Soft cover, $16.95, 252 pages
New York—a diverse state that hugs the Great Lakes—is home to the Adirondacks, the Hudson River Valley, and, of course, The Big Apple. Most anything can be experienced in the state of New York. The state also has a rich brewing history, and today it is home to many fine breweries and brewpubs, some of which are among the best in the nation. Lew Bryson’s new book, New York Breweries, is a more-than-worthy guidebook that skillfully and meticulously presents the state’s beer culture.
Lew Bryson is quite well known and respected among beer aficionados, especially on the East Coast. He currently writes for the Malt Advocate and Ale Street News and has another book to his credit, Pennsylvania Breweries. His love of and knowledge of beer are undeniable. His skill as a clever and entertaining writer, however, makes this book a much better read than most guides, regardless of theme.
Up front, Bryson dedicates a few pages to a brief discussion of the history of New York brewing, how the author developed his infatuation for beer, and how to utilize the book. The introduction also includes a state map pinpointing the location of each establishment. From there, Bryson devotes himself to individual assessments of each of the state’s 54 breweries, with each review encompassing four or five pages. The book is divided into eight sections. Seven are regionally descriptive segments with their resident breweries/brewpubs; one section is reserved for “The Big Guys.”
Bryson begins every review with a couple of pages of simple text filled with anecdotal information from his personal experience of the place, as well as some historical and regional content. He deftly paints a vivid word picture for the reader; there are no photographs in the book, allowing beer hunters to decide for themselves if this particular venue is appealing. Sidebars present all of the brews produced, along with the author’s personal favorite, which he refers to as “The Pick.” He then lists all of the other pertinent information like barrelage produced, hours of operation, local lodging options, tour information, and other area attractions.
For brewpubs he gives a thorough rundown of the food choices and miscellaneous considerations. A detailed street map accompanies each review. Knowing that a dedicated brew hound is never satisfied, Bryson reveals other nearby watering holes and restaurants serving quality craft beers.
For a little icing on the cake, he adds a few pages called “A word about…” after the eight sections. These are short treatises on brewing, bars, beer traveling, and local foods, to name a few. You will be able to order a spiedie or beef on weck just like a local, and actually know what you’re getting.
Bryson takes us on an ambitious beer tour of the great state of New York, diverting us from the usual guidebook dryness with a personally affected and attentively composed effort. He reminds us not only that New York was once a New World brewing Mecca, but also that it is again worthy of respect among beer hunters and travelers.