Monday, July 16, 2012

SIZING UP "THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CRAFT BEER GUIDE"

This is the first of two posts about this excellent new addition to the craft beer/beer travel/beer education canon, as author Ken Weaver and photographer Annaliese Schmidt have kindly agreed to a forthcoming interview with Beer Samizdat to discuss their "NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CRAFT BEER GUIDE". I stumbled upon this phenomenal region-by-region overview of Northern California beer-related minutia just this past Fourth of July, and it was obvious that it was so up-to-date and current in its listings of bars, breweries, beer stores and the like that it might have come out the day before. Seemed that way, in any case, and Weaver's so meticulous in his capturing of all the major, minor and nano players that he even has section devoted to micro- and nanobreweries that have yet to open - but that he's heard about.

Expect second and third editions to this one, because it's essential to anyone seeking to gain a soup-to-nuts overview of this most bounty-laden of beer regions. It all started here, don't you know? I very much enjoyed that Ken & Annaliese gave a cursory overview of the roots of craft beer in NoCal (Fritz, Anchor, New Albion, Sierra Nevada blah blah) before fixing their book in the here and now. Most of the establishments listed here, from our new find Dust Bowl Brewing in Turlock to Almanac Beer Co. to my own local Monterey Deli (holla!), found their feet in just the past several years, as beer has boomed here and everywhere else. There are dozens I've never heard of, even here in my hometown of San Francisco. It's like watching the tentacles of this culture grow outward from SF and the North Bay into the deep East Bay, into extreme Northern California and into the Yosemite Valley. It certainly loads up my next few family vacations with a bunch of detours.

Each region has listings for bars, stores and breweries - as well as homebrew supply shops and even nanobreweries you can't visit - listed as if you were geographically hitting them one by one, starting from a central spot. It's apparent that this is exactly what Weaver and Schmidt did. There are also many explanatory sidebars, artfully written for both beer "scholars" and greenhorns alike. Her photographs adorn nearly every page, and they're tremendous colorful shots of beer samplers, bartenders, chalkboards and general California travel ephemera - from mountain peaks to rusty signs and so on. The photos and the commentary evoke the Northern California "spirit" as well as anything I've read in some time - a combination of land, community, pastoral beauty and great goddamn beer.

Certainly there are regional beer guides for other parts of the country and world, but to my knowledge there hadn't been one for this region before. Weaver and Schmidt hit a homer on their first go at this, and there's no reason for anyone else to ever try to come up with another NoCal beer guide. Check back in with us soon and we'll get their interview take on how it came together and what it all means, OK?

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