Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pennsylvania Breweries 4th Edition by Lew Bryson

Chances are if you like good beer you've heard of Lew Bryson.

But what you may not have heard, especially if you're not a beer buff, is that he has a new book entitled Pennsylvania Breweries, 4th Edition.

Lew is a Pennsylvanian hailing from the southeast (Newtown) who really knows his beer. His blog Seen Through a Glass is widely read in beer and spirit circles around the world.

He has brought his knowledge of beer along with a love for travel and takes the reader on a tour of the 73 regional breweries, microbreweries, nanobreweries, and brewpubs that call Pennsylvania home.

One chapter in the book describes the history of old established breweries spread around the state--breweries like D. G. Yuengling and Son, Straub, and the Lion Brewery. Philly and Pittsburgh, rightfully so, get their own sections. Breweries no longer with us since the last edition about five years ago, also get their own thankfully short chapter.

The remainder of the book is arranged by geographic region--a few pages or four describing each brewery.

Between chapters is a brief page or two that serve to define and explain aspects of the beer surround. Like what's the difference between an ale and a lager. Or what's all the fuss about beer festivals. Or a description of the brewing process. These short essays as well as the helpful glossary at the back, make the world of beer a bit easier to quaff for the newbie.

There are up-to-date historical descriptions of the breweries and their beers and there's always an interesting story or two that aren't very well known. (I didn't know that the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre brews tanks and tanks of the Malta soft drink!) The author clearly presents beer geek factoids like who owns the brewery, who's the brewmaster, what type of brewhouse is employed, its maximum annual capacity, and recent production numbers. Any student of the current state of brewing in the Commonwealth will surely find a treasure trove of good information here.

Following each brewery entry, the author presents a list of local area attractions that would be a boon for any visitor who wanted to set out an a beer adventure. These include places to stay, things to do, places to eat (with dishes that can't be missed), good local beer bars, and other attractions that could be dovetailed with a brewery visit. Contact information is presented for each place along with a sentence or two of description about what's here that would entice and/or make the visit special for the reader. (As an example, if you visit The Memphis Taproom in Philly, the author suggests to try the King Rarebit [Note to self: Try the King Rarebit the next time in Philly!]). Bold italic font is used for the place names, which is great for quickly finding what you're looking for.

This is not a book that intends to rate breweries or beers and the author says as much in the opening pages.

The author's language is colorful and the stories are informative, entertaining, and make reading this book fun. The partitioning of the book makes this a splendid travel companion when one is exploring afield for wider Pennsylvania beer experiences--you WILL be referring to it again and again as you wander the Pennsylvania road in search of a cool one. The in-between chapters and glossary are educational, especially for the newbie.

This book would be a super Christmas present for a beer drinking friend or loved one. Or a beer drinking love. You get the idea.

Certainly this book will be used a hundred years from now as a reference on the current renaissance period of brewing in Pennsylvania.

Highly recommended.

Title: Pennsylvania Breweries, 4th Edition
Author: Lew Bryson
Copyright 2010 by Stackpole Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304 pages
Trim Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-8117-3641-1
Photos: 42 logos
Maps: 50 maps
Available: September-10
Publisher: Stackpole Books

N.B. Amazon claims that this book IS available in the Kindle Edition (unverified or tested) and Barnes and Noble claims it's not available in NOOKBook format.

Credit for the photo of the book's cover design at the top of this article is due to Tessa J. Sweigert. The brewery labels and logos were used by permission of breweries.

The author of this book and its publisher (and the author of this article) encourage readers to visit the breweries and sample their beers and recommend that those who consume alcoholic beverages travel with a nondrinking driver.

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