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The Audacity of Hops: The History of…

The Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution

by Tom Acitelli

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494238,224 (3.71)2



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I like craft beer, and I like history, and I really like the clever play on the title, so this seemed like it would be a great read. But, Acitelli says upfront This book is not a tasting or style guide nor a guide to breweries (there were more than two thousand in the United States by June 2012, more than at any time since the 1880s), and it is not a history of American beer before the craft beer movement arose. Instead, it is a book on how this movement, with the odds stacked against it, survived and thrived to dominate the world’s conception of beer and to change the American palate forever.,/blockquote> And he's right. If you want to know the startup troubles of Tony Magee and Lagunitas, or Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head, Jim Koch of Boston Beer and those that came before, then this is your book. But be warned, it gets deep into dull minutia for a bit of it. A few revelations and a lot of tedium.

Amidst the at times slow history of the craft world, you'll find out how Big Beer (AB mostly) put a lock on distribution that nearly strangled Boston Beer and others. How AB has a long history of going after crafts, and are still at it (evidence their 2015 Super Bowl ad). How Sam Calagione ripped "reviewers" (think Beer Advocate) for the negative threads on supposed overrated breweries. How some crafts had to make the conscious decision to stop distributing to some states because they couldn't keep up with demand and didn't want to sacrifice quality. Lots of tidbits like that pepper the monotony.

A few quibbling points:
- Acitelli says it's not a book about styles, but when he does talk about beers, he spends way too much time on lagers, and calls out very substandard euro pilsners and German beers in general as "good", only brushing a tad at the real beer world of ales and their variations. That's my editorial...I'm so not a fan of lagers.
- in one snippet, he said the Wall Street Journal was the "defender of the free market". Snort.
- he referred to crafts in cans as "innovative", citing Dale Katechis of Oskar Blues for pushing that"boundary". I beg to differ on the "innovative" adjective

One more takeaway for me: I will call a beer how I taste it. I have probably been harsh in the past on more than a few (a couple of Calagione's bizarre concoctions come to mind, and pretty much any Jester King I've tried...) I try to be more understanding of the small guys, but not always. I should extend a courtesy of the understanding that they are trying. And while the bigger crafts should be able to do better, that courtesy should extend to them as well.

After all, who else will be able to take down the BudMillerCoors of the world? ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Only by happenstance did the last book I comment on have to do with a revolution, one that occurred in the mid-to-late seventies and into the early eighties and beyond. That revolution, much of it happening in California, sparked in large part by bearded young hobbyists and those who simply loved the subject, was in personal computers.

It turns out that almost on a parallel track, in much the same time and place, another revolution was underway, this one too sparked by bearded young hobbyists and those who simply loved the subject. This revolution was in beer.

I’ll confess going into this book, I knew very little about making beer. Fortunately, the author cautions early on that you don’t need to know anything about how to make beer to enjoy the art and craft of making it.

Perhaps most surprisingly, revealed in this book is that the ascension of craft beermaking in America is an epic story, one peopled by a cast of characters Hollywood couldn’t make up: Veterans who served overseas and learned what good beer was (hint: not the watery stuff being served back home by the three major brewers who owned 90% of the beer market); the heirs to fortunes who, while out finding themselves, also found good beer and decided to make a career of it; and young college kids who just like beer.

You learn from this book too just how much of an impact prohibition had on America. From tens of thousands of breweries in most every city big and small, employing who knows how many people, to nothing almost overnight. Even with the beer revolution described in this book, it’s obvious we’re still suffering the reverberations of that horrible public policy almost 100 years after its demise.

Written with wry good humor throughout, one criticism I'll make is that maybe it tries to tell too much of the story; indeed, it seems sometimes there’s hardly a small craft brewery left out. Toward the end, even the author begins to rely upon “as we’ve seen” and “as I’ve said,” an indication perhaps that even he knows he’s repeating himself. Maybe some of the minutia might have been better left on the editing floor.

And though I suspect it was simply too hard to resist, another comment I’ll make is on the too-cute title, an obvious play on one of the president’s autobiographies. Perhaps being found next to Obama for all eternity was too hard to resist . . . at least until a new history of the Hopi people comes along. ( )
  BrendanPMyers | Jun 23, 2014 |
Very informative look at the history of craft brewing in the United States. ( )
  hombredemaderas | Feb 6, 2014 |
An excellent history that gathers together a lot of bits and pieces that I've read and heard over the years but not seen in one place. It gives the topic of craft beer a good indepth overview.

The first chapter or two are probably actually the weakest, but it gets much better.

My only disappointment might be for the occasional mentions and hints at Asheville, NC there's not much information there. I suspect that's a beer town that I suspect will continue to grow in influence, particularly as it's noted that several major breweries are moving in the area. No doubt the existing infrastructure of Highlander, Greenman and other breweries in the area helped make it an attractive place. ( )
  JonathanGorman | Jan 10, 2014 |
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"Charting the birth and growth of craft beer across the United States, Tom Acitelli offers an epic, story-driven account of one of the most inspiring and surprising American grassroots movements. In 1975, there was a single craft brewery in the United States; today there are more than 2,000. Now this once-fledgling movement has become ubiquitous nationwide--there's even a honey ale brewed at the White House. This book not only tells the stories of the major figures and businesses within the movement, but it also ties in the movement with larger American culinary developments. It also charts the explosion of the mass-market craft beer culture, including magazines, festivals, home brewing, and more. This entertaining and informative history brims with charming, remarkable stories, which together weave a very American business tale of formidable odds and refreshing success"--… (more)

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