Brewed Awakening is a new book written by Brooklyn-based beer writer Joshua M Bernstein (as well as, coincidentally, a new coffee stout from Black Isle’s Cromarty Brewing). We were recently sent a review copy of the book – which is subtitled ‘…behind the beers and brewers leading the world’s craft brewing revolution.’ Flip over to the back cover and no less than the three tenors of the movement give their praise for the work – Domingo (Ken Grossman), Carreras (Greg Koch) and Pavarotti (Sam Calagione) – so it certainly comes highly recommended.
The book has several highlights – one of which is the feel of the thing, with a chunky yet concise build you can imagine standing a snifter of IPA on top to make an impromptu table (indeed, the inner cover is embossed to almost resemble this). The overall theme of the layout is great – faux-stained pages, torn notebook scraps and the book’s many photographs ‘held on’ with fraying tape. The dust jacket removes to become a beer map, a quick-guide though the constellation of styles and recommendations.
This is another high point, as Joshua selects about 150 beers to try, with a few at the end of each chapter (with one, notable, exception). The tasting notes are brief but amusing – the entire book is written in a relaxed, informal style – ‘Hops – I love those pungent, floral cones something fierce’. His definition of craft beer – a ‘nebulous, controversial, confusing term’ is one that can be readily applied – ‘to me craft brewers are any breweries that make flavourful, unique beer that you’ll never see advertised during the Super Bowl’.
Brewed Awakening is certainly well written, and is interesting to read – but it’s aimed fair and square at the US market. Despite the ‘world’s craft brewing revolution’ tagline, most of the non-US beers suggested are limited to those available in the States (which isn’t a criticism, I can understand the logic). For British readers – other than those interested in what’s going on in America – there might not be much to hold them in, as the vast majority of the ‘beers to try’ simply can’t be found here.
One chapter that will interest us Brits is the one on cask ale (the one with no recommendations) – I can imagine some American beer fans reeling at the knowledge that an opened cask only lasts three or four days. I find it fascinating that cask ale is now a trend in craft beer – everything’s come full circle, it seems. The book even has a full-page checklist for the cask/curious ‘Ask when the cask was tapped; Request a sample; How cloudy is it?; Ask the bartender to remove the sparkler before pouring’ *
It’s an interesting book, certainly. Although many of the beers and breweries featured will be unfamiliar to British drinkers, that shouldn’t be enough to put you off Brewed Awakening. It handles the different styles and brewing techniques well, is very engaging, and there’s more than enough to keep you turning the pages. It’s clearly one for the craft movement – as you’ll see if you scan the index for beers from our home country – Scotland’s BrewDog – p3, 13, 14, 62-65, 124-125; Scottish ales – p102, 103.
The familiar, tired comments of James Watt aside, I’d heartily recommend reading the book. UK readers might not get hold of any offerings from Smuttynose or Three Floyds with any regularity, but it’s still worth discovering the philosophies of the men and women behind the story of craft beer.
Brewed Awakening by Joshua M Bernstein is published by Sterling Eipcure, and is out now in the UK, priced £16.99 ISBN 9781402778643. It is also available on Amazon UK here. Thanks to Chandra at GMC Distribution for our copy
* My advice to the cask/curious on this particular point is – leave the sparkler alone. But then, I am an uncultured Northern heathen.