Book Review: The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli

Before even cracking open The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, just judging it by the cover, I’m psyched. I dig the play on Obama’s Audacity of Hope book (not trying to get political), turning it into Audacity of Hops. It’s also an applicable title as well because this is the story of the American craft beer movement and how American hops have pushed that movement.

The-Audacity-of-Hops

The author starts with a skim through the ancient history of beer, early American beer, and prohibition in a few paragraphs. This is good for two reasons: others have covered this info extensively elsewhere and it allows him to get more in-depth with the people, places, and most importantly stories of the American craft beer movement. The Audacity of Hops goes into significant, but not overwhelming, detail about the various reckless gambles around the founding, or expansions, of many breweries as well as the contexts of the time for people and beer. The author makes this retelling enjoyable and engaging, there are plenty of facts sprinkled throughout but not page after page of yearly quantities and revenues I’ve encountered in other books.

However, the book tends to be heavy with hyperbole, especially with the early home brewers. The author makes it seem that these men, Jack McAuliffe and Fred Eckhardt, birthed a brand new discovery to the universe with herculean effort. While in reality they only did what people around the world had done for millennia, brew beer at home. Now I don’t want to diminish their efforts, they certainly broke the law of the land at the time and did something few had done in 30 years and those who had done it recently hadn’t done it well.

The book could, at a few points, do with better editing. The author has a tendency to run on about random breweries that didn’t survive beyond a year or two. Should they be mentioned? Certainly, otherwise there could appear a nonstop success with no failures. However, they don’t each need 3 or 4 pages. We also don’t need 2 paragraph biographies of every single brewer nor do we need them repeated often. I think by the end of the book I’d read a description of Fritz Maytag (owner and resuscitator of Anchor) at least 10 times.

At first I was doubtful but the structure of the book has proven itself to work well. That structure is mainly chronological but also, more importantly, geographical. We move through the years hoping across the United States and occasionally overseas. From San Francisco to New York, Juneau, Boulder, Baghdad and back. This works to tell how the craft beer story is an American one and isn’t just in California (though they can rightfully claim the birthplace).

I enjoyed reading this and think that many fans of craft beer will enjoy it as well. It’ll gives you a long list of new beers to try and a concise history of American craft brewers and breweries that I haven’t found elsewhere. Plus some fodder for arguments over contract brewing, the importance of brewery X vs brewery Y, and “How dare he not include [insert favorite local/regional brewery here]!”.

Lastly, I have a new favorite beer quote & motto for what I try to do with the blog:

“I still see people buying and swilling terrible beer. I sometimes think my job is like farting against a gale, but I just keep moving forward”

– Michael Jackson.

You can pick this up on Amazon at $15 for the paperback version or $10 for kindle. It should also be available at any other bookstores.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I reached out to the author and his publisher was kind enough to hook me up with a free copy. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.

Beer gifts for the dads and grads

Father’s day is only two weeks away and college graduates are hopefully venturing off to work. It’s time for us, the dedicated craft beer consumer, to steer the recent grads away from their college days of buying the cheapest can they can. It’s time to usher them into the beautiful bountiful world of craft beer!

For those whose dads may have never escaped those college days of cheap beer, or may already be on the path towards great beer then we can help them enjoy those beers even more! Both of these thoughts work just as well for anyone, like myself, celebrating a summer birthday!

Spiegelau Glasses

If you’ve got a dad or grad who is drinking beer straight from the bottle or from a generic pint glass then this should be the top present to get them, and at $40 it’s not too pricey, especially considering what is included! The set includes the ever versatile (and my most used) tulip glass, a lager glass, a pilsner glass, and a weizen glass. I notice the biggest differences when using the tulip and weizen vs. a shaker.

The set runs $40 on Amazon if that’s too much or you don’t see the pilsner or lager glass being used then I strongly recommend at least getting a set of 2 tulip glasses which runs $25 on Amazon. These stemmed tulips are my default go to glass and the difference they make in flavor and especially aroma is mind blowingly profound.

Like the tulip glass above these IPA glasses make a noticeable impact on my enjoyment of the brews I put in. Not as versatile as the tulip since these only highlight aspects of IPAs, pale ales, and double/imperial IPAs. You can get plain ones on Amazon 2 for $20 or get the Dogfish Head logo or Sierra Nevada logo for $9 a piece at their respective sites. As a remind Dogfish Head & Sierra Nevada were part of the whole process to create these glasses, you can see my post on that here.

Books

If you or whoever you’re shopping for is headed to a beach vacation, or just a long plane ride for work, then a book is always a safe bet and the following are some great beer books.

First up is Mike Morgan’s Over-the-Rhine: When Beer was King ($15 for a dead tree/$10 for kindle). This is full of great stories about Cincinnati history, people, and oh yeah BEER! Check out my full review of the book here.

Next in the Cincinnati history department is a new book about the life of Christian Moerlein: The Man and his Brewery ($20). I haven’t checked this out yet but am looking forward to reading it and will post my thoughts when I do.

Switching tracks from Cincinnati beer to beer in general are the two following books.

Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink ($12 dead tree/$9 kindle) – It covers the history of beer, ingredients, styles, glasses, pairings and much more. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it helped me expand my knowledge of styles and what to expect from them. This is great for beginner craft beer lovers or the advanced folks who want to up their knowledge. My full review is here.

The Oxford Companion to Beer ($40 for dead tree/$12 for kindle) – I use this as a reference on almost every post I write. Not really for the beginner getting into beer but definitely good for your family/friendly advanced imbiber or home brewer. Now I’m mostly an ebook guy, hence referring to all these paper versions as “dead tree” editions. In this case I would NOT want an electronic version (though searching it could be easier…). It’s nice to have the heft and feel of a real encyclopedia like this.

Audacity of hops ($15 book/$10 kindle) – I’m currently in the process of reading this, about half way through and digging it. You probably want to be somewhat of a history junkie since there isn’t loads of indepth beer information in here, at least so far. It’s packed with great stories of what caused John Doe to found brewery ABC and how hard/easy it was, etc…

Magazines

Beer Advocate ($15/year) – Lots of people know about the beeradvocate.com site and check it out for quick reviews or info about styles but many I speak to weren’t aware there was a monthly magazine. I’ve been receving this for about 2 years and look forward to it every month. It’s mostly short articles about various facets of beer or the industry. There is always an interview with a brewer and 2 – 3 pages of reviews of new beers. They also just released a digital version on the Google Play Store.

All About Beer ($20/year) – I’ve been getting this for a while as well. I used to prefer Beer Advocate for their articles but All About Beer has stepped up their game recently and rolled out some really great feature articles.

Other Stuff

Beers not bombs bottle opener ($15) – I think this is a really cool idea. They take cables from old nuke launch silos, melt it down, and turn them into bottle openers! Plus 20% of their profits go to peace organizations. Kinda hippyish but you always need a bottle opener so you might as well have a bad ass one that goes to a good cause.

If recycled nuclear material is a bit off putting and not-your-style then check out Brewsees Sunglasses. They’re sleek looking sunglasses w/ bottle openers on the end! ($30)- Thanks to Sud Savant for this idea.

Growler on board ($30) – Being a 1-growler man I personally have no use for this… yet. But if you’ve ever tried to keep a growler up-right in the passenger seat on the way home from the brewery you already know the value this brings.

Home brewing start kit ($50 on Amazon) – I’m no home brewer nor do I have an interest in becoming one. But this is an ambition that is shared by many beer enthusiasts so I think it’d make a great present. I’m semi-hesitant linking to Amazon for something like this and I, personally, would be more apt to head to a local home brew store for their recommendations. So check out Listermann’s, Osborne Brewing, or Brew Monkey’s.

Beercation (beer-vacation)

Prices on this could vary tremendously. When I first did this list I said “getting a DD to spend a day driving from Rivertown to Mt. Carmel and end with dinner at the Moerlein Lager house”. Well we can now scratch that and you, your dad/grad, and your friends can get torn up thanks to Cincinnati’s own Tonic Tours (full disclosure: Tonic Tours is run by Ginny Tonic, a writer for this blog, and I have provided some advice for her). A step up would be a stop in Columbus for lunch at the Columbus Brewing Company (order the Bodhi) then heading on to Cleveland for Fat Heads & Great Lakes. Farther out would be a trip to Three Floyd’s and a night in Chicago.

From there the USA awaits you can hit the  Denver-Longmont-Ft. Collins area or head down to So.Cal and see Russian River, Stone, Lagunitas, 21st Amendment and all the other awesomeness around there. A personal favorite of mine that I can speak to from experience is Asheville, NC. I prefer mountains over cities and Asheville is nicely nestled in the Appalachians. Asheville also nets you some Colorado experience as Oskar Blues as a brewery setup near there and New Belgium should be up next year (assuming there aren’t more delays).

If you’re in a higher income bracket then myself the world opens up with London, Belgium, Dublin, and all the old brewing cities in Germany.

oh, and 1 more thing BEER!

Right, that stuff that we talk about all the time. I’m not gonna say what to get because everyone’s tastes differ but I don’t think anyone would be disappointed to get a new brew as a gift. If you have no idea what to get your family member then I’d suggest a gift card to one of the bigger stores that sell good beer like Jungle Jim’s or Party source. Better yet how about a gift card to one of the new smaller beer stores like Everything d’Vine. Other places may have gift cards but I’m not sure.

If you’ve got no idea what beer to buy and don’t like giving gift cards then I’d suggest a Beer of the month club ($40/month). There are a lot of different websites out there offering varying packages and prices but the gist is all the same. They send you new beers every month. From the poking around that I’ve done online halftimebeverage.com is what I would go with but I encourage you to shop around and decide what works for, and interests, you best.

What’s on your list?

If a lot of this seems familiar that’s because it’s based on my holiday post from last year. I’ll probably be doing this type of thing twice a year in summer and winter. So to help out me and all our readers out in the future please add any great gift ideas you’ve seen lately in the comments below! I’ll be sure to give you credit for your discover just like I did with Sud Savant.

Apple Pie a la Mode Moonshine

On the Halloween Special of The Charlie Tonic Hour, Charlie and I shared the fall-themed drink that I made for our Halloween block party. It turned out great and I am thinking of making something similar to give out for Christmas presents this year. If you want to drink along at home here is the recipe for our Apple Pie a la Mode Moonshine. I originally came across this recipe on Allrecipes.com and was delighted to find that my favorite cooking site also has a lot of other cocktail and liqueur recipes to be found there so I highly recommend you check it out.

Apple Pie ‘Ala Mode Moonshine

1/2 gallon apple juice
1/2 gallon apple cider
4 whole cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

Bring these ingredients to a boil and then let them simmer for at least 20 minutes. Once the mix is cooled to room temperature or below add:

3 cups Everclear
2 cups vanilla vodka

Everclear or similar 190 proof grain alcohol is not available in Ohio or Kentucky but it is legal in Indiana. The best substitute is a 100 proof vodka. When I was making this that is what I used and I added an extra half cup of each vodka. You can drink right away but it’s best if you let the mixture rest at least 24 hours to allow the flavors to blend together. Pour the drink into pint mason jars for an authentic moonshine look and it would make an amazing gift.

This article originally ran on The Charlie Tonic Hour.