I got the recommendation for this book while putting together last year’s Holiday Gift Guide for Beer Lover’s and put it aside while I waited for the right time to read it. With all the travel I have been doing recently I was able to take advantage of the down time and delved in to this book during flights, layovers, and sunny days by the pool.
The full title, Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolutions, is more than an ode to that bitter plant that makes our American beer stand our from the crowd. It is THE story of the US craft beer scene from it’s origins when a spunky young chap named Fritz Maytag bought the floundering Anchor Brewery and struggled to stay in the black all the way to today’s beer culture of waiting hours in line for the release of a some rare beer.
Audacity tells all the little stories behind the scenes that Maria and I have heard bits and pieces of in bar rooms and breweries as we have traveled the country. This books wraps them all up into a smoothly linear package emphasizing the phases of growth and even ties in craft beer’s relationship with the Slow Food Movement.
The author Tom Acitelli has a background in beer writing but is not exclusively a beer writer which I feel aids in the telling of these stories. His bio reads:
Tom Acitelli is a journalist and the author of The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution (Chicago Review Press; 2013). He was a senior editor at The New York Observer for several years; and has written for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg View, Eater.com, the New York Post and Town & Country. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his family.
He keeps his voice unbiased though that never seems to interfere with the emotional aspects of the stories. You can tell he loves the characters involved just as much as the stories they helped create. The main characters (Fritz, Jack McAuliffe, Charlie Papazian, Michael Jackson, Jim Koch to name a few) are developed through out the book and shows how they evolved their philosophies and the industry into what it is today.
Interestingly, the book was incredibly insightful on the origins of beer travel in the states. Many of craft beers early heros owe their inspiration to traveling abroad and gaining an appreciation for flavorful beer only to be slapped in the face with domestic lagers when they returned. They had little recourse other to make their own and when people liked it they started to sell it.
Jack McAulliffe got his taste for good beer in Scotland while working on nuclear submarines and Jeff Lebesch of New Belgium was famously inspired by riding his bike around Belgium sampling the most diverse beers in the world. It just goes to show how traveling to know places can spawn inspiration when the right focus is applied.
I was also pleased to see mentions of my hometown brewery as well as the requisite mention of The University of Kansas’ role in being a jumping off point for Free State Brewing’s founder Chuck Magerl and Boulevard Brewing’s John McDonald.
It may sound like hyperbole but I really feel that this book is a must read for anyone interested in what makes craft beer the most unique industry in United States. It will give you new perspective on how far we’ve come and just how we got there, because after all what is the craft beer industry is not a series of great stories.