Top Amazon Rank: Travel/Dining – #1 (on 9/22/11; 1/15/12)
The New York Times: Surprising Histories, With Drinks (12/16/11)
The Splendid Table, National Public Radio, with Lynne Rosetto Kasper (1/7/12)
The Atlantic Monthly, by Clay Risen – Review (10/31/11)
Men’s Journal.com, The Best Beer Books of 2011
Epicurious.com, review by Carolina Santos-Neves
Men’s Health – Tour de Brew
USA Today – Foam On the Range (sidebar)
Outside magazine Q+A: Beer Nuts
Edible Brooklyn: The United States of Beer
Eater.com: The Fall 2011 Cookbook and Food Book Preview
The Huffington Post: The Best Offerings for Fall 2011
Oregon Public Broadcasting/NPR, with Dave Miller – Think Out Loud: The New American Tradition
Food & Wine: Trendspotting New American Craft Beers
5280 Magazine: Happy Hour Reading
The Coloradoan: Travel Writer to Make Brewery Stops
BookPage.com: Delicious and Drinkable Delights (3rd item)
SERIOUS EATS: Serious Reads – The Great American Ale Trail by Christian DeBenedetti
Posted by Anne Zimmerman, September 19, 2011 at 2:30 PM
[Photographs: Running Press]
Midway through The Great American Ale Trail, I had a question. Did author Christian DeBenedetti really visit all fifty states in an effort to create “the craft lover’s guide to the best watering holes in the nation?”
There was only one way to find out, and I began mentally singing a musical standard of third grade, “Fifty Nifty United States,” while cross-referencing the index. According to this highly scientific method, only five states are missing. But based on the content of this book, I’m willing to bet that it’s not because DeBenedetti didn’t look for craft breweries in those states. It’s because there weren’t any that were up to snuff.
I’m also willing to bet that in the future there will be another edition of this thick paperback, one that features all fifty states. There are two reasons for this. One, the craft beer industry in America is booming. Two, The Great American Ale Trail is truly a great book.
The premise is simple: there’s a craft brewery revolution happening in America and DeBenedetti spent a year traveling to document it. But the simplicity of the book’s goal belies the complexity of what happens when you crack the cover.
On the one hand, this is a travel book. Nothing in recent memory has inspired the same urge to pack up the car and head off in an unknown direction—preferably a direction that includes lots of sunshine and dusty roads and ends with a very big cold one. But instead of being overly factual and list orientated, The Great American Ale Trail is like a craft brew travel guide that just happens to have been written by one of your coolest, smartest, and most discriminating friends.
For each brewery that is featured, DeBenedetti offers an entertaining scene and story. For Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, California, this includes info about the solar-powered brewery and its 18-hole frisbee-golf course. But there’s also a folksy primer on antique Northern California vocabulary. Trust me here when I tell you that you want to “jape over to Booneville for some bahl hornin.”
DeBenedetti also gives insight into the philosophy of the places he profiles. This is an important section to consider if you like your beers traditional, are in search of a family-friendly spot, or covet a joint where you’ll be served exceptional beer and food in a beautiful setting.
Finally, for each watering hole, DeBenedetti recommends a beer you shouldn’t miss. This seems obvious, but there are far too many beverage books fearful of making formal declarations about what to drink. Because DeBenedetti is a friendly, knowledgeable guide, we want his suggestions. Our visits will be richer for them.
If all this weren’t enough, The Great American Ale Trail offers more to encourage armchair travel: interior graphics that keep you turning the pages, ambling narrative which detours into the personalities of the Alaskan craft beer community, and the history behind iconic taverns like The Woody Creek in Colorado, a useful glossary and set of top ten lists for best beer cities, best dives and date spots are just a few examples of the treasures within this book.
And the recommendations for destinations that serve the best food to nosh on when you’ve had a few pints? Unfortunately those (Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula, the Hopsicle Experience in New York, and Heaven’s Drive Through in Santa Fe to name but a few) will just make you hungry.
In every way, The Great American Ale Trail is a roadmap for the ultimate beer adventure. Grab a copy and get started.
More…“Here is joyful evidence that doomsayers who lament the dumbing-down of America’s taste are only Chicken Littles. The Great American Ale Trail posits that in fact we are, right now, enjoying the Golden Age of craft beer, offering as evidence a guide to hundreds of bars, breweries, and even barbecues around the nation that make and/or serve the best of it. What a roadmap for taste-bud adventure! With this book in hand, anyone who prizes good beer need never go thirsty again.”
—Jane & Michael Stern, authors of ROADFOOD
“Christian has been an evangelist for and card-carrying member of the craft brewing community for many years. And now, with this book, his encyclopedic knowledge of American brewery geography and mythology is right at your fingertips. There are over 1,800 commercial breweries in this country and the average American lives within 10 miles of at least one brewery and a short road trip away from hundreds of them. So get truckin’ and explore the vibrant, diverse, craft brewing landscape America is now internationally known for.”
—Sam Calagione, President & Founder, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, author of BREWING UP A BUSINESS
“From sea to foaming sea, we’ve become a great Beer Hoisting Nation. And Christian DeBenedetti is our convivial, savvy, and good-humored guide. The result of his dedicated wanderings is a tangy compendium that’s part travelogue, part practical handbook, and part cultural history, giving us fresh perspective on the Hop Revolution that has quietly overtaken our land, one pint at a time. Carry this book with you on your own cross-continental travels, and bring it home stained and sour—a field manual soaked with happy memories.”
—Hampton Sides, Editor-at-Large, Outside magazine and author of AMERICANA, BLOOD AND THUNDER, GHOST SOLDIERS, and HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL
“Christian is the Christopher Columbus of beer, exploring the craft beer scene and discovering new brews, one draft at a time. The tales from his recent journey across the country are an enlightening look into the American craft beer renaissance we are experiencing today. If he had set out on this expedition 30 years ago, his book would have only been a few pages long – and his beer tab, much less expensive.”
—Jim Koch, Founder and Brewer, Samuel Adams
“Christian DeBenedetti’s book is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
—Jack Hitt, author of BUNCH OF AMATEURS: A Search for the American Character (Crown, 2011)
“Beer is a personal endeavor anyway you look at it. Christian DeBenedetti’s Great American Ale Trail provides a good dose of nourishment, eloquently awakening a thirst for America’s craft brews. Detours, “scenes,” local heroes, beer philosophy, key brews, “best of the rest” and suggested itineraries unzip America’s golden age of beer. It’s the perfect companion for your next road trip!”
—Charlie Papazian, author THE COMPLETE JOY of HOMEBREWING, and MICROBREWED ADVENTURES; founder of the Great American Beer Festival
“What a great read this is—packed with places I instantly want to visit and fizzing with fun, enlightening glimpses of the coolest aspects of our nation’s craft-beer renaissance. I can’t wait to take a few of these roadtrips. They promise a whole new way to see and taste America.”
—Margo True, Food Editor, Sunset magazine; author, THE ONE-BLOCK FEAST
“Great beers are about places, not just where they’re made, but where we get to drink them, and there’s no better tour guide than Christian, who’s picked the best breweries, best bars, and best bar snacks (Juneau? That’d be the pelmeni) for the thirsty wanderer in all of us. His book is the best answer yet to that eternal question, as old as travel itself: Where can I get a drink around here?”
—William Bostwick, author of BEER CRAFT: A SIMPLE GUIDE TO MAKING GREAT BEER
“Easily the most thirst-inducing book ever written. Three cheers to Christian DeBenedetti for mapping out the route to beer heaven. It’s about damn time someone got around to writing the definitive guide to beer bars in America. I was afraid I was going to have to do it.”
—Dan Dunn, author of LIVING LOADED: Tales of Sex, Salvation and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour.