A reference book for beer fanatics

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THANKS TO “The Essential Reference of Domestic Brewers and Their Bottled Brands” (2nd Edition), I now know:

• There are four states without full-production breweries: Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia;

• Dragonmead Microbrewery in Warren, Mich., makes what may be the two worst-named beers in America, Earl Spit and Lancelot’s Cream;

• More breweries make American pale ale than just plain lager; and,

• I can waste a perfectly good afternoon paging through an encyclopedialike tome consisting almost solely of names of American-made beers and where to buy them.

The single best time-wasting reference in the world is still the Baseball Encyclopedia. But for those with a similar fanatical appreciation for suds, the DBBB, as its publishers call it, is a close runner-up.

The hardback is the first comprehensive listing of every bottled beer available in America, a spectacular compendium that includes no fewer than 2,348 brands.

It is the brainchild of Michael Kuderka, a 42-year-old beer fan from Asbury, N.J., who not long ago noticed how little the brewing industry does to keep track of all its labels.

“I’d go to these different beer festivals, watching these guys pour like crazy, and we’re tasting a lot of great beers,” Kuderka said. “But there’s no follow-up, no information about where to find the beer.”

Kuderka, a marketing director for a New Jersey pharmaceutics company, thought that was just odd. What the beer industry needed was the kind of directory that the drug industry (and some of its more enthusiastic customers) uses, the “Physicians Desk Reference.”

Kuderka spent two years compiling beer names in a computer database, then organized them by style and geographic availability.

The task was daunting because small breweries, especially, can be an unruly bunch – creating new labels and eliminating others with little notice. In the time he organized the database, 66 breweries closed, while another 66 opened.

The result is exactly the kind of reference you wish your local beer distributor would keep at the counter to answer those troubling questions that inevitably pop up during beer runs.

Like, is Long Trail Hibernator a double bock? (Nope. Despite its name, it’s a Scottish ale.)

Or, other than Yuengling, who else makes a black & tan? (Seven other breweries, including Saranac, Gluek and Stoney’s.)

“A lot of times,” Kuderka said, “people will say, ‘I like light lagers – tell me other brands I might like.’ This book will help them find the right beer.”

I doubt average beer-drinkers are going to run out and buy this reference, if for no other reason than the steep ($40) price.

But beer freaks – the types who obsessively hunt down every label on earth – may find it indispensable. I can just see them plotting their next road trip when they discover, for example, that California’s Bear Republic ales – not distributed in Pennsylvania – are available right over the border in Delaware.

“I think the book is for everyone,” Kuderka said. “But the main thing is, it gets consumers to branch out to try different beers.”

“The Essential Reference of Domestic Brewers and Their Bottled Brands” (2nd Edition) is available from MC Basset book publishers, through its Web site, www.thebeerbible.com.

Beer radar

The dictionary defines Incubus as an evil spirit that descends upon and has sexual intercourse with women as they sleep. It’s also the name of the powerful Belgian-style Tripel from Sly Fox brewer Brian O’Reilly.

The latter, possibly as assertive as the former, is finally available in bottles. It’ll be unveiled tonight at the Beer Yard (218 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne), 5-7 p.m. No word when the former may arrive. Info, 610-688-3431.

Tomorrow: Eighth Annual Manayunk Brewfest at Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant (4120 Main St., Manayunk). Music, food and two dozen breweries on the banks of the Schuylkill. Taps open noon-4 p.m. $25/$35 at the door. Info, 215-482-8220.


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