John F. Blair, soft cover, 304 pages, $16.95
For the longest time, the Southeastern US was considered an afterthought as a beer destination. With ABV caps in some states and a relatively limited brewing history to draw from, the regions brewing culture was laggard compared to some other parts of the country. That the American Southeast is now home to one of the more vibrant, thriving, and forward-thinking brewing scenes is simply amazing. Leading the charge is North Carolina, especially the city of Asheville, which has become widely recognized as one of America’s best beer cities. Erik Lars Myers new book, North Carolina Craft Beer and Breweries, is the first comprehensive microbrewery and brewpub travelogue and guide of North Carolina, from the Outer Banks to The Great Smokies, and every craft pit stop along the way.
It is poetic kismet that Myers penned this beery tribute to North Carolina, as anyone who has met him will immediately sense his passion for beer. His résumé includes the North Carolina Brewers Guild, the website www.topfermented.com, Cicerone Certification and brewmaster/owner of recently opened Mystery Brewing Company in Hillsborough, NC. The book reflects his personal connection with those that drive the industry in North Carolina, with a complete collection of individual brewery vignettes, many with first person accounts from the brewers themselves. This alone makes it a unique guide, a touch of rich conversational intimacy. Myers seats you on the barstool and in the brew house of every stop, showing that every brewer is different, yet all have a fairly similar story to tell. Each brewing establishment is given three or four pages, and every portrait captures the mood and philosophy of the venue. In addition, all are prefaced with a cover page of all information needed to access the brewery (website, address, hours of operation), and a regular and seasonal portfolio of brews. The book is conveniently organized by region: The Mountain, Piedmont, Triangle and Coast. He also lists the thirteen breweries in the works, a testament to his thorough and tenacious research, and a nod to the robust state of the state.
Sprinkled amidst the main text are important and noteworthy aspects of the North Carolina scene such as the Brewers Guild, a blossoming hop farming industry, and touchstone festivals and events. Also of note is a short tribute and account of Pop The Cap, the 2005 watershed legislation that lifted the 6% ABV limit that kicked the statewide industry into high gear. Myers artfully captures and conveys to the reader this vital and interesting moment. A brief history and timeline of North Carolina brewing sets up the book quite nicely in the first few pages. Myers’ beer advocacy also shines through with a few pages on the brewing process and beer styles, an appendix listing of stellar bottle shops (essential for both residents and visitors) which rival any in the United States and the abovementioned breweries pending, and a glossary of brewing terms.
There may be no more devoted and jovial Pied Piper for beer than Erik Lars Myers, and North Carolina is lucky to have him. His barnstorming book is not only a touring essential for the state, but also a perfect reflection and manifestation of his attitude, vision, investment and energy for the craft. Put both the book and a trip to North Carolina on your bucket, or rather, pint glass, list of essential attractions.