Coming to this end of the state for a few drinks and some events starting this weekend is Lew Bryson, the beer and spirits writer who's promoting the new fourth edition of his "Pennsylvania Breweries" guidebooks (Stackpole, 2010, $19.95).
Based in Newtown, Bucks County, Mr. Bryson is a prolific writer for a number of drinks publications, including the Malt Advocate, and at his lewbryson.com has links to his blogs, the beery Seen Through a Glass and Why the PLCB [Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board] should be abolished.
Regular readers of his, and I'm one of them, know that he is no wallflower. What I like about him is, as opinionated as he can be, he doesn't tell people what beers they should and should not like.
The beer world has changed quite a bit since he came out with the first edition of his book in 1997. Pennsylvania had 48 breweries; the new edition covers 75 (including two just-opened ones about which he was able to slip in a few lines), plus a "Boneyard" of 38 failed ones.
He no longer lists every single beer each brewery makes, nor has he personally visited every nearby good beer bar he mentions, because in both cases, the numbers have exploded.
He's published guides to the breweries in (most recently) New Jersey and in New York as well as one for Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
He gives an overview of each brewing operation, a map for getting there, and information such as area lodging and attractions. Sprinkled in between are bits on brewing, beer festivals, Pennsylvania hotel bars and more, and there's a beer glossary in the back.
The book, not unlike the state's beer scene, leans toward the east, but our end of the state is part of "Gritty Survivors: The Old Guard" chapter (for Straub) and two others: "Foliage, Fishing, and Wine: Northwest Corner" and "(No Longer) Iron City: Pittsburgh."
Despite the loss of Pittsburgh Brewing, Chiodo's and other institutions, "Pittsburgh's beer scene still thrives," he writes. "There are other bars -- new places and old ones -- that keep up the spirit of this town: friendly, sincere, and open-hearted."
He gives his "pick" of the beer he liked most at each brewery. I caught him via e-mail -- as he headed out the door for WhiskyFest New York -- to ask what he's looking forward to drinking while he's here.
"I'm always looking for Scott's latest Session Ale [at East End Brewing] when I visit, and I hope to catch some Kaiser Pils [at Penn Brewery]."
And where does he want to hit? "My son has two friends who started at Duquesne [University] this year, and I think I'll give them a thrill with dinner at Max's [Allegheny Tavern]. I want to see what's going on at the Church [Brew Works], and I'm certainly going to stop in at Full Pint [in North Huntingdon]: the last brewery in the book I still need to visit!"
What did he learn from this latest update of the book? "The quality of craft-brewed beer in Pennsylvania has continued to soar. There are no bad breweries left, and there are quite a few that are remarkable. The thing that continues to amaze me, though, is the number of places opening on that arc of the Appalachians between Marzoni's and Shawnee, on the Delaware. That is the hot spot in the state: a lot of new places and no end in sight --two more opening in Bloomsburg soon, two in Carbondale, one in Lewisburg . . . amazing."
If you want to get a book:
Saturday, he'll sign books from noon to 2 p.m. at Otto's in State College and from 5 to 7 p.m. at North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock.
From 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, he'll sign 'em at East End's new growler booth at the Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District.
At 7 p.m. Monday, he's leading a $77.87, seven-course, seven-beer, one-book "Get Local With Lew" dinner at Bocktown Beer and Grill, North Fayette (tickets, if any left, via http://getlocalwithlewbryson.eventbrite.com).
Tuesday, he'll be at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown, attending the Cultural Trust's 6:15 p.m. Craft Beer School. Before and after, he'll sign books and clink glasses ("Support Your Local Brewers" class is $25 at pgharts.org; doors open at 5 p.m.).
Another beer dinner:
Point Brugge Cafe, Point Breeze, is having a three-course Belgian Harvest Beer Dinner on Monday, Nov. 15 (there's a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner starts at 6:45; cost is $85; reserve at 412-441-3334).
Bob Batz Jr.: email@example.com or 412-263-1930.