For craft beer lovers, John Holl has the best job in the world. Besides being an international beer judge including serving as a finalist judge for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Samuel Adams Long Shot Competition, for the last 13 years, he’s visited about 75 breweries annually and in total, more than 900 worldwide.
“The thing I love about visiting breweries is the neighborhoods around the facilities. Some are right in the action of a downtown, while others are on the outskirts,” said Holl, editor of All About Beer Magazine, and host of The Beer Briefing on iHeart Radio. “Still others are at the far end of a long country road. But traveling from brewery to brewery you really get to see different parts of the country, go off the beaten path and see every day life from a local perspective.”
Savoring the experience of artisan brews and good food, Holl lets those of us with more mundane jobs that don’t involve quaffing beers in far flung places recreate his adventures in his newest book, "The American Craft Beer Cookbook: 155 Recipes from Your Favorite Brewpubs and Breweries" (Storey $19.95).
“I wanted to get a good cross section of recipes/breweries from across the country,” said Holl noting he designed the book for all home chefs, making the recipes clear and easy to understand. “This meant really thinking about the recipes geographically, and what that means food wise. So, the recipes represent cultures, sensibilities and traditions from the brewery towns. Seafood from New England, spicy dishes from the southwest, farm raised beef and pork from the Midwest, fresh produce and citrus from the south and mid-Atlantic. It was a fun journey to really explore and talk with local farmers, butchers, chefs and people who call these regions home.”
The book, with its rich color photos and descriptions of the breweries where the recipes originated, is not just about cooking with beer. Indeed, the majority don’t include beer as an ingredient.
"It's more about the pairings, exploring and finding ways to bring a good meal together with good beer,” said Holl. “If you think about the ingredients in beer and the flavors they produce: Malt -- toffee, chocolate, coffee, caramel, toast, biscuit, grassy; Hops -- citrus, pine, tropical fruit; Yeast -- banana, clove, bubblegum, stone fruits and water which sometimes has minerals, you can begin to think about how specific foods can pair with beers.”
Still on his list are the breweries in Alaska such as the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau. They make a world-class smoked porter.
“Pair it with some fresh smoked Alaskan salmon,” he said, “and it's a pairing made in Eden. I'd love to experience that on its home turf.”