New book toasts Midwestern breweries

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By Terri Schlichenmeyer, Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

L'chaim! Salud! Prost!

Skal! Slainte! Here's mud in your eye!

You raise your glass to life, family, your favorite sports team, good times and good friends. But what will you drink? Read “Locally Brewed” by Anna Blessing and get some new ideas.

If the beer choices seem endless these days, it's because they are. In the year it took Blessing to research and write her book, a new brewery opened somewhere in the country every day.

Blessing estimates that the Unites States is home to about 3,000 craft breweries. There's no single definition of “craft brewery,” so the two words describe lots of different operations with colorful stories.

The second-oldest family-owned brewery in America is in Minnesota, in a beautiful valley where peacocks roam the hops fields.

Another Minnesota brewery has a law named after it.

A Michigan brewery was established after its founder had a scare with the Feds.

Another was co-founded by an elementary school teacher, and another stays in business because of a $250,000 mug.

In Wisconsin, the nation's first USDA-certified organic beer is brewed by the same folks who crafted the “first fruit beer since Prohibition.”

At another Wisconsin brewery, the brewer's wife is an accomplished artist and designs all of the labels.

Using as-authentic-as-possible vessels, an Ohio brewer—who's more passionate about history than beer—makes brew based on ancient Sumerian recipes.

Indiana is home to a brewery with a fanatical cult following and release parties that attract thousands.

Illinois has one of the tiniest breweries, so cramped that one person can barely move around. The state also boasts a Latin American brewery and a brewery that was inspired by a college class. (They got an “A.”)

OK, now you're thirsty.

You'll want to make a list of tour information and beers you'd like to try while you're reading “Locally Brewed” and looking at its plentiful photographs. Blessing makes that easy. She offers brief but fact-filled chapters on 20 breweries and a small list of pubs that feature their beers—which I thought was a nice, tempting tease for beer-drinking readers.

I loved seeing label and poster artwork in the book. I also got a kick out of the “playlist” because, after all, what's beer without tunes and friends?

Even if you don't live in the Midwest, the beer discussed in this book might be distributed widely. Or maybe a pilgrimage to the brewery is in order. If that sounds like fun, grab a designated driver, a copy of “Locally Brewed,” and hit the road.

Bottoms up!

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