Carry it With You Always

The Beer Loverís Guide to the USA

Stan Hieronymus and Daria Labinsky

St. Martinís Griffin, 2000

0-312-24664-1

$14.95

I wish Iíd had this book in 1985. Not that it would have done me a lot of good, since probably 80 per cent of the bars and brewpubs listed in The Beer Loverís Guide to the USA werenít open in those days. But I sure wish they would have been, because my life would have been a lot better in those traveling days. I was always bugging the locals for a good bar to have a good beer.

Like Stan and Daria, I bought Pat Bakerís Beer and Bar Atlas in 1988. It was a nifty little book that listed good beer bars in the U.S. and Canada, and took a quick look at western Europe as well. Pat did a good job and didnít miss much, but the book was only 69 pages long, and 14 pages of that was introductory material. Good beer was thin on the ground.

I got Steve Johnsonís On Tap brewpub guidebooks and Heather Woodís The Beer Directory. I also got Bars of Reading and Berks, a fantastic guide to the varied and wonderful bars of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Then, in 1998, I wrote my own beer travel book, Pennsylvania Breweries, and managed to include most of the good bars in the state. (Stan and Dariaís positive review of it, noting only one bar I had missed, is one of my proudest clips.) Theyíre all dog-eared and well-used, even the copy of my own book. I bookmarked sites like www.pubcrawler.com and Stan and Dariaís www.beertravelers.com. I was determined that if I found myself in a strange town, I would never go thirsty again!

Portable, complete help has arrived, with very little extraneous material. This book is full of meat: some 4,000 bars, brewpubs, taverns, pubs, taphouses, and restaurants that serve up a mix of exceptional beer, food, and atmosphere. An oversized paperback that fits in a carís glovebox or a jacket pocket, The Beer Loverís Guide was built for travel. This is sterling, complete work, and deserves full marks for these dedicated friends of beer.

The country is taken state by state, with notes for canít-miss bars, best towns for a pub crawl, and regional beers worth watching for. Within the state, the bars are grouped by town, even though no state is so huge as to be overwhelming to the casual reader. When faced with a plethora of good bars in towns awash in good beer, such as Portland, OR, the high caliber is noted, the best are reviewed, and the remainder listed for the reader to find and relish on their own.

There are a few lists in the back; a project such as this almost demands lists. There are the bars that rate top marks in the bookís zero-to-four star rating system, and lists of the best Irish-themed and German-slanted bars in the country (the German theme being long overlooked outside Oompah Central in the upper midwest). There is also a list of the most multiíd of the multitaps, some so multiíd as to be suspicious.

Try as I might, itís hard to come up with any complaints; small type, perhaps, but rather small type than huge book. There are changes, of course. Bars close and open and change, but even publishing on the Internet is prey to such problems, let alone the sluggish medium of cold press. How long must it take these two dedicated journalists to make another swing through a territory to update, to discover, to explore new territory for (as Pat Bakerís book put it) "mountaintops for the wandering beer drinker?"

All I can say is that Iím committed to doing my bit. Stan and Daria came east recently, and I dug out all my maps and dog-eared guidebooks and took them on a tour of some of my favorite rural hotel bars in eastern Pennsylvania.  It was a pleasure to watch two utter professionals in action.

Copyright © 2003 Lew Bryson. All rights reserved. 
Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.
Revised: March 04, 2003