Home is where the beer is, especially for true fans whose knowledge of their local beer scene borders on the obsessive. For years, beer aficionados have suffered countless bars, restaurants and events that ignored their desire for better beer. Discovering those rare places that catered to them was part and parcel of being a beer geek. And so every hophead has a guidebook stored inside their brain, teeming with the best places to enjoy a pint. When beer geeks travel, they ask their like-minded friends for tips on where to go. They know that’s the best way to find good beer wherever they travel.
That’s the same approach British beer writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham employed in writing the latest book in CAMRA’s “Good Beer Guide” series. They reached across the Pond and asked brewers, fellow journalists and the beer cognoscenti for their recommendations, and then joined them at their favorites. [In the interest of full disclosure, that includes this reviewer, who invited them to judge at the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival.] That approach formed the basis for their book on West Coast USA. By tapping into a corps of local experts and enlisting them as their guides, the book feels more like an insider’s look into the wide area the book covers, which includes the three coastal states of California, Oregon and Washington, along with Alaska, Hawaii and the city of Las Vegas.
The book also includes a brief history on each of the areas the authors visited and generally what to expect when traveling in America, and so it reads more like the typical travel guidebook than the usual brewery tome. It also includes information on American beer history and our beer styles to help orient the average British traveler more used to their local bitters. It’s beautifully appointed with photographs, beer labels and maps, and each place’s listing gives all the pertinent details. It’s also written with such wit, charm and skill that you’ll find yourself wanting to visit each every beer place they describe. This is quite simply how all beer guidebooks should be done.