provide a great introduction for them at page 125. One thing that Lew does that Andy has chosen not to include is information on the history and geography of the regions. Lew has let me know through the odd email (sometimes very odd) that he is a history grad and that when he travels the overlay of the past is indivisible to him. For me as the representative Canadian, that sort of information about civil war battlefields and local fast foods is very useful for trip planning but it is not critical as finding family friendly landing pads along the roadway is a huge part of the battle. Consider how Lew helped me and mine get to the Adirondack Pub and Brewery last summer - it ended up being my pub of the year for 2005.
So if you are in the north-east of the US and read this blog once a week or so, you really ought to do yourself a big favour buy this book. I hope Andy thinks to use Lew's web updates habit though sometimes a think Lew must be a nerd's nerd to track the career paths of the assistant brewers of Oswego. [Yet I read and am strangely compelled.] Here is the publisher's web page for The Good Beer Guide to New England with all the critical information.
Go'wan. Buy it. Did I mention it has a handy index and a nice photo up front that reminded me of this gem of mine, though I think mine captures a moment in a haiku sort of way just a little bit more. But still...buy the book.