I really need to catch up on my (beer) reading

Near the end of a recent In Business soiree, while interned behind the welcome table (where, the nagging voices in my head continually tell me, I can do the least damage), I was sipping an Ale Asylum Hopalicious (sample size, though any-sized Hopalicious is manifestly worth a hoist) when I got to chatting with my coworkers about beer.

IB events czar Jessica mentioned that she’d gotten her beau a beer book for Valentine’s Day. (Women, take note. This is how it’s done.) The book piqued my interest (possibly because it was about beer – and also had “beer” in the title), but a faint tickle of familiarity also roused my subconscious.

Turns out the book in question, Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide, was authored by Kevin Revolinski, whom my wife and I had met last summer at a beer-centric Society of Professional Journalists event. It was the same event, hosted by Isthmus contributor and redoubtable raconteur Robin Shepard, that first got me thinking about writing a semi-regular beer blog for IB. The State Journal’s Beer Baron, Chris Drosner, also held court for what was a fabulous evening featuring a great historical walking tour of downtown Madison and an even greater tasting tour of some of The Great Dane’s regular offerings.

Now, I know a bit about the book publishing business, and I know how difficult it is to make a go of it, so I have nothing but admiration for Revolinski and Shepard, who in addition to his regular Isthmus column has produced his own series of beer guides.

Furthermore, since I cop to being a writer first and a beer maven second (or maybe third or fourth), I know there’s plenty I could learn from the likes of Messrs. Shepard, Revolonski, and Drosner.

Indeed, the first and only beer guide I’ve ever read was Michael Jackson’s New World Guide to Beer. This was years ago, when both Michael Jacksons were going strong (sadly, both have since passed). Anyway, Jackson’s book made me want to try all those sublime stouts, porters, and Belgian ales pictured within, so I owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be properly repaid.

Anyway, I figure it’s about time I absorb some more beer knowledge in addition to all the beer I’ve lately been absorbing, and my own home state would definitely be the best place to start. So with that in mind, these two titles will be on my upcoming birthday and Christmas wish lists (that’s a subtle hint to my bride and fellow beer traveler, by the way):

Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide: 2nd Edition by Kevin Revolinski: As colleague Jessica told me at the recent IB shindig, the book contains special offers from the breweries featured within, and most of these offers are for (Christmas comes early!) free beer. On his Mad Traveler blog, Revolinski notes that the book, an update of an earlier edition, now features 90 Wisconsin breweries. Even more importantly, as Jeff Glazer notes at the Madison Beer Review, it pays for itself after about three brewery visits. (You’ll still have to put up the gas money, though a companion Wisconsin’s Best Kwik Trip Guide would surely be a stroke of genius. Publishers take note.)

By the way, Revolinski didn’t just tour Wisconsin breweries and call it a day. He’s the author of numerous travel guides, most of which focus on Wisconsin. And really, if you have a beer close at hand, why do you need to go anywhere else? (Though before I die, I do need to visit Guinness’ St. James’s Gate Brewery in Ireland and try to navigate Oktoberfest in Munich. I’m guessing the latter is a lot like the annual Chilton Beer Fest, only much bigger and with slightly more intelligible babbling.)

Wisconsin’s Best Breweries and Brewpubs: Searching for the Perfect Pint by Robin Shepard: Okay, Shepard’s presentation at last year’s SPJ event was so good, I simply must wheedle the sublime Cheryl Breuer, a sometime Isthmus contributor her own self, into buying his book for my birthday. (Or maybe we can pull off a birthday gift exchange this summer that allows us to enjoy both Revolinski’s and Shepard’s offerings.) Shepard’s book was published in 2001, but I suspect there’s still plenty to glean from it. After all, it did win the top book prize from the North American Guild of Beer Writers in 2002.

Since publishing Wisconsin’s Best Breweries and Brewpubs, Shepard has followed up with The Best Breweries and Brewpubs of Illinois (2003) and Minnesota’s Best Breweries and Brewpubs (2011). So if you happen to be heading to the land(s) of inferior NFL teams, you might consider checking these out before you hit the road.


Carey on

Since I last put virtual pen to virtual paper for this blog, New Glarus Brewing’s Deborah Carey has made almost as many headlines as beer. She was among a few honored guests to join Michelle Obama for the State of the Union address on Feb. 12, sitting next to Apple CEO Tim Cook and a row behind the first lady. Carey is also listed as a Champion of Change on the official White House website, and previously met with the president, exchanging her own beer for a White House brew.

This may be as clear an indication as any that craft brewers have arrived. Perhaps it augurs even greater things for the industry.

Cheers to that.


Some aggrieved folks are suing Anheuser-Busch InBev for allegedly watering down its products, prompting snarky headlines like this one: Water down Budweiser? How would you know?

The headline is actually a reference to Bud’s alcohol content, not its taste, but I’m guessing people will continue to have a great deal of fun with this one. 

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