brian yaeger's, "red, white, and brew: an american beer odyssey," was one of my "christmas present" books. reading his entertaining stories from the cross country trip he took to visit and eclectically selected 14 breweries is the closest thing in recent memory that made me want to time travel back to my care free post college days - ha! yaegar's trip incorporated sleeping in his car, camping out, crashing at friends' (old and new) houses, and even the occasional stay at a real motel! the tales of the mechanics he employed to get from one place to another were almost as fascinating as the actual brewery visits ;)
yaeger's background includes a double bachelor's degree from uc at santa barbara (in religious studies and russian) and a masters in professional writing from usc (his thesis was, predictably it seemed, on beer). fortunately for the reader, he's not biased and his discussions of the individual beers is objectives and well-informed. that's not to say he didn't point out which ones he liked (and didn't).
as to my own preferences from the places he visited: i loved the material on portand (geary's), san francisco (anchor), and delaware (dogfish head). the other visits were also interesting (mainly for their uniqueness - such as grand teton brewing). but i was permanently sold when he gave a great little shout out to brooklyn brewery (and, who wouldn't).
from the epilogue:
"the cheesesteak [he drove to nyc from philly] fueled me for the rest of the way to new york, for the simple pleasure of going to happy hour with some old friends i rarely get to see. i made some calls, and one by one, they showed up at the brooklyn brewery, where the notorious brewmaster garrett oliver makes beer when he's not hosting food-and-beer-pairing dinners or writing about them."
what better way is there end a beer travel odyssey than in the great state of brooklyn :D
not just about the beers, however, the book is about the personalities behind the behind the beer. reading about the first craft brewers who cracked open the american psyche of canned beer (anchor and sam adams come to mind) is an amazing history lesson. reading about the old line breweries and the efforts to keep family involved throughout the generations is also fascinating. then, too, is the very, very new crowd of beer makers - free of tradition, and willing to experiment for the sheer joy of it (such as dogfish head).
for beer fans of any age (well old enough to drink, that is - because it will make you want to have a beer - or two), "red, white, and brew" is a must-read.