IF you're into craft beers, really into them, sooner or later you're going to have to get a big black book titled "The Essential Reference of Domestic Brewers and Their Bottled Brands, 2nd Edition" (MC Basset, $47.50). Beer lovers Michael S. Kuderka and Catherine A. Ench-Kuderka have packed a huge amount of information into its 341 pages.
This new edition (the first was published last year) lists every domestic brewery, along with the beers it makes, twice -- alphabetically and by state -- giving the breweries' addresses, phone numbers and websites. It defines the major beer styles and then lists every example being made in the country today. A chart indicates the availability of each brewery by state.
The design of the book is sober and bare-bones. It's black and white except for a color key to the various beer styles (which also gives the bitterness range for each of them) and a short selection of brewery labels.
Bars, restaurants and liquor stores obviously need such a book, but so do craft beer lovers. How many times have you tasted a fascinating beer and forgotten the brewer's name, or been told about something special -- say, El Toro Brewing's Peach Ale, or Reaper Ale's Mortality Stout -- and not known where to find it? If the book doesn't have the answer, the brewer's website might offer just the help you need.
By the way, "The Essential Reference" confirms something you might have suspected about California: We're not just the country's wine capital but its beer capital as well. There are 51 craft breweries in our state, more than in the next two (Wisconsin and Colorado) combined.
The craft brewing scene is volatile, with new breweries showing up and old ones changing their product lineup, so the authors plan to issue a new volume yearly. But even more intriguing: You can register and get free access to the Online Companion, which is updated every month.
The book is self-published and not widely available in bookstores. Order by calling (800) 247-6553 or visiting www.essential-reference.com; also on www.amazon.com.