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John Holl wants to grab a pint with you, Iowans.

The craft beer author and journalist (yes, that’s a thing!) visits Des Moines Thursday to discuss his new book, “Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint.” He’ll be toasting his visit to Iowa’s capital at the Peace Tree Des Moines Branch in the East Village.

The book, published earlier this year, takes a deep dive on topics that aren’t about “just the liquid in the glass,” Holl explained, like the science behind a beer served at a bar, brewery aesthetics, and craft beer marketing. He’ll deliver a talk, answer questions and sign copies during his visit.

Below is an edited and condensed interview with the writer, who has had work featured in the New York Times and Washington Post, on trends in the beer business, his upcoming visit and latest book.

Des Moines Register: Let’s dive in with the book. What influenced you to tackle these topics with craft beer?

Holl: This was really born out of so many conversations I wound up having at late night bars and breweries, over beers with folks. There’s a lot of books that cover flavor and how to make beer and how to notice off flavors in your beers. But we’re not often thinking about how much beer impacts our lives, be it through taproom aesthetics or the way it’s marketed to us. … Somebody described (the book) as a kaleidoscopic view of beer. I’m trying to cover all of the angles without getting too much into the liquid itself. 

I realize, as more and more people get into beer these days, there’s still an intimidating factor. Craft beer, for example, is 13 percent of the overall beer marketplace right now. That means 87 percent of beer drinkers are still going for some of the mass-produced beer out there. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think there’s this intimidating factor that a lot of folks have because of this perceived snobbishness. I wanted to demystify some of that in this book, as well. Make it approachable and show that buying a local beer is good for the local economy, good for your neighborhood.

► More: Datebook Diner: Our Des Moines craft-beer favorites

DMR: What are these intimidation factors? What are the biggest barriers?

Holl: It can be the flavor itself. Craft is really fueled on IPA right now — the India Pale Ale. The hallmark of the style is hops and the word that’s used to describe hops is “bitter,” right? So, when you say that to people, they say “I don’t wanna drink something that’s bitter. That doesn’t sound appealing to me.” And in turn, you get the super beer fans who are like, “Yeah you have to drink this, anyway!” … Rather than saying “bitter” when it comes to hops, (talk) about grapefruit or pine or strawberry or orange or so many of these wonderful aromas derived from hops. That’s much more inviting to people. If you change the tide a little bit to think about it in food terms, then people will come around to beer a little bit more.

There’s also a price factor, as well. … Sometimes if (people) see they can get a 30-pack of beer for a ridiculously low price and a four-pack of craft is gonna be $15, (they think) “Oh, that’s too rich for my blood.” Brewers need to keep that in mind, as well, trying to find ways to make their beer approachable to a larger audience.

► More: A craft beer happy hour in West Des Moines? Yes, please.

DMR: There’s a lot of industry competition, but only so much shelf space in stores for customers to see the products. How is that addressed?

Holl: [The] cool thing right now is the rise of taprooms. You can go to your local brewery and have a pint of beer made in that place and meet the people who do it. The brewers are putting a lot of cool thought into their taprooms these days and making it a community-oriented space. It’s not necessary about the beer itself, but about “who comes through the door?” … You can have people who share different mindsets or different political views or come from different backgrounds and they’re all getting together and having beer.

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Shelf space is really tough and getting your beer on tap anywhere is more and more difficult, but I also think there are brewers doing a great job just selling beer in their own taprooms, directly to the consumers. … Somebody who opens up today, the chances of them becoming as big as Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada or New Belgium? It’s really small. I don’t expect to see a lot of breweries grow that big. But people part of a local community and … having a small footprint? You can still make a nice living and pay your employees a good wage and be a good member of your community.

DMR: Is it a hyper-local approach that seems to work?

Holl: I think it is. For me, coming from out-of-state, I’m really excited because I get to drink beer and visit breweries that I wouldn’t have a chance to anywhere else — seeing towns I’ve never seen before because of beer. … It’s not uncommon to see people who are on vacation or business travels or just traveling for beer in your local taproom right now. People want that experience. It’s hyper-local but it brings in new blood — or out-of-state blood, as it were — quite regularly. Especially if you have a decent reputation for making great beer.

If you go ... 

Where: Peace Tree Des Moines Branch, 317 E. Court Ave.  

When: Thursday at 7 p.m. 

Cost: Free 

More information: Facebook.com/PeaceTreeDSMBranch 
 

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