by Lew Bryson
$16.95, Soft cover, 240 pp.
If there were more books like Pennsylvania Breweries, we would never have compiled The Beer Lover’s Guide to the USA. That book began as our personal list of beer places to look for while traveling because there weren’t up-to-date guides to both brewpubs and bars for many regions.
Although the first edition of Pennsylvania Breweries was still the best state or regional guide out there, the release of the second edition last fall guaranteed that it remains at the top. The new version adds information about breweries that opened since the first edition, updates details about operating breweries, lists even more spots in the good beer sites sections, and has a list of breweries and brewpubs that have closed.
The latter is important for those who don’t find, for instance, Pretzel City Brewing of Reading in the book, aren’t sure why, and drive all over Reading looking for it. It is far easier to flip to page 225 and find it listed under “The Boneyard.”
As the title would indicate, the focus of the book is on breweries and brewpubs. You’ll find a page or two of history and description, then another page of basics–everything from the size of the brew house and the names of the brewers to a list of regular beers and Bryson’s recommendations. All the essentials are here–a map, hours of operation, parking information, etc.–but the extras help set the book apart.
The list of nearby attractions, particularly nice for those travelers not totally focused on beer, is never just an afterthought. For instance, in writing about what’s in the area near Buckingham Mountain Brewing Co. in Lahaska, Bryson lists two different shopping areas, a flea market, a vineyard, a carousel museum, a community theater, a driving tour and Sesame Place, a theme park.
One of our favorite parts of the book, not surprisingly, is the list of other good beer sites in the area surrounding each brewery. Before Pennsylvania Breweries was published, Bryson’s recommendations in print and online helped us find gems such as Alexander’s in New Jerusalem and The Grey Lodge Pub in Philadelphia. He has added to the lists in this edition, including spots new to us, ones that we will surely visit in future trips to Pennsylvania.
Of course, we wish that these places received even more attention. While most of the good beer spots in the state are included somewhere in the book, you can’t just flip to Allentown and find names, addresses, phone numbers and descriptions. Instead, the bars and restaurants are listed in a paragraph at the end of the chapter on Old Lehigh Brewing Co.
We’re grateful that the information is even available but can testify that Bryson knows a lot more about these watering holes than is here. Our suggestion is that a publisher commission him to do a book about just those places. We promise to buy a copy.
Stan Hieronymus and Daria Labinsky are authors of The Beer Lover's Guide to the USA (St. Martin's Griffin).