One of the most important things I ever learned in life was the importance of an index. Why? Well, if you are overwhelmed by information as I was in law school I learned that reading the index for each course's material (because that is what we called it: "material") was what was in the course and what was not. Andy (who I call "Andy" even though we have never met due to our rich, rewarding but inherently thin relationship in the nature of all internet relationships) flagged this about this his second book with his thoughtful post "Great American Craft Beer: What’s Included, What’s Not…" This is not a book about every US craft beer. It does not describe every beer bar. It is an effort to exemplify where US craft beer is now.
Which beings me to a quibble. I wish it was called "Great American Craft Beer 2010" as I would like this to be an annual book. "WHAT!!!" says Andy. Exactly. A superhuman effort would be required to make such a book an annual - but it is odd that no such thing exists for a country as rich and diverse as the USA. It also contains no profiles of brewers, no real history of beer in the land and no maps. The first 45 pages include a number of brief essays on the background of beer and at the end there is a bit about enjoying beer but it is the 200 pages in the middle that are the meat of the book - reviews of specific beers.
One might say that this is the section that will go stale the fastest but it takes a picture of where we are all now. And by "we" I mean anyone who has an interest in US craft beer at this time when there are so many false pretenders, established giants, tiny interesting voices and weird experimenters out there on the beer store shelves. This is a golden era and this book captures it. From beers as pervasive as Magic Hat #9 to rarities like Three Floyds Dark Lord of which Andy writes:
At the far horizon of the Imperial Stout Spectrum lurks a beer whose flavor and motor oil consistency have made it perhaps the most geeked out craft beer on the planet. Three Floyds sells much coveted bottles of its near-mythical Imperial Stout on one day per year, appropriately called Dark Lord Day.
Note: that is about half the whole entry. Andy's writing is economical, vivid and accurate. You will see that throughout the book. We can only hope that it is at least a first edition if not an annual affair.