Atlas Shrugged … and Drank a Beer

Around the world in 80 beers with Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark W. Patterson, authors of National Geographic Atlas of Beer – Interview By Everard G. Strong

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National Geographic’s The Geography of Beer is a worldwide tour de suds. Filled with stunning photography, great storytelling, intriguing beer destinations, fascinating historical perspectives, and firsthand accounts from brewers and bar owners around the globe. The tome features over 100 illustrative maps and over 200 beautiful color photos. With a forward by famed Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garret Oliver, the book was written by “beer geographers” Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark Patterson.

Nancy Hoalst-Pullen, Ph.D., is an associate professor of geography and Geographic Information Science (GIS) director at Kennesaw State University, Georgia. She has co-edited three books with fellow “Beer Doctor” Mark Patterson. She is also associate editor of the Journal of Applied Geography. Hoalst-Pullen’s favorite beer is a Bavarian-style hefe weissbier, served at room temperature. 

Mark Patterson, Ph.D., is a professor of geography at Kennesaw State University. His specialties are in geospatial technologies, spatial analysis, and environmental geography. He has co-edited three books with fellow “Beer Doctor” Nancy Hoalst-Pullen. Patterson’s favorite beer style is a chocolate stout.

ABV magazine sat down with both Mark and Nancy to get some background on the book, and what it was like to be paid to circle the globe, drinking beers along the way … all in the name of science and research.

What was one of your most unexpected discoveries?
Argentina has amazing beers! Seven years ago, we noted only a few craft breweries and brewpubs in existence, particularly within Buenos Aires. But now? The burgeoning craft beer scene is alive and well, with several artisanal breweries, brewpubs, and homebrewers creating and recreating an assortment of exceptional beers, including those aged in wine barrels. Argentine brewers are indeed finding their niche in a country dominated by wine. 

What was your jumping-off point for the book?
A friend of a friend from the National Geographic Society encouraged us to go forward with a book idea that evolved after publishing an academic textbook called The Geography of Beer in early 2014. The idea was to write a beer atlas, one that was approachable in tone and content, with an assortment of original maps, stunning photography, fun facts, culturally-laced stories, and travel recommendations made by locals. Sounds great, right? Essentially, we wanted a fun, engaging, beer book that wasn’t seeped in opinionated rhetoric.

Within a year, we found ourselves at the headquarters of National Geographic, standing in front of nearly every division of the organization, ready to present our book concept along with our collective knowledge of beer. An hour later, it was over, and within a couple months we had a book contract alongside a National Geographic Expeditions Council grant that funded many of our travels. 

In terms of the actual writing, we had a good sense of what we wanted to write, and what we wanted the final book to look like (although admittedly, the final product looks far better than we ever imagined). But before one word of text was submitted for publication, we had to first complete our behemoth of an outline, an incredible 180 pages that noted the placement of every item on each of the book’s 304 pages. Once the outline was agreed upon, the only things left for us to do were travel, conduct interviews, take pictures, drink beer, and write! 

California beers, especially the debut of the American Pale Ale in 1981 by Sierra Nevada, and the earlier (re)introduction of the ever-evolving American IPA by Anchor Steam, have influenced the rise of the craft beer scene to a global scale.

How do California beers compare to those of the rest of the world?
California shaped the craft beer scene by way of its iconic brewers, breweries and beers. People such as Fritz Maytag, Ken Grossman, Greg Koch and Vinnie Cilurzo, among others, have had (and continue to have) an enormous impact on the craft beer scene — locally, nationally, and internationally. California beers, especially the debut of the American Pale Ale in 1981 by Sierra Nevada, and the earlier (re)introduction of the ever-evolving American IPA by Anchor Steam, have influenced the rise of the craft beer scene to a global scale. Breweries worldwide put their own regional/local twists on these and other recognized beer styles popularized by California brewers and breweries. Bottle for bottle, California’s hop-forward beers rank among the best in the world. 

Are IPAs getting overdone? 
No matter the country, almost every brewery we visited (400+) had some version of an IPA — West coast, East coast, New England, English, Belgium, Pacific, Argenta, New Zealand, Black (CDA), coffee, double, triple, hazy, lacto, mango … so many in fact, we can’t even rightly remember all of the nuances and hop-forward flavor profiles! Many places found that having an IPA on tap was mandatory — especially considering that most places could recall a story or two about some wanderlust American asking for one (or 12). But are IPAs overdone? We will leave that answer to the hopheads who love it to decide.

Which style of beer do you think needs more attention — more people should be drinking it?
One sour style that might need (and note, it’s hard for us to say need) more attention is the gose — a uniquely salty sour ale originating from Goslar, Germany that nearly went extinct after World War II. With a tart start and a pleasantly salty finish, this low ABV beer can be the perfect go-to summer alternative to the classic pilsner.

How did your view of humanity change after writing this book?
Beer is a social lubricant. Beer transcends cultural differences and allows us to appreciate that humans share similar wants and needs. Sharing a beer with people from all over the world keeps us hoping for the best of humanity. We think our experiences in writing this book have restored our faith in humanity, at a personal level. ABV