The last time that we spoke with Josh, he was just releasing his first book, Brewed Awakening. It was a beautifully designed, witty, and wonderfully written book. We were all about it. But for some reason (read: drunkenness), our 5 Stupid Questions with him ended badly, and he left our offices promising that he was done “dealing with idiots” and threatening to fire his publicist. Who knew writers even had publicists?
Since Josh is considered to be one of the country’s best craft beer writers, we hoped to talk with him about his latest book, The Complete Beer Course. However, our many calls to his “people” went largely unreturned. After a personal visit to his publishers and a signed agreement promising that we’d behave (fingers crossed!), he finally agreed to give us a second chance.
Obviously, we’d sign anything to get to hang with a craft beer scribe like Joshua M. Bernstein. But we were also blown away to discover that his newest book might even be better than his last one!
Hey we’re big fans of you and your writing and we understand that with your big-city “cred,” you could be talking with any number of legitimate journalists. So why did you finally agree to do another 5 Stupid Questions with us? Doesn’t Beer Advocate review books on craft beer?
Who else will let me drunkenly answer five questions while not wearing any pants? Dear readers, you are very lucky that this interview is not on video. And “big-city” cred merely means I’ve been dumb enough to pay far too much money to live in Brooklyn for far too long. No wonder I drink so much beer.
You’ve referred to your new book as a “boot camp for beer geeks.” That sounds vaguely intimidating. What’s your goal with this book? We’re not going to have to do push-ups, are we?
At my boot camp, you’ll learn to chug a six-pack of IPAs in under 60 seconds, followed by a vertical tasting of imperial stouts and barley wines. Your liver will never again be the same after you finish reading my book. All kidding aside, the goal for my book is to give drinkers, both novice and experienced, the tools to walk into any beer store, bar, or brewery and understand everything on tap. That means you’ll be able to drop science on crisp pilsners and salty-sour goses, as well as stouts, saisons, and Brettanomyces-dosed barrel-aged brews. I lead drinkers through the evolution of styles, grounding them in modern day and suggesting beers that best exemplify each class of beer. No push-ups are required. The only exercise is lifting a beer bottle to your lips, over and over again.
Your book takes the reader through 12 tasting classes, and we even get to drink beer as we learn. Is this a book that even craft beer beginners will get? You’re not going to be talking down to us all the time, are you?
I thumb my nose at condescension, be it about music, food, or most importantly, beer. When I was writing The Complete Beer Course, I aimed to write the book like I was your friend sitting at the bar, knocking back a few rounds and telling you the origins of altbier or perhaps kölsch. The tone was friendly, yet informative–important medicine mixed with sugar. And booze. Always with the booze.
As with Brewed Awakening, The Complete Beer Course is as beautiful to look at as it is fun to read. How much does the book’s layout and design factor into your overall vision?
No one ever picks up a book and is like, “Damn, those are some sexy words.” In this day and age of publishing, you need your book to look as good as it reads. Black-and-white on a page ain’t going to cut it any longer. We spent an incredible amount of time on the design and photos. From labels to how the liquid looks, beer is an incredibly visual beverage. It would be a disservice to craft beer to do a crappy design.
In just over three years, you’ve produced two leading craft beer books, written for magazines and newspapers, been featured on radio programs, and traveled the craft beer world endlessly. That’s got to be daunting. Do you foresee any downtime in your future…or are you already planning for your next book?
I am looking to keeping my pants off, getting good and sloppy drunk, and watching an endless horror-movie marathon. Man, am I pooped. I’m going to hit the pause button for a little bit–just in time to welcome the birth of our daughter!–and step off the hamster wheel for a little bit of perspective. There are projects percolating, but there’s nothing set in stone. I do believe I deserve a beer. Or fourteen.
Bonus Question – Everyone has a “house beer” that’s a staple at home. What’s yours?
These days, my fridge is often stocked with loads of Founders All Day IPA, Victory Prima Pils, and Trader Joe’s Mission Street Pale Ale. Don’t laugh. Firestone Walker brews the beer. It’s the best $6.99 you’ll ever spend on a six-pack.
The Complete Beer Course is available at book stores everywhere – and be sure and check out Josh’s website while you’re at it!