Erik Lars Myers didn’t start his life in the beer business. He got his degree in performing arts from Alfred University, and then ended up working in information technology for 15 years. Now he is a respected figure in the craft beer scene in North Carolina. Erik has homebrewed for over 11 years which led to him opening Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC. He has worked within the North Carolina Brewers Guild, was the executive editor for the Know Your Brewer website, has published more than 90 columns in various publications, and has his own blog Top Fermented where he comments on craft beer and its industry. Oh yea, he’s also a Certified Cicerone; the beer equivalent of a sommelier. So yea, Erik knows a thing or two about craft beer. With all of the knowledge and experience about craft beer he has accumulated throughout the years, he decided to write a book about the flourishing craft beer scene throughout the state of North Caronlina.
“To know a craft brewer is to know his or her beer.” These words came from the author of North Carolina Craft Beer and Breweries Erik Lars Myers. His book isn’t just about the breweries, where they’re located, or the beer they produce; it’s also about the people and their stories that make brewing happen. To learn anything about a small business, one must know the people behind it and Erik has done an amazing job in this book telling the story of the craft breweries throughout North Carolina.
Myers begins with the history of brewing throughout North Carolina during with the times when it was still a young colony, through to post-Prohibition times when brewing started back up in Charlotte in 1936. Even then, malt beverages weren’t allowed to contain more than 6% alcohol by volume. This changed in 2005 when the state passed a bill that increased the ABV to 15%. Since this occurred, the craft beer scene has flourished.
For those who are unfamiliar with the process in which beer is made, Myers does a great job of breaking it down in his book. He tells us what the five essential ingredients in beer are, and what each of them are responsible for. From there he goes into the steps involved in brewing the beer from milling grains to packaging the beer for distribution. His short introduction into the process of how beer is made gives the reader a sense of what brewers do on a daily basis to create the beers for people to enjoy.
Myers then says something I cannot agree with more; he compares brewing beer to art. Like art, new styles build off of older ones and in turn newer ones are created. While guidelines are used in competitions to grade beers, beer styles are constantly changing just as art is. In my mind, that’s what is keeping the craft beer scene alive. Always having the ability to try something new is very refreshing. He gives us a short rundown on the different types of beer styles and then goes into what I consider to be the book’s best part; the stories behind the breweries.
The remainder of the book goes into what makes the craft beer industry what it is. When Myers wrote the book, he only included the craft breweries and brewpubs that were currently open at the time. At that time, there were more than a dozen breweries in the process of being opened up. It’s pretty difficult to capture what is happening in the craft beer scene of North Carolina because it is constantly changing, but Myers has kept on top of it through other mediums such as his blog and Twitter.
The book is broken down regions and focuses on breweries or brewpubs that are located within each region. Each brewery is introduced by their respective logo and some basic information such as their address, hours of operation, owners, brewmasters, regular beer lineup, seasonal beer lineup, and awards that they have received. After that, Myers tells a unique story about how each brewery came to be and the people behind it. This isn’t your typical book filled with just pure facts; it’s a book that paints a picture about the love and determination that people have for the product they create and the personal stories and relationships that have grown not just between coworkers, but between breweries themselves. I don’t want to get into any of the stories because A) it’s too much to write about and B) I don’t want to ruin the book for you, but this book does a great job in showing the passion these people have for the beer they brew and the breweries they work for.
The craft beer industry is more than just a way to make money; it’s a way of life for people. Whether it’s the relationships between breweries that occur through the brewing of collaboration beers, meeting people at a bar or beer festival, brewing for a living or as a hobby, or writing about beer to mostly anonymous but likeminded people on the internet, craft beer has influenced many people’s lives. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is new to the wonderful world of craft beer, or if you’re from North Carolina and want to gain some knowledge about the state’s growing craft beer scene.
Check out a trailer for the book here:
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