Last night the tasting room of Noble Ale Works was filled with buzz over the release of California Brewmasters, a newly released book of photographs and interviews with 46 California brewers. I arrived early to purchase a copy of the book and speak with the author. Nicholas Gingold is a photojournalist who has undertaken a massive project in the collection of interviews with many of California’s most revered brewers. We spoke briefly, but the enthusiasm and passion that the author exhibited for the now completed project is absolutely clear. Copies of Brewmasters were on sale for $30, cash or card.
While at the taproom I noticed several brewers in attendance, wishing well the project that many of them have taken part in. While enjoying a Noble Ale Works Naughty Sauce, I counted the familiar faces in attendance. Crippling shyness prevented me from speaking with anybody until Erick “Riggz” Villar from Ohana Brewing showed up. The comfort of a familiar face granted, we spoke with several of the brewers in attendance, including Alexandra Nowell of Three Weavers, Jeremy Raub of Eagle Rock, Victor Novak and Steve Torres of TAPS, and our host for the evening, Evan Price. Steve Dunkerken from Ritual Brewing was also in attendance, as well Tyler King from The Bruery, accompanied by a wily puppy that drew the affection of several in attendance.
The community and the locale were all perfect for the release of Brewmasters, the taproom was abuzz with talk of new projects and upcoming events, the brewery itself had employees working in the background, and of course the amazing beers of Noble Ale Works were in the hands of all in attendance. While there I enjoyed Naughty Sauce, Gosebusters, Earl’s Grey Dinghy, and a new release called Sweet Sweet Raspberry, a light raspberry beer with a hint of mint. If you not familiar with Noble Ale Works, but find yourself in Anaheim, I highly recommend a visit to the taproom. [Beer Advocate Profile] It is one of the best gems to be found for amazing beer in Orange County. We also enjoyed a growler of TAPS Barleywine, poured enthusiastically by Victor Novak. It was very smooth and balanced with an excellent nuanced sweet finish. The BACONMANia truck was also there, serving hungry imbibers. Since I had already indulged in plenty of beer I figured to round out my guilty pleasures with fried mac and cheese balls wrapped in bacon. While not doing my arteries any favors the snack was absolutely delicious.
Having just begun the book, I cannot provide a full review as of yet. I will say that its content is extremely important for the future generations of the craft brewing movement. Like Tom Acitelli’s The Audacity of Hops or Brewed Awakening by Joshua Berstein, Gingold is conducting a history of craft brewing as it is taking place. The choice to focus on interviews and photography is a unique one. Allowing the agents of change to speak for themselves makes this an enjoyable read. Recurring themes appear throughout the interviews I’ve read so far. The importance on a homebrewing social structure to support new brewers has arisen throughout, as well as initial exposure to artisanal beers from abroad or at home. The book is well structured, containing photographs of the brewers in their element amid the text from the interviews. I was happy to have several of the narrators sign my book, giddy like a middle school student getting a yearbook signature from a favored teacher.
While craft breweries have succeeded and soared to new heights, especially in California, a body of scholarship and literature will serve well to this segment of the beer market. Constantly analyzing, placing the movement in context with the world around it, and hearing the voices of those who most ardently support it. Repeatedly the question arose in the book of where these brewers see themselves in 5 to 10 years. I enjoyed the answers to this question as it shows a sort of ‘chronological consciousness,’ where brewers begin to acknowledge that they have come from a millennia of beer history to become the icons that represent it in the 21st century. It is now up to them to shape and move the history of beer, at least in regards to the American, and specifically the Californian contribution. While it certainly is interesting to ponder the future, 5 or 10 years out, I ponder how this will all look a century from now, generations later. Will we keep this beautiful evolution growing to unheard of heights? Collaboration, small business success, reverence for hand crafted products made by those who truly care for their art, imaginative culinary pairings, a diverse and progressive workforce; these are the fruits of craft breweries. The writing of this history is vital, lest these fruits be squandered by those who have forgotten where we have come from.
There will be a Los Angeles based book release happening tonight (6/4) at Golden Road Brewing, starting at 7pm. The accompanying website to Brewmasters also lists several upcoming meet and greets with the author throughout California.
Copies of California Brewmasters: Portraits and Profiles of the Golden State’s Brewing Icons can be purchased online at http://www.cabrewmasters.com/shop/. My hat is off to the author and all of the brewers who took part in the project.