PORTLAND, Maine — John Holl started working in journalism at a public television station when he was sixteen, moved on to newspapers, and ended up at the New York Times, where he covered crime and politics—"often the same thing,” he observes.
Then he found his calling: writing about beer. The names of the publications he’s written for have a certain poetry about them: Ale Street News, Celebrator Beer News, All About Beer, and Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine. “I’ve logged thousands of hours on barstools and standing among stainless steel fermenters with a notebook in hand—all because I love my job and want to understand the subject better,” Holl writes in his new book, “Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint.”
We live, of course, in a golden age of brewing. Maine alone has something like 120 breweries—nearly one for every ten thousand residents. The choices are dizzying. Holl has “seen beers flavored to taste like German chocolate cake, key lime pie, Panzanella (bread and tomato salad), pastrami sandwich, even cocktails like an old-fashioned or a bloody Mary.”
What’s a beer drinker to do? Holl has some sensible advice. “Drink what you like,” he writes. “Know yourself and your palate. If you don’t like chocolate desserts, maybe stay away from the chocolate porter. If you favor Cheerios in the morning, check out a Helles lager. If you like the sweet nature of graham crackers, give a Berliner Weisse a try. No matter what, don’t stop exploring or trying new beers.”