Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you've probably noticed the rising ranks of gypsy, craft and home brews. Though the heavy-hitting commercial breweries like Anheuser-Busch may still dominate sales, an increasing number of consumers are turning away from the big brands and toward the more creatively named, small-batch breweries. Is this the result of the beer revolution? Joshua Bernstein thinks so.
"I was a freelance journalist for about 11 years, writing mostly about bars, and over time my interests began to veer more and more toward writing about beer," Joshua says, explaining the genesis of his brand new book, Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution. Like the extremely long title implies, this book is all about the finer things in life—mainly, craft beer. It explores everything from eco-conscious brews to the importance of packaging, while also acting as a pretty definitive guide to America's up-and-coming craft breweries.
Since Joshua was rolling into town this week to talk about his publication (he'll be at Rattle N Hum tomorrow night, if you want to meet the man in person), we decided to quiz him a bit on his brewing knowledge. Get a cheater's guide to beer snobbery, and learn which beer reminds Joshua most of Gatorade.
What are a few new breweries you're excited about in New England?
JB: "I'm up in New Hampshire right now, but one of my favorite new ones is Baxter Brewery. They're one of the first breweries in the area to do canned beers, and they're solely IPA. It's delicious, nice and bitter. Also White Birch Brewing from Hooksett, New Hampshire. They make really great barrel-aged and sour beers. I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I've heard good things about Mystic Brewery. They do a bunch of wild yeast beers."
What would you tell someone who's looking for a beginner craft beer?
"You just have to let your tastes guide you. But the gateway craft beer, for a lot of people, are the IPAs. If you're used to drinking Miller, the IPA is a really drastic 180 from the brews you've been drinking."
What do you think about the new trend of home brewing?
"Home breweries are fantastic. This is where the ranks of tomorrow's brewers will come from. One of the things I do in New York City is a home brew tour, where I take people to different home brewers' homes. It feels like a voyeuristic house party in a weird way, but the thing I always hear from people is that they never expected beer brewed in a basement to be so good. The beer that is coming out of these houses can be just as good, or even better, than what you see on store shelves. Making a beer gives such a sense of pride and accomplishment, and I think people love sharing their beers, too."
Let's say I want to fake knowledge about brewing. What are some key words I need to know?
"Well, first you need the basics. Elementally, beer is composed of four different ingredients: barley, yeast, water, and hops. Those are the four things you need to know, but another word that gets bandied about is wort. Wort is the hops soup—the fermented broth—that is made after you boil the grain. It's the all-you-can-eat feast for yeast. After some time, the wort is transformed into the delicious carbonated beverage we consume today."
"Another word that people often use is carboy. If you go into a home brewer's home and see this big glass vessel, usually about five gallons or so, just sitting around and think what the hell is that? That's a carboy."
What's the weirdest thing you came across while researching the book?
"There are all these people who are interested in bringing back these ancient forms of brewing. Beer history is littered with these beers that come in and out of fashion. Some of them are cooler than others. Gose is one of the stranger styles I researched. It's an old style of beer that was really popular in Leipzig back in the 1900s. Over time, pilsners and lagers took over and Gose fell by the wayside. But people are bringing it back, both in Germany and also in the U.S. If you told someone 20 years ago that you were going to make a sour, salty wheat beer, they would not be excited. But now people are brewing it and it's a fantastic treat. With the salt and the alcohol, it's almost like the Gatorade of beers."
What do you think about extreme beers?
"I think extreme beers are one of the things that show the scope and creativity in the craft beer movement. Should you drink one every day? No, but they are great for some occasions. They're great beers for sharing. We had them at my book launch party."
Joshua Bernstein will be signing copies of Brewed Awakening at Rattle N Hum on Saturday, Nov. 5, 3-5 p.m.
Related stories on The Feast:
Meet the Makers of Cisco, Element, Pretty Things and 17 Other Headliners in American Craft Beer
Six Breweries to Watch at the ACBF
Where to Grab a Craft Brew
Video: Gypsy Brewers Talk Shop