Hit the Road With ‘Hoppy Trails’

From Yellow Pear Press with assistance from the California Craft Brewery Association, this book explores 40 NorCal breweries.


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Photo courtesy Yellow Pear Press

Bay Area’s Yellow Pear Press, founded by Lisa McGuinness, has done it again. Like previous books churned out by the independent boutique publisher, Hoppy Trails is captivating.

Subtitled “A Field Guide to Exceptional Norcal Craft Breweries,” the exploration of 40 Northern California craft breweries divided geographically into six distinct regions reveals a thriving industry. With the authoritative curatorial stamp of the California Craft Brewery Association, collaboration with food writer Ferron Salniker and captivating photos by McGuinness, owners of the trim “beer journal” will have a book to keep and return to repeatedly.

In each chapter and region (East, South and North Bay, San Francisco, Sacramento, Foothills to Sierra), select breweries receive a two-page, image-filled write-up. A third page leaves room for notes and includes special details: a brewery’s claim to fame; parking and outdoor seating; policies about kids and pets; availability of growlers to take beer home; and whether or not food or tours are offered. The invitation is clear: Grab a pen, mug, and companion and investigate the culture, camaraderie, creativity — and terrific beer — behind the Golden State’s award-winning breweries.

In operations that range from large and mid-size to intimate barrel houses, McGuinness says the most significant discovery she made is that brewmasters are chemists and chefs. “They layer flavor, and use interesting combinations to create unusual textures and tastes. They can bring out the bitterness or the sour, depending on what ingredients they use and how they ferment it.”

In oak barrels often used for spirits or wine or typical beer containers filled with hops, yeast, water, and grain, the addition of unusual ingredients like whole fruit and peels, parts of plants, cocoa, tea, specialty or gluten-free grains and novel approaches indicate brewers are adventurous and willing to take risks. Unlike wine makers who must wait for each season of grapes, beer’s ingredients allow nimbleness. When a small batch fails, it’s simply a matter of serving up the results — or not — and moving on.

So hit the road this summer. Explore with the beer-living guidance of Hoppy Trails the pleasure of Bay Area taps.

Hoppy Trails: A Field Guide to Exceptional NorCal Craft Breweries (Yellow Pear Press, 264-pages, $24.95)

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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