Author Tom Acitelli offers  a fine take on the complicated craft-beer revolution in the United States.
Author Tom Acitelli offers a fine take on the complicated craft-beer revolution in the United States. (Courtesy photo)

Along with the boom in American breweries and brewpubs (that number is north of 2,300 and rising) and an uptick in the number of American homebrewers (a recent survey conducted by the American Homebrewers Association reports a 26 percent increase in the sale of homebrew supplies), publishers have also sought to quench America's seemingly insatiable thirst for craft beer with a growing trove of titles aimed at educating and entertaining the beer-drinking public, budding brewers and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. Here are a few recent standouts:

"The Audacity of Hops" by Tom Acitelli (Chicago Review Press) tackles the daunting task of distilling the twisting, multifaceted history of America's craft-beer revolution into a compressive narrative. It's a good thing that Acitelli, former senior editor of the "New York Observer" and a regular contributor to "All About Beer" magazine, is up to the task.

Acitelli begins in the mid-1960s with the story of Fritz Maytag buying a controlling interest in San Francisco's Anchor Steam Brewery, founded in the 1890s and widely regarded as America's first "craft" brewery, and subsequently saving the struggling brewery from shutting its doors. The 400-page book then sets off on a geographically diverse journey that details milestones such as the passage of a 1978 bill that legalized homebrewing and the subsequent proliferation of people brewing their own beer at home (of which Boulder and Charlie Papazian, author of "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" and founder of the Brewers Association, played no small role) and traces the launch and subsequent struggles of early pioneering craft breweries through to the renaissance of today.

Rather than become mired in a minutiae of names and dates, Acitelli wisely frames his narrative as a discrete selection of entertaining vignettes that focus on key players and moments in America's craft-beer revolution as representative of the larger movement. It's an entertaining and informative read for anyone remotely interested in the history of American craft beer.

In the second edition of "The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery," Dick Cantwell examines what it takes to open and
In the second edition of "The Brewers Association's Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery," Dick Cantwell examines what it takes to open and operate a brewery. (Courtesy photo)

"The Brewers Association's Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery" by Dick Cantwell (Brewers Publications), on the other hand, is aimed squarely at the population of homebrewers and entrepreneurs who have ever considered starting a production brewery--and the brewing world is filled with such success stories.

In this updated second edition, Cantwell provides a very realistic and somewhat sobering picture of what it takes to open and operate a successful brewery, with lots of cautionary tales and best-practice advice culled from his more than 20-year experience in the industry as co-founder and head brewer of Seattle's Elysian Brewing Co. The book covers essential information in a straightforward and accessible manner, including writing a business plan, selecting a location and securing financing, start-up costs, navigating regulatory requirements and paperwork, branding, distribution, sustainability and more.

About the only thing he doesn't cover is how to brew the beer, but there are plenty of books out there already about that.

For beer drinkers looking to expand their fermented horizons, there's a book for you, too:

"A Beer Drinker's Guide to Knowing and Enjoying Fine Wine" by Jim Laughren (Crosstown Publishing) plays off of the prevailing perception that, where beer is a drink for the people, wine is couched in often pretentious and pedantic terms that can dissuade the average Joe.

Although the title is a bit off-putting -- there are plenty of "cross drinkers" who enjoy beer, wine and spirits and there's no lack of sophistication in the beer world -- Laughren's aim to demystify the world of wine and present it in more straightforward and accessible terms is true.

He begins with a "Different Way of Drinking" that introduces various styles of wine and the winemaking process, drawing numerous comparisons to beer along the way. The book also covers how to evaluate wine and establish a baseline of experience to better understand what you're drinking, various winemaking regions and more Wine 101 type information.

It's a fine introduction to the world of wine written in a breezy, understandable style, even if it does play off tired old tropes.

Contact Tom Wilmes at