There’s a beer out there for everyone” is how Andy Crouch recently described the theme of his new book, “Great American Craft Beer: A Guide to the Nation’s Finest Beers and Breweries” (Running Press, $22.95).
“I’m hoping the book will help people realize that their ideas about beer and what beer tastes like should be broadened,” Crouch said. “It doesn’t require a whole lot of work or study. I just suggest people get out and drink with an open mind and an open mouth.”
Crouch lives and practices criminal law in Cambridge, Mass. But he’s been writing about beer for more than a decade for publications such as Ale Street News and Beer Advocate magazine, where he has a monthly column, and on his own BeerScribe.com website.
“Great American Craft Beer” packs a lot of information into some 300 pages, ranging from beer history to a beer and food recipe section. But the heart of the book is contained under the simple heading: “Style and Flavor of Beer.”
“Pick a flavor, any flavor, and there’s a beer that can match it,” Crouch writes, introducing the notion of what he calls “familiar, approachable and easily recognizable flavor sets.”
Among those flavor sets, which feature beer descriptions, reviews and photos: “Easy Drinkers,” such as Harpoon Summer Beer and Victory Lager; “Mellow and Malty,” such as Abita Turbodog and Stoudt’s Oktoberfest; “Robust and Rich,” such as Ommegang Abbey Ale and the Duck Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale; and “Heavenly Hoppy,” such as Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale and Wyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA.
“I was trying to write for a couple of different markets,” Crouch said. “I wanted to give something to the beer geeks, but I wanted to go broader.
“I also thought geographic diversity was important. Maybe 15 or 20 years ago you could make the argument that craft brewing was sort of set in a couple parts of the country. But, nowadays, that’s not the case.”
Crouch said he was pleased and surprised to find so many good beers and breweries in the South.
“There are a lot of really excellent breweries starting up in the South now and some that have been there for a while,” Crouch said. “In Georgia, you have Terrapin making some very good beers, with some traditional ones and some unusual ones.
“I think the beer that maybe surprised me the most in trying beers from the South was Sweetwater IPA,” Crouch said. “It really knocked my socks off. The IPA category is probably the most competitive in the country and that was a well-deserved entry into the book.”
Four more Georgia beers are included in “Great American Craft Beer” — Sweetwater Blue and Happy Ending, and Terrapin Rye and Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout.
It won’t surprise anyone in the South that the Brick Store Pub in Decatur is included in Crouch’s list of “25 Great American Beer Bars.”
“It’s a great pub,” Crouch said. “I really think that places all over the country like the Brick Store are on the front lines of selling and serving better beer. They have a really knowledgeable staff and they connect one-on-one with people who are eager to know more about beer. They are taking craft beer to a new level.”