My first book, The Great American Ale Trail, was a curated list of 425 destinations with an emphasis on great places to pack up and visit (so amazing breweries without tasting rooms of any kind were omitted). The timing was good, perhaps too good. Since the book came out in late 2011, the size of the U.S. industry has more than *doubled* and I can’t keep up anymore (who can?). As I prepare a new version for 2016, I have the unenviable task of sifting through what is quite literally a mountain of new options nationwide—breweries, beer bars, bottle shops, huge festivals I’ve never even heard of. I’m humbly looking for some help in defining the best beer spots, especially opened since 2011 (and not in the original book) that truly define craft beer now and where it’s headed. What would you add? What would you cut? I have about 100 new slots (and must cut 25-50). Let me know! Here’s the 2011 index, click “read more”. If you have suggestions, bring ’em on. I’ll be forever grateful!
What am I grateful for on the eve of Thanksgiving, 2014? For my family, friends, and that I’ve been able to pursue my passion for beer and brewing in so many ways. What an incredible transformation we’ve seen in recent years! Since my first book came out, more than 1,000 breweries have opened in the United States. I’m often asked, will I update The Great American Ale Trail, maybe write a sequel? I think so, but not this year, because I’m currently doing something I’ve wanted to tackle since my first batch of homebrew: opening my own brewery.
Wolves & People, named for a game we played on our family farm as kids, is that dream, that brewery… a meeting of wood barn and wild yeast, entropy and industry, passionate study and blind chance. A farmhouse brewery using well water, wild airborne microflora, farm fruits and produce, Wolves & People is the culmination of everything I’ve worked for since my first article ever published, on Orval, in 1998. Paying my first down payment with a bag of filberts (seriously), I managed to get a hold of the old copper clad brewhouse from Heater Allen, which is now installed in our 1912 barn. We plan to focus on saisons, wild ales, and all manner of sour beers aged in wood barrels formerly used in area wineries. My inspiration: the amazing Cantillon, of Brussels, Belgium, which I first visited in 1997, mainly. But many breweries I’ve toured and written about since then have filled my head and heart with the goal of creating my own place.
For the past seven months I’ve been working every spare minute to get this project underway, and it’s been among the most challenging efforts I’ve ever undertaken. In fact, it was far more than I could handle alone. Thankfully, I’ve teamed up with Jordan Keeper, former head brewer of Jester King in Austin Texas, who moved up here October to help me realize this dream. Both of us have spent the past two months cutting and hauling, all the while dreaming of beers we’ll create here on the farm. Fun? Sometimes. Hard work? Words can’t suffice. It has been grueling. But we’re getting there.
The barn restoration is underway. We’ve poured concrete, tested new drains, ordered a hefty glycol chiller. We even homebrewed a pilot batch yesterday. Locals are getting pretty excited about us opening up (Spring 2015, by the way).
But we also learned we need a whole new roof on much of the barn, which will cost a LOT.
You’ve heard of Kickstarter. Enter Crowdbrewed, which is like Kickstarter for the beer industry. And there are only 4 days left in our Crowdbrewed campaign, which is now almost 2/3 funded. We’re so grateful for the support we’ve received, but we need more help to get up and running. Please consider a donation of $5, $25, $50… whatever you can manage. We also have very some juicy rewards at the $500 and $750 level remaining. To help us reach our goal, and due to unforeseen demand, we plan to release 25 (more) Cellar Society memberships to help us reach our $60,000 goal (a mere fraction of our opening costs, by the way). Those will go live on Thanksgiving, Thursday the 27th, at 12 NOON Pacific Standard Time. There are also other beer-in-reserve options remaining. Thanks for your support, and keep checking our campaign page for news and updates. Cheers and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Recently I filed my first story for Bon Appétit, for the April print edition, a long-awaited foray into the pages of what I regard as the best food & drink magazine. My humble one-page subject? How countries with little in the way of artisanal brewing tradition are quickly remaking the global beer map (and your local’s beer list), mixing Old World styles with a New World attitude. Here’s a 12-pack of the best.
In 1996, Italy had next to niente for craft breweries; now there are hundreds, especially in the north.
Birra del Borgo ReAle Extra
An American-style IPA that drinks great with wood-fired-oven pizza. $18 for 750ml
Birrificio Montegioco Dolii Raptor
Aged in Barbera barrels, this lip-smackingly sour beer is molto refreshing. $13 for 330 ml
Beer is catching up with wine, as successful farmhouse operations in the north have sparked microbrewing countrywide.
Brasserie Thiriez Extra
The ultimate beer for mussels. You could even (gasp!) cook them in it. $10 for 750 ml
La Choulette Biere des Sans Culottes
This earthy, elegantly bottled brew is aged on top of its own yeast. $9 for 750 ml
The country’s genre-bending beers have found an export audience in the States.
Hitachino Nest XH
A Belgian-style ale aged in sake barrels and shochu casks; great with sushi. $6 for 330 ml
Baird Beer Angry Boy Brown
A strong brown ale with flavors of caramel, toffee, and pine. $5 for 355 ml
Bold Swiss brewers are making Belgian-inspired creations prized for their edgy flavors.
Trois Dames Grande Dame
A Flemish oud bruin ale with a sour-sweet interplay and mellow nutty notes. $17 for 750 ml
Bad Attitude/Rappi Bier Factory CH2
This rustic, unfiltered lager is brewed with fresh Swiss hops. $6 for 330 ml
Vikings loved their aul. Today’s Norsemen are brewing some wonderfully idiosyncratic beer.
Nogne O Porter
Roasty and chocolaty: a hearty beer to savor on a cold night. $8 for 500 ml
Made with tart wild crowberries for the perfect thirst quencher. $9 for 500 ml
Farmhouse upstarts and “gypsy brewers” are stealing megabrewer Carlsberg’s thunder.
Mikkeller Wheat Is the New Hops
A wheaty IPA made in collaboration with Vermont’s Grassroots Brewing. $6 for 330 ml
Amager Bryghus Rye Porter
Try this one for dessert–maybe even over ice cream. It’s rich and complex. $9 for 500 ml
Is it time for another Beer Summit? The U.S. subsidizes corn syrup-filled soda pop but taxes the hell out of small and independent craft brewers who are making delicious artisanal beer and bringing jobs to American Main Streets. Let’s have a sip of wisdom, shall we? Here’s my first Op-Ed, for Bloomberg Voices, on the subject of taxes, job creation, and American craft beer. Let me know what you think.
GIVE ECONOMY HOPS WITH MICROBREW TAX CUT
With the president and Congress mired in partisan backbiting, many lawmakers may be tempted to retreat to a dark room for a cold beer. They would do well to make that a craft beer.
Various high-ranking senators and representatives have been working on a pair of bills that not only would make craft brewing more competitive, but may also make a small contribution to helping relieve the nation’s grinding unemployment.
This legislation would roll back excise taxes on small brewing companies by anywhere from 11 percent to 50 percent. The current tax rates, adopted in 1976 before the rise of micro- and craft breweries in the 1990s, have never been updated, requiring many brewers to pay levies calibrated for much larger operations once considered small…[Read More]
Beer West magazine and I are teaming up this Monday and Tuesday — that’s October 10th and 11th — in the Bay Area to bring you two nights of book signing, beer, and fun. Are you in?
MONDAY: Beer Revolution: October 12th, 6-9pm: 464 3rd St. Oakland, CA beer-revolution.com
TUESDAY: 21st Amendment: October 11th, 6-9pm: 563 2nd St. San Francisco, CA 21st-amendment.com
Please come and help celebrate the release of my new book, The Great American Ale Trail!
I will be on hand to talk about and sign copies of my first book, the essential road map to 430 of the best craft beer destinations in the United States, including Beer Revolution and 21st Amendment, of course. Also, meet publisher Megan Flynn, of Beer West, a quarterly magazine covering the craft beer lifestyle on the West Coast. Come check out the magazine and sign up to start receiving a subscription. There will be beer specials and raffle tickets awarded for purchasing beer, books, and magazine subscriptions; drawing includes tons of great prizes. Hope to see you at one or both events!
About the book:
After a year of toil, travel, and tasting my first book on beer pilgrimages is ready! Are you? THE GREAT AMERICAN ALE TRAIL: The Craft Beer Lover’s Guide to the Best Watering Holes in the Nation, came out nationwide 9/6/11 on Running Press and has already nearly sold out its first print run…
With a preface by Garrett Oliver and detailed profiles of hundreds of destinations from Kona to Cooperstown, South Beach to SoCal, Portland East and Portland West, it’s a 368-page, full-hearted celebration of America’s amazing craft beer community, with profiles of brewers and key beers to seek out in more than 40 U.S. states.
I hope you will consider sharing news of my book with your FaceBook fans and Twitter followers by directing them to the Amazon site for the book or the book’s FaceBook fan page to “like”, and the Twitter feed.
**Click here to download in MSWord: GreatAmericanAleTrailPressRelease**
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Publication Month: September 2011
“A roadmap for taste-bud adventure…anyone who prizes good beer need never go thirsty again.”
—Jane & Michael Stern, authors of Roadfood
From crab shacks and copper-lined brewpubs to farmhouse startups and elegant New York restaurants, THE GREAT AMERICAN ALE TRAIL by Christian DeBenedetti (Running Press; September 2011; Paperback; $20.00 US) leads readers on the ultimate, coast-to-coast road trip of craft beer. This ambitious project is the first definitive guide to the worthiest places to discover and drink craft beer across the entire United States. With over 400 destinations and suggestions for what to order in each one, it also maps out how those beers relate to the local, national, and international beer cultures and profiles the interesting characters behind all the great beers. By celebrating the places craft beer culture thrives—breweries, beer bars, bottle shops, festivals and restaurants including some of the country’s highest rated eateries—this groundbreaking new book will show readers where and how to make their own beer journeys, and what to watch out for along the way. The big question behind this book, and the one it will answer, is: to find the best craft beer in the land, where to go, and what to discover? What inspires these artisans, and what do they know about beer—and life—that the intrepid author didn’t?
About the Author:
Raised on a working hazelnut farm in the Willamette Valley outside of Portland, Oregon, adventure travel and food & drink writer Christian DeBenedetti, has worked on the staffs of Outside, National Geographic Adventure, and Men’s Journal magazines. A dedicated beer and travel writer who was mentored by the late British beer writer Michael Jackson, he regularly contributes to the above publications as well as The New York Times, Food & Wine, Esquire, Departures, and many others. A 1996 graduate of Whitman College, he was the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which he used to study traditional methods of making beer in 14 European and West African nations in 1996 – 1997. Currently he is Beer Correspondent for Food & Wine, Contributing Editor to National Geographic Adventure, and Correspondent for Outside Magazine. He has appeared on ABC’s World News Tonight, and ABC Nightline.
The Great American Ale Trail: The Craft Beer Lover’s Guide to the Best Watering Holes in the Nation
by Christian DeBenedetti
Price: $20.00; Format: Trade Paperback Original, 363 pages w/index
ISBN: 9780762443758; September 2011
On Twitter: @AleTrail
My first book, THE GREAT AMERICAN ALE TRAIL (Running Press ’11), is in its final stages of completion! What an amazing year of travel and discoveries…I don’t even know where to begin. Such an inspiring and challenging and rewarding project. Please take a moment to visit and ‘like’ my FaceBook page for the book. I’ve got a photo album going from my research (and beer field research going back to 1996 or so…) I’ll keep it updated on all things related—release dates and events for the fall, readings, spontaneous beer drinking sessions in Portland…that sort of thing. Thanks for your support….It makes all the difference. And please, follow me on Twitter too: @debenedetti.
Sam Calagione is already a rock star to fans of Dogfish Head, the craft brewery (@dogfishbeer) in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, that brought the world 60’,90’, and 120’ IPA (just to name a few). With a Burkhard Bilger New Yorker profile to his name and a treehouse for a boardroom, he’s so well known in the beer scene that at events like the Great American Beer Festival held every fall in Denver there are lines with hundreds of faithful lined up for a high five. But soon he’ll have a whole new audience, as he takes to the tube on the Discovery Channel’s BREW MASTERS (premiering Sunday 11/21 at 10pm, right after DIRTY JOBS). The new show follows Sam as he delves into the art and science of brewing both at home and abroad, all while maintaining his marriage and running a growing business. I caught up with Sam this week to see how it’s all going.
What have you been up to this week?
I’m on my way to catch a train to New York to shoot with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, for an episode about [their joint brewery project] Eataly, and then flying to Arizona to shoot some promos with Mike Rowe [of DIRTY JOBS] to cross-promote our shows. That should be fun.
How’s the show itself going right now?
We’ve probably done nine tenths of the shooting but we still have to finish one episode. So the show’s gonna start airing as we’re still in post-production on two of our own shows, so it’s been chaotic. But, it’s also really fun because of the people at both Discovery Channel and the production company, they really believe in the show. They really get our company, what we’re all about at Dogfish head. They’ve been really fun to work with and they’re two very creative entities in their own right, so it’s been a lot of fun.
How does the brewing industry compare to working in television?
It’s equally chaotic and equally creative. My schedule is already a mess with travel and projects in a good kind of way. You know, I’m always focused when I’m completely unfocused. I’m getting to do a lot of fun projects that kind of inform each other, and are backed by each other.
Is there anything you can compare it to in your career?
[The following was originally published in Food & Wine Magazine, June, 2009. Enjoy]
Fanatically innovative brewers around the globe are creating new beers with unorthodox ingredients and techniques. Beer geek Christian DeBenedetti makes a pilgrimage to a newly famous scene close to home: California’s San Diego County. By Christian DeBenedetti
My mission is simple: Skip the bland international lagers sold everywhere on earth, seek out small-batch, artisan-made beers in their native habitats and drink them.
It’s early spring, and I am exploring San Diego County, one of the most dynamic beer scenes in America and arguably the world. Avant-garde pro brewers from all over the planet, ambitious home brewers and even plain old beer geeks have made this pilgrimage before me. And like me, they have driven Route 78, a near-mystical road through San Diego County’s brewery-dotted landscape, then returned home with cases of rare beers (and even yeast samples), inspired and ready to experiment.
For me, this is the latest stop on a beer journey that began more than a decade ago. The year was 1996, and I was a beer scholar on a post-graduate grant that allowed me to spend 12 months researching ancient brewing techniques in Europe and Africa.
As a fledgling beer pilgrim, my ultimate destination was Belgium. Continue reading “A Beer Pilgrim in Brewtopia [Ale Trails]”
Rare Brews: Two exquisite craft beers, made only once a year
Firestone: Walker Solace
Hybrids of odd styles are popping up across the country, but this California beer is a brew marriage that actually works. The cross of wheat-enhanced Belgian saison and German hefeweizen intensifies flavor and spice in a lighter beer (firestonewalker.com).
Dogfish Head: Festina Peche
Sour beers are all the rage in craft brewing, but too many taste like pickle juice. Not so with brewer Sam Calagione’s summer-only offering, which is based on an acidic German style and made with peaches. It pops with the tart zing of good lemonade, with an added kick (dogfish.com). —Christian DeBenedetti