We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America's Craft Brewers
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An eye-opening journey into craft beer–making in America, and what you can find in the quest to brew the perfect pint
Sean Lewis was living in Boston when he first set foot inside the Blue Hills Brewery. He was writing for BeerAdvocate magazine about America's craft brewers, and the then-fledgling Blue Hills was his first assignment. Lewis was immediately struck by the spirit of the brewers he met there. That visit would lead him first to an intensive study of beer-brewing, and later to a nation-spanning journey into the heart―and the art―of American beer making.
What Lewis found along the way was a group of like-minded craftsmen―creators who weren't afraid to speak their minds, who saw their competitors as cherished friends. A group who takes sheer joy in their work, and who seeks the same kind of balance in their lives as they do in the barrels they brew. He shared pints with pioneering upstarts like Paul and Kim Kavulak of Nebraska Brewing Company, and talked shop with craft beer stalwarts like Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada and bombastic innovators like Greg Koch (the "Arrogant Bastard" behind Stone Brewing Co.). He found, in them and others, a community that put its soul into its work, who sees beer-making as an extension of themselves.
We Make Beer is not just a celebration of American brewing, but of the spirit that binds brewers together. It's about what you can discover in yourself when you put your hands and your heart into crafting the perfect pint.
just reverence for the brewing history,” Jim said. “To walk up that hill and think, wow, for one thousand years brewers have walked up this hill to make their beer. That’s amazing. That’s a very cool thing. This was before the battle of Hastings they were brewing beer there. So, it’s hard to really describe that feeling unless you’re a brewer. “I get to be one in a thousand-year chain of brewers. That’s unbelievable. For a guy who started twenty-nine years ago and was brewing in his kitchen to
notes and measurements. I followed formulas in Ray Daniels’s Designing Great Beers as if they’d been written on stone tablets and carried down from Mount Sinai, and I used computer software to double-check my calculations and keep track of my recipes. And yet my beer never quite came out the way I’d hoped. Sometimes I missed my mash temperature. Sometimes I collected too much runoff. Something seemed to go wrong with each batch. The beer tasted good, sometimes great; but it was never perfect
want. What you want is balance, but what you’re lucky to get is everybody comes out okay.” In his pursuit of beer making, Jim was not only considering a way to support his own family. He was also preserving his family lineage of brewmasters. Perhaps the issues that Jim faces might be different had he taken a different approach. By now, Sam Adams feels like a brand that was destined to be big because Jim had big ambitions for it. But what if he had more modest aims of simply making good beer and
storage room that he rented out from the unit next door. It was small, but big enough to house the forklift, some supplies, and more kegs. Outside, away from the roar of the boiler and the din of the brewery, Andris and I chatted about how much things had changed. “We’re growing. We’re getting bigger every day,” he said. “It’s getting hard to find the space to put it all. Well, it was always hard, but now it’s getting really hard.” He went into details about his current lease and the
brewing world, but it did not signal its death. It wasn’t the first time Anheuser-Busch had purchased a stake of a craft company, and it likely won’t be the last. With thousands of brewers in the country, it’s only a matter of time before others are given the opportunity to sell. It’s inevitable, too, that more of the big companies will create brands like Blue Moon, which the Brewers Association labeled as “crafty” because of the way it emulates craft brewers without having the small-business